Attachment Styles and How They Show Up in Our Relationships

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thoughtful-3Welcome back to this blog series on rewiring the brain, neuroplasticity, resilience and more.

In the first of the series, we talked about the different ways our brain becomes conditioned and how we can begin to change it. In the second post, we talked about our protective “negativity bias” and the autonomic nervous system, which revs us up (the job of the sympathetic nervous system) or slows us down (the job of the parasympathetic nervous system).

In this post, we’ll dive in a little deeper into how our programming takes shape when we’re young. You’ll understand why some people are more prone to calm and ease while you may be struggling. You’ll see why others may find it easier to trust while you feel safer staying a bit more aloof and removed. So much of why you feel the way you feel will start making sense, and while it’s impossible to cover it all in this series, it’s my intention to give you a healthy start so you can use the brain’s ability to change through neuroplasticity to create a healthier balance, while creating responses that allow you to feel safe and calm.

Let’s talk about attachment styles.

Attachment is the way we relate to others. It’s formed before we’re 2 years old. Once it’s set, it guides how we are in our relationships. It’s helpful to know more about this so that you can understand yourself and work towards changing what no longer serves you.

  1. Secure Attachment: If you were raised by those who were consistently loving, sensitive and responsive to your needs, you’re likely to form a secure attachment, helping you to feel secure, calm and safe.
  2. Avoidant Attachment: If you were raised by those who were emotionally unavailable, you’re likely to assume comfort isn’t certain. As a result, you may shut down, withdraw and assume you need to take care of yourself because you’ve learned not to count on others.
  3. Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment: If you were raised with this type of attachment, the attention and responses you received were inconsistent. Attention may have wavered between nurturing and insensitive, attentive or removed. This inconsistency and unpredictability creates confusion, leaving you to feel insecure, uncertain, angry and chaotic.
  4. Disorganized Attachment: With this type of attachment, there may have been physical and/or emotional abuse. This creates a real dilemma because you’re dependent upon the person who’s the one causing the harm. With this type of attachment, there’s also no organized strategy to ensure that your needs were being met, so there’s no sense of safety and security.

Of course, it’s much deeper than what I’m able to cover here, but what’s most important is this. Regardless of the attachment style that was formed when you were younger, as an adult you’re in a beautiful space because you can work towards changing what no longer works… and the first step starts when we stop blaming others. Not because they didn’t do something harmful to you, but because whenever we blame, we’re handing over our power to someone else, waiting for them to change so we feel better. By taking responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and responses, we can begin to understand and have greater compassion for ourselves, serving as fertile soil to begin to heal and grow.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023