The Word of God admonishes us to train up a child in the way he should go so that when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). A lot of this verse has to do with how we direct and discipline a child, teaching them the ways of the Lord.However, we also know that children do not only learn from instruction but also observation. How a couple conducts themselves in the presence of a child will influence how they view themselves and what template they will use to build and maintain relationships as they grow older.
The work of Bowlby on attachments, which was later added to by Mary Ainsworth, explores this relationship between the way one is cared for as an infant and the attachment style they develop when they grow older. In this article, the focus will be on understanding what influences attachment, the different types of attachment styles, and why we should know our individual attachment style.
To understand the psychology of relationships, one cannot overstate the important role attachment styles play. How we form emotional bonds with other people is referred to as attachment. As mentioned earlier, the attachment style one has as an adult depends on how secure or insecure they felt in their relationship with their primary caregiver.
An environment that fosters healthy attachments can be cultivated. This environment can be achieved by the consistency of the caregiver and quality of care. To feel safe, secure, and loved, children look to their caregivers for sensitivity, gentleness, and compassion. On the other hand, a caregiver who displays impatience and lacks sensitivity can raise children who develop insecure attachments.
Four Types of Attachment Styles
There are four types of attachment styles: secure, anxious-avoidant, anxious ambivalent, and anxious disorganized. The latter three are considered insecure attachments.
These are people who function from a place of greater trust and security. In adult life, they find it easy to connect with people, develop friendships, and be flexible if need be. They view others as dependable and thus are not afraid to let people in. These are the children that were raised in homes and environments that were dependable, predictable, and loving.
Someone with an anxious-avoidant style of attachment comes off as aloof. As the name suggests, they avoid any situations that require them to rely on others. These are experts at fleeing whenever a relationship seems to be getting too close. They do not know how to deal with intimacy. Avoidant people will often put out the “I don’t need anyone” vibe.
This is because earlier in their childhood they might have been punished for relying on caregivers and hence avoid seeking help from anyone. Sometimes due to early parental letdown and trauma, they have no experience of reliable love which means that they struggle to trust anyone.
In romantic relationships, they become the distant, seemingly unloving partner with impenetrable barriers. They do not know how to respond to other people’s desires of them. Outwardly they always seem very self-assured and strong. This is because they want to be viewed as being in control and self-sufficient.
The anxious disorganized attachment style describes someone with a mixed bag of behaviors. They are inconsistent in who they are and how they show up in relationships. They desperately want to be loved and yet at the same time, they want to be left alone. They can be hot or cold in an instant.
This is very confusing for those who care for them and wish to develop anything deeper. This behavior is linked to inconsistent caregiver behavior. This could be a situation where there is a parent with an addiction, and they act differently depending on whether they are high or sober.
Children in this situation had to adjust fast to the changing environment, making them anxious all the time. Children who have been raised in different foster families, for example, also struggle with this because they changed caregivers frequently. Because of this, caregivers act as a source of both comfort and fear, which then leads to disorganized behavior.
This attachment style is marked by a deep fear of abandonment. As adults, they become very emotionally dependent on others, and they can be viewed as being “needy.” Because they are so afraid of abandonment, they are constantly seeking validation and approval from those they are close to.
If someone has this attachment style, usually they have very low self-esteem hence the constant need for validation. These are children who sometimes grew up in homes where love and respect were earned and not a given. They might have been constantly compared to others and never quite felt good enough.
Why Is It Important to Know Your Attachment Style?
As human beings, we function through the relationships and connections we have with each other. It is then important for us to be aware of how we show up in those relationships as a way of bringing awareness to ourselves and those that care for us. When we know our dominant attachment styles, we can understand our unhelpful behaviors and do a course correction if need be.
This we do by challenging some attachment beliefs that could be controlling us subconsciously. Because attachment styles determine how we view ourselves and those around us, challenging these beliefs can lead to freedom and fulfilling relationships: “as a man thinketh so is he . . . .”
Getting rid of any attachment issues starts with identifying which style we predominantly belong to. In 1985, two psychologists Hazan and Shaver came up with a simple questionnaire to evaluate whether one is securely or insecurely attached.
Consider which of the three options best describes how you show up in romantic relationships:
Option A (Secure Attachment)
I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t worry about being abandoned or someone getting close to me.
Option B (Anxious Attachment)
I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often feel that my partner doesn’t love me or won’t want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and sometimes I scare people away.
Option C (Avoidant Attachment)
I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others. I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close and often, others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.
After being informed of all the different attachment styles and how they affect us, the hope is that you will be encouraged to discover your own style. This is a gift you can give to yourself and those you love. Being informed affords the possibility of correcting where one might be going wrong and striving for better and healthier relationships.
Because we are social beings, our ability to form and maintain relationships is fundamental to our functioning. Our jobs, families, church, and business community will benefit when we take responsibility for how we show up. Like all things, we can learn to relate better.
Individual Counseling for Attachment Styles In Relationships
If you are looking for further information and additional support beyond this article, please feel free to contact our reception team for an appointment. Meeting with a licensed counselor can assist in understanding these concepts for yourself and help you receive support where needed.
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