How Attachment Styles Form

Attachment Styles

Attachment styles begin to form in early childhood as a result of the quality of the child’s relationships with their caregivers. These relationships can be secure or insecure depending on whether or not the caregiver is consistent and attuned to the needs of the child. If a child’s needs are consistently met, the child will develop a secure attachment style. Conversely, if the child’s needs are inconsistently met, the child might develop an insecure attachment that continues into adulthood.

Developmental Needs

Physical needs

  • Does my caregiver change me when wet, feed me, provide me with shelter and warmth, consistently?
  • Do I have clean clothes?
  • Is there food to eat?
  • Do I receive care from the same people, consistently?
  • Do I receive care in the same place, consistently?
  • Is my environment safe, stable, and consistent?
  • Are the people providing for my physical needs stable, consistent, and reliable?

Emotional needs

  • Does my caregiver come when I cry and attune to my emotional needs, consistently?
  • Does my caregiver mirror appropriate emotions to me through eye contact and verbal and nonverbal communication?
  • Is it safe to express my emotions?
  • Is there someone I can go to when I feel like I need comfort or soothed?<
  • Is my caregiver emotionally well regulated?
  • Does my caregiver hold me, cuddle me, and show me affection?
  • Are the people providing for my emotional needs consistent and reliable?

Attachment styles form in response to the environment in which we develop. When our needs are consistently met by our caregivers and partners, we develop a secure attachment. When our needs are neglected or inconsistently met, we develop insecure attachment styles.

Secure Attachment Style

Adults with secure attachment styles feel loved, safe, and supported in their relationships. They are able to explore their environment, meet new people, and learn new things without feeling anxious or insecure. They are able to feel comfortable and safe in romantic relationships, and things like trust and jealousy aren’t usually an issue for these folks.

Insecure Attachment Style

Adults with insecure attachment styles do not feel loved, safe, or supported by others. They may be anxious, withdrawn, or both depending on the person or situation.

Types of insecure attachment

There are three main types of insecure attachment:

  • Avoidant attachment: Individuals with avoidant attachment can be harder to spot. They often seem cool, independent, and aloof. In reality, they are generally disconnected and emotionally unavailable. They seem as if they have no needs at all. These individuals have difficulty with commitment and avoid their emotions and the emotions of others whenever possible. When pushed to be more vulnerable or intimate will often shut down, seem disconnected and even end the relationship. These folks usually seem emotionally unaffected and fiercely independent.
  • Anxious attachment: Individuals with anxious attachment often have a lot of relationship anxiety. These individuals fear abandonment and have a rejection sensitivity. These individuals can become preoccupied and when in a relationship can completely lose their sense of self. They often feel like their needs are “too much” for others to handle. They can appear anxious, needy, and sometimes fearful and frantic.
  • Disorganized attachment: Individuals with a disorganized attachment style show a mixture of avoidant and anxious tendencies. They may initially seem cool, calm, aloof, and independent, but then fear of abandonment or fear of rejection can trigger their anxious side. These folks tend to have trust issues and keep most people at a distance. When in a relationship, they can completely lose their sense of self and become consumed with meeting the needs of their partner, but can flip on a dime, when mad, and completely shut down and push their loved ones away. They have a need to feel loved, but they also fear love which makes them chase it while unconsciously avoiding it.

Help is Available

Attachment styles have a significant impact on the quality of relationships. Adults with secure attachment styles are more likely to be happy, healthy, and successful in life. Individuals with insecure attachment styles are more likely to have problems with relationships, anxiety, and depression.

Individual and Group Therapy are both excellent ways to develop healthy attachments. Inner child work is an excellent way to heal childhood attachment wounds. EMDR Therapy can target the attachment ruptures that occurred and facilitate the reprocessing of these experiences. We feel it to heal it.  In doing so, client’s develop a more self compassionate insight about themselves and their experience. EMDR Therapy can help heal attachment wounds.

Look for my posts and videos about Inner Child Work and more on how EMDR Therapy can heal attachment wounds.

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