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What are the attachment styles and what can they tell us about ourselves?

Apr 1, 2021

The attachment style reflects the way a human being forms and maintains relationships with those around him/her. The attachment style theory was formulated by the British psychiatrist John Bowlby, who initially analyzed the behavior of ducklings in relation to their mother, relatively quickly after birth.

The theory of attachment (Bowlby, 1969) is recognized as part of the established theories in psychology and shows us that there are 3 major attachment styles: secure, anxious and avoidant. The child forms a predominant attachment style in the first two years after birth and this attachment style remains relatively stable throughout life. This means that although each person manifests specific characteristics of all 3 major attachment styles, one of them dominates and is most often seen in the individual’s close relationships (with romantic partners, friends and family).

The anxious attachment style is characterized by insecurity, by an exaggerated tendency to seek confirmation from the romantic partner or other loved ones. People with a predominantly anxious attachment style tend to cling to loved ones and often constantly look for confirmations that the love for them is still there. These confirmations can come verbally (when, for example, the partner tells them that he/she loves them, that he / she misses them, that he / she has strong feelings for them, etc.) or non-verbally (giving gifts, time spent in together, offering help, etc.). Paradoxically, however, people with a predominantly anxious attachment style tend to question these “confirmations” from loved ones and look for evidence once again. This behavior can push away those close to them, and this is exactly the scenario that the anxious person wants to avoid: the loss of a partner, friend, etc. Deep down, people with an anxious attachment style have a strong fear of rejection, loss, abandonment, which causes them to manifest behaviors that may seem desperate or possessive in the eyes of others.

The avoidant attachment style seems to be the opposite of the anxious one, as it is manifested by behaviors that, like the name, tend to detach the person from loved ones. People with an avoidant attachment style seem to run away from closeness and intimacy, and this is because they are afraid of getting lost in a codependent relationship. When the person with an anxious attachment style feels insecure, they become possessive and jealous. In the same scenario, the person with an avoidant attachment style however, moves away. For a person with a predominantly avoidant attachment style, it is very important not to lose the sense of identity in relationships with others. On the other hand, this style of attachment is also based on insecurity, and from this point of view, the anxious and the avoidant have a lot in common.

The secure attachment style is characterized by balance. People who manifest this attachment style predominantly are people who feel comfortable in interdependent relationships but also when they are alone. They do not seek at all costs to be in a relationship, but they are not overly enchanted by the image of the “ideal partner”. These people understand that it is important to choose a partner with similar values ​​and with whom they are compatible, but they have the ability to tolerate aspects that an avoider would see as “issues that cannot be tolerated”. People from this category want relationships but are aware that sometimes these relationships end and see breakups as proof of natural selection rather than as a tragedy, as the anxious sees them.

Each person exhibits traits specific to each attachment style, even if one of them is usually dominant. Also, the attachment style of the people with whom we have a close relationships (for example) can lead us to reveal features specific to a certain attachment style. For example, if we are in a relationship with a very anxious person, we can become more “avoidant” in relation to them. If our partner displays traits and behaviors specific to the avoidant style, then we may become more anxious. However, along with someone with a predominantly secure attachment style, most people begin to exhibit more and more secure behaviors in turn, healing from existing wounds.

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