Have you ever wondered why you struggle to form strong bonds and connections with others? Do you feel crippled by anxiety when your loved one is not available to you? Or do you often feel disconnected and blamed by your loved one for not being emotionally available enough? Or maybe, you may not know where you sit emotionally in relationships.
Even though you yearn to feel connected, in a way that baffles you over and over again, you push away the very people who you want to be close to?
If your answer is a resounding, “Yes!’ to any of these questions, you may have an attachment style which inhibits your ability to regulate your emotions and connect to yourself and others.
Attachment refers to the relationships and bonds between people, particularly our long-term relationships. This includes the bond between a parent and child and also the bond between romantic partners.
Attachment styles form very early and usually a child’s relationship with their primary caregiver, which is often the mother, sets up one’s attachment style throughout life.
If you have insecure attachment, this can affect the quality of your experience in your intimate relationships. In my clinic, more often than not, I turn to a client’s attachment style to help them learn more about themselves and the way they function in relationships.
A high percentage of clients presenting to therapy have adult attachment issues, and these underlie a large range of other mental health issues. This can have an enormous impact on how we understand ourselves, and how we manage our relationships. So, what are attachment styles and how do you discover if you have one?
There are four main adult attachment styles: secure attachment, dismissive attachment, preoccupied attachment and disorganised or fearful attachment. Of these, secure attachment is the goal. A securely attached child is one which experiences all the right conditions of parenting and they consequently form a strong sense of self and the ability to regulate their emotions early in life. This generally translates into a securely attached adult.
The other three are results of insecure attachment and are formed generally to ward off anxiety from not having essential needs met as a child. Attachment styles are learned early in life and become unconscious coping methods used to tackle the challenges of adult relational life. If not examined, they can become inflexible and detrimental.
But, the good news is, you can earn secure attachment, even if you’ve started off on the wrong foot! Working with an attachment-based therapist can help you work out which attachment style you have. Once that is done, you can work alongside your therapist to resolve the many conflicts which arise from not being securely attached. This can be a journey of self-discovery and healing which opens up new possibilities of connection, both for yourself and your loved ones.
Jacqui Snooks is a counsellor and psychotherapist who practises in Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula. She is the Clinical Director of Haven Counselling and Psychotherapy. Click here for more information.