Attachment Styles and the impact on our Adulthood Relational styles


Attachment theory is the joint work of Bowlby and Ainsworth (1991), formulated upon various papers originally written to better understand and describe separation anxiety and the importance of caregiver bonds with infants during infancy (Bretherton, 1992). It posits that the the bond (attachment) between caregiver and infant during infancy and into childhood, lays the foundations for our lifelong relational styles. Attachment is considered to be either Secure, Anxious/ Ambivalent, Disorganized or Avoidant/ Dismissive. How we learn to relate to first our caregivers, and then to teachers or coaches, eventually lays a foundation for how we relate to peers both in our childhood and as adults; our experiences and learning from these experiences, not withstanding. 

Secure attachment is typically seen as a way of being, relationally, that includes a sense of autonomy, independence, security in relationships, comfort and calmness in the face of challenges, kindness and caring towards others, seeing others as inherently good, and boundaries that protect both oneself, but also the relationships one is in. An Anxious avoidant attachment is a way of being, based on the need to please others as a means to keeping them in one's life, yearning for things that cannot be had, and feeling a sense of dissatisfaction with what one has, the need to feel close to one's partner but feeling angry at the person at the same time, difficulty being alone, always second guess oneself, and hoping everything was said and done just right (fears of friendships ending if everything is not just right). An Avoidant attachment style typically carries a sense of stress attached to relationships, being in friendships feels uncomfortable, a sense of relief with ending relationships and then a sense of loss at the loss of the relationship, and commitments feel constraining. A Disorganized attachment style typically has the hallmarks of fear with intimacy, problems feel insurmountable, the expectation of the worst in most relationships, a sense of disconnection form past attachment relationships (done and forgotten), feeling unsure and uncomfortable in close relationships where one is unsure how to behave (Poole Heller, 2014). 

While these are typical signs of the various forms of attachment, most people may identify with two, simultaneously. We all transition through various stages in our lives, and learning through experience is inevitable, should we be open to learning and growing. Therefore all is not lost, our attachment styles are not set in stone, and change and growth is possible. Awareness of the style we are bringing with us from our childhood is the first step to changing those relational styles that no longer serve you. To better understand the attachment style you may identify with and how these ways of being may have come about, talk with a counsellor or psychotherapist who works with attachment; better understanding, provides you with the tools to changing those aspects that no longer serve you. 

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