Attachment styles aren’t something you really think about as a kid. You don’t think about the fact, don’t realise the fact, that every single experience you have growing up will, whether directly or indirectly, have an impact upon you in adulthood. You don’t put two and two together and acknowledge that the way you were brought up, the model(s) of love that you were shown, influence the way you love and receive love as an adult. And so, it can come as quite the shock to people when, upon entering adulthood and going through the, arguably inevitable process of ‘self discovery’, they do end up arriving at the conclusion that their early years were absolutely ‘formative’ on who they are today, both for better and for worse.
For some people, being told through a therapist, or learning for themselves, that their childhood for which they will have had little (if any) control over has potentially shaped the course of their whole life, that can be a bitter pill to swallow. It might transpire to them feeling anger towards their caregivers if they feel as though they have been ‘let down’ by them. This is probably a good point to note, however, that attachment styles aren’t always ‘bad’ (albeit, this is what we tend to focus on- insecure attachment styles), but that they can be really positive, too.
People who have had an upbringing solidified in love and a sense of stability are likely to have an organised attachment style, their childhood experiences having impacted them in a positive way. Even for people who have been through difficult experiences in their childhood and do have an ‘insecure’ attachment style- anxious, avoidant, or disorganised (the latter being a combination of anxious AND avoidant)- there are still positives to be taken away. For people who have an organised/secure/ ‘normal’ attachment style, they will probably have had no reason to look into attachment styles, they might not even know what attachment styles are because, typically, we only devote our time and effort to the things which we feel have had/are having, an impact on us (as a timely example, just think about what we’re seeing in Gaza, a literal genocide taking place before our eyes and yet, one which far too many of us are ignoring because, 2000 miles away from us, ‘it’s not effecting me’)… Being driven to look into attachment styles then, even if it is the result of ‘trauma’, it means that we give ourselves the time that we perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have done, to embark on a ‘journey’ of self-discovery, thus giving us an opportunity to practice greater self-awareness.
Why is self-awareness so important? Because it helps us to stop intergenerational trauma… Because, when the formation of attachment styles are based on our childhood experiences, they typically get passed on from one generation to the next. If we are shown an insecure example of love ourselves and this mode of love is all we know, then we will likely pass that on to our children, and they will pass it on to their children, and so on and so on. We need to break the cycle, and, to do that, we need to acknowledge that there is a cycle that needs to be broken in the first place… Hence why it is so important that we have an understanding of attachment styles, something which I hope this post will help you with!
So, by now you’re probably wondering what the different types of attachment styles actually are. We know that to have an ‘organised’/’secure’ attachment style is the result of a ‘healthy’ upbringing centred on love and security, and that, ‘disorganised’/’insecure’ attachment styles arise for the contrasting reason- because we have been brought up in such a way that lacks the love and security we’d expect to receive as children, but what are the specific types of attachment style that fall under these broad categories?
People who have had a positive experience of childhood, whose needs were met and felt secure in their upbringing, will most likely have an organised/secure attachment style. Unlike disorganised attachment which has several ‘styles’ constituting it, organised attachment does not. With a ‘normal’ attachment style, there is nothing much to say really- already happy, already healthy. Having had a (subjectively) ‘good’ childhood, they will have a solid foundation of how to form healthy relationships, nothing much to note…
As we have already established, people who have had a more ‘dysfunctional’ childhood in which their needs were not met, or at least, not consistently met, will be considerably more likely to carry such, what one could argue as being ‘chaos’, into their adult relationships. This will typically show up in one of three ways- as anxiety, as avoidance, or, in some cases, as a combination of the two, as we see in ‘anxious avoidant’s’…
Anxious-ambivalent children tend to distrust caregivers, and this insecurity often means that their environment is explored with trepidation rather than excitement.
They constantly seek approval from their caregivers and continuously observe their surroundings for fear of being abandoned.
Those who developed under the ‘anxious-ambivalent’ attachment style, tend to carry what they have learned into adulthood, and very often feel unloved by their partners as they are constantly second-guessing whether they’ve done too much, or too little, for their relationship, whilst finding it difficult to express love and connection themselves.
Children who have developed under the ‘avoidant’ style have learned to accept that their emotional needs are likely to remain unmet and continue to grow up feeling unloved and insignificant.
They often struggle with expressing their feelings and find it hard understanding emotions — in adulthood; they tend to avoid intimate relationships and become self-reliant. They’re more likely to be dismissive and fearful and keep others at a distance.
Disorganised attachment (also known as ‘fearful-avoidant’) is a combination of avoidant and anxious attachment in which the child loves and cares for their parents/caregivers, and craves their attention, but also fears them. This leaves the child consistently unsure of how the caregiver will respond to their needs. A child’s instincts are thus conflicted. They’re hardwired to seek support and security from their caregiver, but they’re also scared of them.
Children developed under the ‘disorganised’ attachment style, tend to avoid intimate relationships as adults and can have a difficult time controlling their emotions as a result.
The main thing to note, and the thing which I hope you will takeaway from this post as I come to conclude, is that, no matter what your childhood experiences were, no matter what your attachment style is, you are worthy of love and you deserve to experience it in all its beauty…
If you have an insecure attachment style, you might find the prospect of that ( ^ ) really scary, you might fear that it makes you ‘too vulnerable’, either due to a fear of having your independence taking away (as is often the case in people with an avoidant attachment style), or due to a fear of abandonment (as is often the case in people with an anxious attachment style), but, even then, you still deserve it (in fact, I would argue even more so, for you have years of catching up to do)… You deserve to go on this healing journey.
You are not ‘broken’ or ‘unlovable’, I promise you.
I hope that this post, as well as educating you into the different attachment styles, has served to provide you with a little bit of hope, too.
Not just for yourself, but for your future children for, as we know, insecure attachment is often the result of intergenerational parenting patterns. This means parents are responding to their children in the same unhealthy ways their own parents responded to them when they were children.
Sending you all lots of love as we try to break the cycle.
WE’VE GOT THIS!!!!