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Psychotherapy

What’s your attachment style

Research suggests that more than a third of us are insecurely attached. But what does that mean and how do you recover?

What do we mean when we talk about ‘attachment’? Well, in a nutshell, attachment refers to the way we relate to others. This might be a partner, a parent or just people in general. It has been described as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.”

In the 1950s, psychiatrist John Bowlby explored the attachment bonds between parents and children, with a focus on how and why we become attached, and how this can then lead to separation anxiety and attachments in adulthood. He hypothesized 4 categories of ‘attachment’ that every person falls into. These are: Avoidant, Anxious, Fearful Avoidant, and Secure.

During individual psychotherapy and couples counseling, attachment styles play a pivotal role in the exploration of your inner self. By bringing your attachment style to your consciousness, you can make positive changes within your relationships – both with yourself and with others. 

How do we form an attachment style?

Our attachment style is formed in early childhood. It is developed in response to the evolutionary way we experience our early experiences and our caregivers. Early behavioral theories suggested that ‘feeding’ was a primary motivator in a child’s attachment to a caregiver. If a child had their feeding needs met, they’d form attachment. Bowlby successfully demonstrated nurturance and responsiveness were the primary determinants of attachment. Basically, the way you relate to your caregiver in childhood will impact the way you relate to others for the rest of your life. 

What does each attachment style mean?
Avoidant Attachment

Avoidant attachment style is an insecure attachment style characterised by a fear of intimacy. If you find it hard to get close to others, feel suffocated by intimacy or hard to trust people, you might be avoidantly attached. This can manifest as emotional unavailability within relationships, preferring independence and self-reliance. It is likely that early caregivers were unresponsive, negligent and dismissive and emotionally distant.

Anxious Attachment

Anxious attachment style is a form of insecure attachment style characterised by a profound fear of abandonment. Relationships tend to be filled with worry and a hunger for validation. An anxiously attached person might be described by others as ‘needy’ or ‘clingy’. In childhood, caregivers would have been unpredictable with affections, one moment being stifling and other moments being intermittently withdrawn. The fluctuations between caregivers being caring and withdrawn can then lead to a formation of anxious attachment in the child. 

Fearful Avoidant Attachment

Fearful-avoidant attachment style is a mix of the avoidant and anxious attachment styles. People with this form of attachment crave affection but also want to avoid it. This conflicting state can cause immense difficulties in regulating emotions, and can even lead to violent outbursts or sexually risky behaviours. Caregivers will have been frightening or there may have been trauma relating to one or more caregivers (such as abuse or neglect). Consequently, the child develops a poor understanding of boundaries, going into adulthood without that secure model of relationships to draw from.  

Secure Attachment

Secure attachment style means the ability to curate loving, secure relationships with others. Trust and intimacy can be established with ease. A securely attached person can also receive love from others, and be away from their partners without separation anxiety. Boundaries are intact, with the person being able to depend on others without becoming dependent. Early caregivers would have been responsive and attuned to their child’s needs, thus helping them enter adulthood with a good understanding of themselves and those around them. 

Which attachment style is yours?

You might have read the above and instantly identified with an attachment style. Or, perhaps you’re not quite sure. Individual psychotherapy or couples counseling can help with identifying and working with your attachment style (and the attachment styles of significant others). 

Through awakening our consciousness to our attachment style, we can form healthier relationships with ourselves and those around us. 

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I offer you acute couples counselling, couples therapy and individual psychotherapy based on your preferences, either online, at your place, or at my clinics in Østerbro or Svendborg.

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