So what is attachment? “Attachment is the relationship bond that typically develops between a child and his or her primary caregivers”. Not only does early attachment affect us during childhood but it plays a major role throughout the duration of our lives. Studies have shown that the relationships we have with our early caregivers influence our long term behaviors, emotional health and social development.
With this said, attachment experiences are a vital part of human growth and development and the attachment style that develops during early childhood is a predictor of both relationship and behavioral patterns into later life. Therefore it can be very helpful for a person to think about, know and understand their particular attachment style – reflecting on their early childhood experiences and then on one’s present relationships. The following are a list and description of the basic attachment styles:
Secure (Free/Autonomous): Ability to give and receive nurturing care, ability to negotiate our needs and have a healthy sense of self. If we are able to live and interact based on the aforementioned skills the we will be able to have our needs met and be able to be authentic and present to others.
Insecure/Avoidant (Dismissing): If we have found ourselves raised in an environment whereby our needs were met with dismissal or disinterest, then our learned behavior to achieve personal connection is that of suppressing our internal emotional state. We settled for proximity instead of true connection/closeness and learned that we risked rejection if we attempted to make our true needs known. Presently, we may find it very hard to express our needs, to admit weakness, to depend on others or to be present to others when they are emotional. In order to move forward from this attachment style we must first be aware and then implement action/experience – recognizing and then expressing our needs and increasing our vulnerability.
Insecure/Ambivalent (Entangled/Preoccupied): We probably came from a background in which we experienced inconsistent responsiveness and affection and though we may have been tended to physically, our emotional needs were not met. We became unsure of the reliability of our caregiver and recognized that the only way to generate a response was to overstate our needs and gain the desired closeness of the caregiver. In essences we coerced care instead of having it freely given to us. We may now find it hard to trust and receive any form of nurturing care and struggle with really being present to others. There is always a question of whether or not someone will really stick around with us and we struggle with great insecurity in this regard. In order to shift this attachment style it requires us learning to receive emotional support and encouragement from others, learning that we do not have to fix every situation, learning to attune to the needs of other and learning that autonomy is ok.
Insecure/Disorganized (Unresolved): If we grew up with caregivers that were frightening to us or ones who could not care for us consistently due to their own serve issues, we may not have any idea of how to form contact with a caregiver. We may live in relationship in a state of disconnection or bizarre behaviors if we feel our relationships are threatened. There is a good chance that we will go back and forth between distancing and entangling while in relationship.
It is not an easy task to work on ourselves and to begin the process of recognition and change; however, it is a very worthwhile journey both for ourselves and those we are in relationship with. If you are curious about your attachment style or would like to work on healing and growth in this regard please contact us at The Refuge Center for Counseling at 615-591-5262 or visit our website at therefugecenter.org
(information taken from the TCU Institute of Child Development TBRI Newsletter, Spring 2013)