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What are the 4 Attachment Styles?

attachment relationships

Today, we're diving into a topic near and dear to my heart as a trauma therapist: attachment styles. Understanding your attachment style can be a powerful tool in navigating your relationships and personal growth. There are four primary attachment styles – secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant.

Secure Attachment

Secure attachment is often considered the gold standard in relationships. It's like having a safe base; you know someone's there for you, and you're there for them, without any fear of abandonment or engulfment.

  • Characteristics:

    • Comfortable with intimacy and independence.
    • Communicates needs and feelings openly.
    • Responsive and empathetic towards partner’s needs.
  • Examples in Everyday Life:

    • You feel comfortable discussing issues with your partner and don't fear the relationship ending over disagreements.
    • You encourage your partner to pursue personal interests, knowing it enriches your relationship.
    • You can discuss future plans with your partner without feeling anxious or fearing commitment.
    • You readily offer support when your partner is going through a tough time, knowing how to be both present and respectful of boundaries.

Anxious Attachment

Anxious attachment can feel like you're on an emotional rollercoaster in relationships, often fueled by a deep fear of abandonment.

  • Characteristics:

    • Craves closeness and reassurance, but fears rejection.
    • Overly preoccupied with their relationships.
    • Sensitive to partners’ actions and moods.
  • Examples in Everyday Life:

    • You find yourself texting your partner to check in and feel anxious if they don’t reply quickly.
    • You worry a lot about your partner losing interest and often seek constant affirmation of their feelings.
    • You feel uneasy when your partner goes on a business trip, worrying about the distance and what it means for your relationship.
    • You often overanalyze small changes in your partner’s tone or behavior, fearing it indicates a loss of interest.

Avoidant Attachment

People with avoidant attachment tend to equate intimacy with a loss of independence, often trying to minimize closeness in relationships.

  • Characteristics:

    • Values independence, often at the expense of close relationships.
    • Uncomfortable with too much closeness or emotional expression.
    • Withdraws in response to conflict or strong emotions.
  • Examples in Everyday Life:

    • You avoid deep conversations about feelings, preferring surface-level interactions.
    • You hesitate to share personal struggles with your partner, preferring to deal with issues alone.
    • You might feel overwhelmed when your partner expresses a desire for more closeness or deeper emotional connection.
    • You tend to end relationships when they start to get serious, feeling a strong need to maintain your independence.

Anxious-Avoidant Attachment

Anxious-avoidant attachment, also known as disorganized or fearful-avoidant attachment, is a complex style where individuals often find themselves in a push-pull dynamic with relationships. They crave intimacy like those with an anxious attachment style, yet fear getting too close, similar to avoidant individuals. This can lead to a confusing mix of behaviors that oscillate between the two styles.

  • Characteristics:

    • Struggles with trusting others, yet fears being alone.
    • Desires close relationships but is wary of becoming too vulnerable.
    • Often experiences inner conflict between needing intimacy and needing independence.
  • Examples in Everyday Life:

    • You find yourself drawn to relationships but pull away when things start to get serious, fearing you'll get hurt.
    • You feel a deep longing for connection, but simultaneously feel trapped when a relationship becomes too close, leading to a pattern of short-lived romances.
    • You might have a pattern of choosing partners who are not fully available, mirroring their conflicted desire for intimacy and independence.

Understanding anxious-avoidant attachment can be particularly challenging because of its contradictory nature. People with this attachment style might feel like they're constantly battling with themselves, unsure of what they truly want or need from relationships.

Remember, these styles aren't fixed labels but fluid ways we've learned to relate to others, often based on our early life experiences. Recognizing our attachment style is the first step towards growth and healthier relationships. If you see yourself in any of these descriptions, know that change is possible. You're not alone on this journey. 

We are about to open up our course: Attached: Reclaiming Relationships After Trauma, and you can join the waitlist to be the first to know when the course opens (and get a sweet discount.) Be sure to opt-in to our emails so you don't miss it!

Attached: Reclaiming Relationships After Trauma is a course meant to get you feeling more connected and settled in your relationships. In the course, I’m going to teach you skills that are going to help you create some powerful shifts in:

  • The way you communicate your needs and limits
  • Understanding why you are feeling the way that you are (anxious, overwhelmed, shut down, or settled)
  • Your ability to shift a conversation that is going downhill quickly into a productive, meaningful, and helpful conversation.

If this sounds like an impactful course for you, be sure to get on that waitlist!

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