What is Your Attachment Style?

Though surely to avoid attachments for fear of loss is to avoid life -Lionel Shriver

On way to start exploring barriers is to look at your attachment style. In a nutshell attachment style is how you relate to another person. We develop our first experience of attachment with our primary caregiver(s). There are thought to be four main attachment styles that develop in early childhood which tend to impact how we attach to others as adults. However these early styles of attachment and their resulting adult attachment styles are on a continuum and we are likely to move between styles depending on the situation.

Secure Attachment:

  • primary caregiver(s) are sensitive and responsive to their infant
  • primary caregiver(s) are consistent
  • child is able to regard the primary caregiver(s) as a secure base from which he or she can begin to explore the world
  • child tends to be secure being attached to others while maintaining their autonomy
  • Impact on Adult Attachment: Able to create meaningful relationships; empathetic; able to set appropriate boundaries.

Avoidant Attachment:

  • primary caregiver(s) are emotionally unavailable and not able to be sensitive and responsive to their infant
  • primary caregiver(s) encourage independence and discourage crying
  • primary caregiver(s) have difficulty responding to their child’s distress
  • children learn to be self-contained and not depend on others to have their needs met
  • Impact on Adult Attachment: Avoids closeness or emotional connection; tend to be cerebral and suppress their feelings; may be distant, critical, rigid, and intolerant; distance themselves from stress and conflict.

Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment:

  • primary caregiver(s) are unpredictable and inconsistently attuned to their children – sometimes responding in a nurturing manner, sometimes in an intrusive and insensitive way
  • primary caregiver(s) have difficulty responding to their child’s distress
  • children tend to be insecure, confused and distrustful and at the same time can be clingy and anxious
  • Impact on Adult Attachment: Anxious and insecure; may be controlling, blaming, erratic or unpredictable.

Disorganized Attachment:

  • child experiences trauma and/or abuse with primary caregiver(s)
  • the primary caregiver is the source of terror and pain, but also the person the child flees to for safety
  • children tend to disassociate from themselves
  • Impact on Adult Attachment: Do not have a clear sense of self or a clear understanding of how to successfully connect with others; may be chaotic, insensitive, explosive and untrusting even while craving security.

Interested in learning more about how your attachment style? Try this quiz and feel free to post your thoughts.

Healthy Conflict = Healthy Relationships

Client: hello, my partner and I are interested in couples counselling
Me: I’m glad you guys are looking for some support – that takes courage. What’s led you to seek counselling?
Client: hmmmm it’s hard to put into words….ummmm….I guess communication….

Communication difficulties are cited by 90% of people who contact me for couples counselling. Couples know that something isn’t working and can give me lots of examples of communication going sideways. While hearing about the content of their conflicts is a starting place, in order for insight and change to occur it’s necessary to go deeper and that takes some dedicated work. How does each person view conflict? What is happening in her/his nervous system? How was conflict handled in his/her family of origin? How well can each person regulate his/her own emotions?

Conflict is a natural and needed part of building and maintaining an intimate relationship. So the goal isn’t to get rid of conflict but to help couples to find ways of engaging in and repairing conflict in order to increase feelings of safety, connection, and intimacy.  That can sometimes feel like a tall order! But luckily there are lots of amazing tools and strategies for helping people change how they communicate.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to talk about some of the tools the couples I work with have found particularly useful: Stop-Replay, Regulating your Nervous System, and Emotional Bids.