Attachment Styles: How They Are Affecting Your Relationships
I used to live in fear that my husband was going to leave me every time there was an argument between us. There were times I would lay awake at night, obsessively thinking about how much he did not wish to be as close as I would like for him to be to me.
Highly attuned to any fluctuations in his moods, I took most of his actions personally, experiencing a lot of negative emotions within our relationship. I was regularly getting upset: experiencing headaches, stomach aches, panic attacks, and non-stop crying.
There were other things that contributed to my constantly being on high alert, in particular, my having been a trauma survivor with PTSD. Throughout most of my life, my thoughts centered around all of my significant relationships.
Wanting to resolve the conflict within these relationships consumed a large part of my time, as well as emotional energy. I was exhausted, my adrenals were drained, and the worst part was, I didn’t really have the tools to know how to make it stop.
A few years later, I stumbled upon and finally read the highly recommended book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep - Love by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller. I sat up all night, tears streaming down my cheeks in release, devastated, why had it taken me so long to discover this information?
I am considered an anxious attachment style. Now it all finally made sense.
Consuming each page carefully and absorbing every word, I could clearly see my energy investment and contribution to every relationship I had in my life. Now I felt compelled to take action and responsibility for what I would like to do differently going forward.
Learning Your Attachment Style
First on the list was learning how to tap into the mindset of creating a secure base for myself, my relationship with my daughter, and my husband.
If you haven’t heard of attachment theory, the theory of attachment styles comes from the work psychoanalyst John Bowlby and psychologist Mary Ainsworth performed with infants (usually 9 to 18 months old) and their mothers, during the 1960s and 70s.
The classification comes from how an infant reacted to a strange situation test (the reaction to the reunion with a parent after a stressful separation). Bowlby and Ainsworth were able to clearly identify three different styles: anxious, avoidant and secure.
Since that time, attachment theory has become a useful system for re-thinking complex relationship dynamics and reexamining early childhood traumas.
Knowing your attachment style improves your ability to communicate with your family members, and if you are coupled, improves your relationship with your primary partner. If you are single, understanding your style can help you choose the most supportive and vibrationally aligned life partner, partnerships, or friendships for you.
Once you’ve determined your attachment style through an online quiz, you are empowered to learn techniques and principles to resolve personal conflict and effectively communicate when you are in an emotionally triggered state.
The Power of Understanding
Growing up with a secure attachment style isn’t so much about the absence of trauma, but about having a childhood where your needs are met and emotions validated by your primary caregiver. In adulthood, a secure attachment style in a partner relationship means someone who is “attuned to their partner’s emotional and physical cues and know[s] how to respond to them,” as Levine and Heller write in Attached. Non-crisis levels of tension in a relationship don’t make the securely attached person totally shut down or react with an activated or outsized fight or flight response.
If you can see yourself clearly and are able to stay grounded and talk through difficult things in an open manner without getting emotionally flooded or shut down, you have a secure attachment style. Someone with secure attachment is more likely to look at situations more objectively, without overindulging in self-blame, while still being able to take ownership of mistakes.
50% of the population are considered secure attachment styles, and the rest happen to fall within an anxious or avoidant attachment style. If the latter is true for you, your goal is to find more ways of providing inner security and interdependency by learning how to soothe your own inner child. Or partnering with a secure partner which enables you to become more secure over time.
Providing security for oneself requires you to stay present and make yourself available for any and all emotions you are feeling, to learn ways to manage and emotionally regulate your reactions in real time, and continually practice ways of encouraging yourself when you are in a reactive state. Some of the ways might include guided meditation, positive mindset through affirmations or mantras, mindfulness and breathing techniques, or simply a focus on journaling gratitude.
Of course, this is a long, slow process. Unlearning maladaptive attachment styles has to start with compassion for yourself, as these habits were formed to protect yourself as a child. They likely kept you safe, alert to untrustworthy bonds, and served you well. But in adulthood, you don’t need to use these behaviors any longer; it’s time to thank them for looking out for your emotional safety and ask them to take a rest.
For me, feeling security is about knowing that things that make me anxious are safe to bring up in a relationship without the fear of negative reactions to my vulnerability. I also practice doing the same thing for others. It does not mean that I won’t experience conflict or difficulty working through things, but it does mean that conflict produces greater levels of intimacy, security, and growth with those around me, rather than a contact high of codependent enmeshment or a total shutdown of intimacy between us.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Soul Liberation & Embodiment
Andrea Firpo is a Psychic Cheerleader who is focused on soul liberation and embodiment. Combining her psychic and intuitive abilities with her educational background of trauma psychology, she connects women to their own inner wisdom and self-love. By bringing awareness in the body, mind, and spirit around the deep conditioning of emotional trauma, Andrea identifies underlying patterns that undermine her clients’ self-worth. Through simple yet powerful healing tools, Andrea empowers her clients to achieve energetic balance through healthy boundaries, promoting incredible paradigm shifts in their lives.
Andrea is also an author who has contributed to the anthologies, Dreamweavers, Ceremonies, and the recent #1 Amazon International Bestseller, The Art & Truth of Transformation for Women. As a show host and producer, she highlights the stories and lessons of remarkable women overcoming traumatic events in her podcast, "Brilliance through Resilience." She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon and works with clients internationally.