What is an attachment style?
An individuals ability to connect and maintain relationships early on in our childhood. Psychologists Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby, two pioneers of attachment research and theory, determined that attachment styles can predict how you interact within relationships with others and with yourself, and this is mainly influenced by your initial relationship with your caregivers. When an attachment style is formed, it becomes our “go to” dynamic within a relationship, it is automatic, it influences self-preservation and our interactions when under stress. Again, our early attachment combined with deep rooted beliefs of our sense of safety of self and others influences our interactions with others. These beliefs are formed so early on and protect us, and if they are “threatened” aggression, anxiety, stress, or repulsion can occur. The four attachment styles include: secure, avoidant, anxious, and disorganized (anxious-avoidant).
In this blog, we will break down anxious attachment.
Anxious Attachment Style in Childhood
Anxious attachment style (also known as anxious ambivalent in children) is often associated with inconsistency in parenting. This means that sometimes, parents may be really attuned to their child’s emotional needs. At other points, parents may be unresponsive to their child’s needs. Additionally, another factor that is associated with anxious ambivalent attachment style is when caregivers are seeking out an emotional/physical closeness with their children in order to meet their needs and not the needs of their child. Caregivers may use their child as a way to satisfy their own need for love. Caregivers may not even be aware of this pattern, as they were raised in a similar environment. Caregivers may also have an anxious attachment style, as attachment styles are not genetic but pass on through generations through behavioral patterns.
Anxious Attachment Style in Adulthood:
Adults with anxious attachment style may lack self-esteem, they may think highly of others and not themselves. They may be highly attuned to the needs of their partner or friend, though feel anxious expressing or feeling like their own needs are worthy. If a partner does not respond to an emotional needs, and individual with anxious attachment may internalize this and “blame themselves”, this could look like “I am not worthy of love” “I am not good enough” etc. Generally, adults with anxious attachment may need constant reassurance that they are loved or good enough. Adults that have an anxious attachment style may struggle with an underlying fear of abandonment and are highly dependent on others.
Can You Shift Your Attachment Style?
The simple answer, yes you can change the way you interact, connect, and respond in relationships. The first step in starting to shift an attachment style is to notice your behavioral patterns within your relationships, especially with a partner. Recognizing, processing, reflecting and making sense of your childhood is helpful in understanding your sense of safety and patterns within relationships. Reaching out to a therapist that specializes in “attachment theory” can be a helpful tool to heal relationship patterns that no longer serve you.