Healing your Attachment Style to Improve Your Relationships
By Hannah Biggs, LSW
Our attachment style is formed during childhood from the relationships we share between our caregivers, family members, and friends. During these developmental years, we are observant of the reliability, consistency, and availability of those taking care of us. These relationships form the foundation for how we react to various situations with people in our lives (Oliveira & Fearon, 2019).
The four attachment styles are dismissive, anxious/preoccupied, fearful/avoidant/disorganized, and secure. Depending on the various experiences and relationships throughout childhood and adulthood, a person may fall into various attachment styles throughout their life. Below, you will learn about the four attachment styles and how to achieve and maintain a secure attachment style.
Dismissive attachment starts when parents cannot show emotions or lack the ability to pay attention to their children and meet their emotional needs. Children in turn, perceive that their needs are not important to their parents and believe they must take care of themselves. Individuals who identify with a dismissive attachment style tend to display behaviors that are self-sufficient, have difficulty trusting others, fear abandonment, and express emotions cautiously.
If growing up you had inconsistencies in care, emotionally unavailable caregivers, or your emotions were dismissed often, you have a higher chance of developing an anxious attachment. Signs you might have anxious attachment are agreeableness, hypersensitivity, emotional dysregulation, and excessive worrying.
Fearful Avoidant Attachment
When a child’s caregiver's behaviors and emotions are unpredictable (such as overreacting or excessive consequences) this can cause a child to develop a disorganized attachment style. Children with this attachment style often fear they will react in the wrong way or upset their caregivers. Individuals with fearful avoidant/disorganized attachment exhibit and experience these characteristics: low self-esteem, interpersonal conflicts, lack of boundaries, and dependability on external validation.
Repeated positive experiences, emotional support, and the availability of caregivers can form secure attachments during childhood. Having a secure attachment helps create positive self-esteem and forms the ability to trust others. Those with secure attachment are typically goal orientated and effective communicators.
Moving toward Secure Attachment
If you identify with a dismissive, anxious/preoccupied, and/or fearful-avoidant/disorganized attachment styles, there are ways to begin to reach a secure attachment style.
Being able to identify your triggers is the first step in healing your current attachment style. Writing down when you notice things causing you to feel triggered is a way to reduce the impact it has on you.
Next, identifying your core beliefs about yourself and how others perceive you is an important step to take. Do you think negatively about yourself or believe others will leave you if you act a certain way? If your core beliefs and thoughts tend to be negative, it is probably time to reevaluate those core beliefs. Reframing your thoughts and beliefs allows you to see your point of view from a new perspective and obtain the strength to identify empowering core beliefs (Sicinski, 2021).
Another helpful step is seeking help from a mental health professional. In therapy, you can explore the source of your attachment patterns in a safe, judgment-free space. A therapist can guide you and offer support through the process of creating and maintaining a secure attachment style.
If you or a loved one could benefit from therapist, contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Oliveria P. & Fearon P. (2019) The Biological Bases of Attachment. Adopting & Fostering. 2019;43(3):274-293. Sage Journals, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0308575919867770
Sicinki, A. (2021, March 30). The Complete Guide on How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs. IQ Matrix, Blog. http://blog.iqmatrix.com/limiting-beliefs