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Understanding Your Attachment Style

Hannah Hopper, LPC

What is attachment style? It’s the emotional bond you have with others in your life, like family members, friends, or a partner. It also impacts how you behave in close relationships, and depending on your attachment style it can make it more difficult to form healthy, long term relationships. There are four attachment styles, and these styles were first researched by Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby. Attachment styles can vary depending on your relationship with someone, and can become more secure over time as you put in the work to develop a secure emotional bond. 

But take a moment to think about the various close relationships you’ve had. Are there any patterns that emerge in the way you act when you start to get closer to someone? If you develop a close relationship, do you often worry about losing it? When conflict arises, are you more likely to move away from or towards the person you’re having a conflict with? Let’s look at each attachment style below and examples of how they look in relationships.

Secure Attachment Style 

This is the healthiest attachment style and people who fall into this category may have higher emotional intelligence and greater capabilities to work through conflicts in a healthy way.  These individuals have a positive and trusting view of themselves and others that they form relationships with. People with secure attachment feel comfortable depending on others, growing in emotional intimacy with others, and rarely worry about being alone or abandoned. The statement “I feel safe whether I’m with someone or by myself” would be true for someone with secure attachment. 

Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style 

These individuals have a negative view of themselves but a positive view of others. People with anxious attachment often worry that others do not value them as much as they value those in their life, and worry that they’ll be discarded or abandoned if they don’t work hard to keep the intimacy in their relationships. Sometimes these people depend too much on their close relationships and begin to feel anxious when they’re alone. The statement “I feel more comfortable with drama and conflict in my relationship” would be true for someone with anxious attachment. 

Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style 

These individuals are the opposite of anxious attachment, and have a positive view of themselves but a negative view of others. They are independent and try to keep themselves from being emotionally dependent on anyone. This can even look like having no close personal relationships, and coming across as emotionally detached or cold. People who have dismissive attachment tend to suppress vulnerable emotions and distance themselves in order to feel safe. The statement “I need more space and room to breath in relationships” would be true for someone with dismissive attachment. 

Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style 

This attachment style is characterized by a shifting and unstable view of oneself and others. These people want close relationships and intimacy, but feel unable to totally trust someone else emotionally. There is a lot of internal conflict, and these people are suspicious of other people’s intentions towards them. It is an attachment style with lots of fear, and these individuals will also push others away to avoid being hurt. The statement, “I want to be close to others, but I’m afraid that if I Iet someone in, I’ll be hurt,” would be true for someone with fearful-avoidant attachment. 

Finding your attachment style can help you to better understand how you react in relationships and explain some of what you may be feeling right now. If you’d like to understand more about your attachment style and how you respond in relationships, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry Counseling today to schedule an appointment for counseling in Chicago.

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