Have you ever wondered why certain patterns keep popping up in your relationships with others? What happens when conflict or a disagreement comes up? Do you tend to try to get away from conflict as fast as possible, or does it make you feel worried and unloved? Do you often worry about your loved ones abandoning you?
Or do you avoid getting “too close” to people to protect yourself from being hurt? What about other people in your life? Do you struggle to understand why they seem to respond in ways that seem foreign to you?
Maybe you tend to be anxious or a little clingy in close relationships, but your best friend tends to need space at the first hint of conflict. What makes people find comfort in these varying patterns?
If you’ve ever heard of attachment styles, then you may be familiar with the idea of secure attachment, insecure attachment, etc. The idea of attachment styles has become more well-known and popular over the last decade, but it can be a confusing concept.
How do you know if you’re secure or insecure? What leads to the formation of a given attachment style? And if you do feel that your attachment style is holding you back from thriving in your relationships, how can you form a new and healthier pattern?
Keep reading to learn more about the basics of attachment styles, what to do if you have an insecure attachment style, and how Christian counseling for insecure attachment can help.
What is an insecure attachment style?
Simply put, an attachment style is the way we tend to interact with others in our relationships, particularly our closest ones. It describes the patterns that characterize our interactions. In general, an individual will tend to have either a secure or insecure attachment style. If you have a secure attachment style, it’s likely that your childhood was characterized by “consistency, reliability, and safety” (Verywell Mind).
If you have an insecure attachment style, there could be many reasons, but at some point your childhood was likely disrupted by an insecure relationship with your caregiver(s), trauma, or some other adverse experience.
According to Verywell Mind:
“Insecure attachment is a relational pattern that causes a person to feel insecure about their relationships with others. Because of their insecure attachment style, people may have difficulties developing meaningful adult relationships with others.” (emphasis added)
If you do have an insecure attachment style, there are further subcategories to consider.
Organized insecure attachment.
You may have an avoidant or ambivalent insecure attachment style. Both of these types of attachment are considered organized. This means that: “While they are not ideal ways of coping, these attachment styles do allow for some rational and logical approaches to dealing with complex situations.” (Verywell Mind)
So, there are likely consistent patterns in your relationships, and your childhood may have been more stable than someone with a disorganized attachment style. If you have an avoidant attachment style, you may tend to be dismissive of others and avoid intimacy or closeness.
If you have an ambivalent (anxious) attachment style, you may often worry about people’s commitment to you and seek reassurance of their love.
Disorganized insecure attachment.
What about a disorganized attachment style? This style is most likely to develop after an abusive or traumatic childhood characterized by chaos and instability. A person with a disorganized attachment style lacks a consistent approach to relationships and struggles to cope with adversity.
Does all this information feel a little overwhelming? Does thinking about the childhood connections to attachment styles bring up any strong emotions? No matter what you experienced in childhood, it is possible to process your past and improve your attachment style today. Keep reading to learn more about what to do if you struggle with insecure attachment.
Signs and symptoms.
Many people may have low-level anxiety or avoidant symptoms in relationships and wonder if they really struggle with insecure attachment. Or maybe you feel mostly secure, but when you’re going through a hard or stressful season, behaviors of insecure attachment tend to pop up.
Attachment styles can fall on a spectrum, and it’s possible to regress under stress. A counselor can help you identify your attachment style or help you understand your tendencies. Identifying your attachment style isn’t indicative of a permanent label. Rather, it can help you see where your tendencies lie so you can make positive changes and improve your relationships.
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you think you might have an insecure attachment style:
- Do I tend to dismiss negative experiences instead of processing them with myself or others?
- Do I have low self-esteem and tend to think poorly of myself? Is my internal monologue characterized by shame?
- Do I tend to avoid close relationships?
- Do I struggle to trust others?
- Do I tend to suppress my emotions so I won’t have to feel them?
- Do I frequently worry about losing my loved ones or about them rejecting or abandoning me?
You may also notice consistent issues in your relationships related to these questions. If you tend toward avoidance, you may notice that others feel as if they can never get to know the real you, or you may consistently avoid deep conversations or permanent commitments.
If you tend toward ambivalence, you may feel the impulse to act in a needy and/or clingy way, which can become its own self-fulfilling prophecy. Neediness can make others feel smothered, leading them to create distance, which only serves to confirm your fears.
The answers to these questions can help you understand your tendencies, and give you a starting point to discuss in your counseling sessions.
What to do next.
If you’ve recognized yourself in these questions and descriptions, you may be wondering, “What should I do if I have insecure attachment?”
There are so many options available to you that can help significantly improve your life. The ability and courage to identify where you’re struggling is a crucial first step.
Self-help strategies must involve awareness first and foremost. Learning about attachment styles can illuminate many internal and external struggles you’ve faced. In counseling, you can learn more about attachment styles and become informed about why you have consistent impulses, and how to manage those impulses in a healthier way.
It’s also critical to reflect on your childhood to understand what led you to form your current attachment style. Depending on what you experienced in your childhood, this may require courage and trauma work with a counselor.
Even low-level adverse childhood experiences may have affected your attachment style. To get started on your own, you might find that a consistent journaling practice can help you reflect on your childhood and process memories that have affected who you are today.
Verywell Mind says that in order to break the pattern of insecure attachment, “you have to develop a coherent narrative about what happened to you as a child.”
The more disorganized your attachment style, the more likely it is that you lack that coherent narrative. But, it is something that can be formed and lead to a much greater understanding of who you’ve grown into as an adult.
Identifying which of your friends or daily members are securely attached and practicing healthy behaviors with them can also help you improve your relationship patterns. Even just the act of talking to others about attachment styles can be helpful and enlightening. You can hear how other people experience their emotions and relationships and what led to those patterns.
In Christian counseling for insecure attachment, your professional and experienced counselor can help you develop techniques for increasing security within yourself, which will then flow outward into your relationships with others.
The best news we have as believers is that God is the ultimate secure relationship. We see throughout Scripture that he promises his presence, guidance, and love no matter what we are facing. Because of this, developing our awareness of his love and increasing our trust in him can help us walk through the challenges of knowing how to relate to the fallible humans around us.
Life with a secure attachment style can feel peaceful and relieving once you are no longer living in fear of how others will react to you. Knowing your own value as a person created and loved by God can help you develop the confidence you need to face your relationships without fear. Working through your past in counseling sessions can help you process those memories and develop new brain connections and patterns of behavior.
To find out more about Christian counseling for insecure attachment, contact our office today or browse our online counselor directory here.
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