Attachment Styles

Recently, I have found myself drawn back to material from many years ago. The issue of attachment style, like attachment theory, is central to the psychology of human growth and development.

This page connects closely to the page on attachment-based trauma.

In brief, there were said to be four adult attachment styles:

Secure,

Preoccupied,

Dismissive-Avoidant, and

Fearful-Avoidant.

The different attachment styles, emerging as they do from our childhood experiences, and the associated behaviours, are summarised in the following diagram.

Bartholomew and Horowitz's (1991) model of adult attachment.  

Dan Siegel and others have developed these relatively simple categories into a more sophisticated perspective casting light on both the attachment outcome and carer or parenting behaviour.

Adult Attachment Style Characteristic Parenting Behaviour

Secure………………………………………….. ……………. Responsive and consistent
Avoidant………………………………………….………….. Rejecting and distant
Ambivalent ………………………………………..………. Inconsistent and intrusive
Disorganized……………………………………….……… Frightening and confusing

It is evident that such categories cannot be applied rigidly to ourselves. Indeed, it is likely that we will demonstrate varying behaviours according to different circumstances. That said, when preparing for safe experiments, you may best consider what appears to be your own favourite style or behaviour.

Another element of information that may help with the design of small, safe experiments is to build a bridge between these categories and a similar matrix found in the transactional analytic model (TA) with its notions of OKness.

Consider this:

The inference here is that our Life Position disposes us to respond in characteristic ways – with our children and other people in our world.

This approach can help as long as we do not kid ourselves that we develop a single and clearly-defined relationship with our key care-takers. Much will change over time and we can travel around the matrices I have provided according to changing circumstances.

Even so, when certain behaviours are repeated often enough, then a way of attaching to our care-takers can emerge. This pattern shapes our style of relating one to another.

There is a useful background account available at:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/communication-success/201507/what-is-your-relationship-attachment-style

There are any number of safe experiments that might emerge from this material – too many to consider here. The experiments you may design will be very personal and very specific to your circumstances.

It is almost certainly an area of work you will want to take on with a professional.

Please be aware of the implicit advice in the Johari Window; we cannot know all there is to know about ourselves. Information and feedback is needed. Some-one trained to help us look in the left field – in different places – can be essential to moving forward.

The risk that is run here not simply about doing ourselves harm, rather plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…. the more we [seek] to change, the more things stay the same. It is too easy to go round in circles and become very frustrated.

Consider the perspective offered by Dan Siegel on YouTube. The way we look at the world can mean we become blind to a world that does exist, but remaining out of reach. If that world is out of reach, then it does not exist. Each and everyone of us can be blind to something.

Return to:

Welcome

How do give yourself a nudge

Attachment theory and trauma