Updated: Jul 27, 2022
There is way too much to write on this, but it has been a significant part of my growth over the last year or more. It has never been the focus, per se, but its influence is in many different areas of development. When I asked my therapist about it after I had found it in my research, she told me that much of what we had been working on for about a year and a half had to do with attachment styles. Anyway, there are 4 main attachment styles. Secure attachment, avoidant (dismissive avoidant), anxious (anxious preoccupied), and disorganized (fearful avoidant). They have to do with how your caregivers met your needs as an infant, toddler, child, and even into tween/teen ages. It is a very fluid mechanism, and you can vary in your degree of intensity in an area. It is possible, and encouraged, to move toward a secure attachment. That is the goal of learning the theory. It isn't to identify your personality. It's to identify areas of insecurity, and to move toward security. There are certain actions that people of different attachment styles tend to display, and that can help you identify which areas need the most improvement. You may also notice you develop different attachment styles with different people, from friends, to family, to intimate partners, etc.
I identified myself as primarily avoidant attachment, but not to an extreme degree. It wasn't that when I felt a relationship get close I would lean away, but when I felt a dependence on me, it scared me and I wouldn't know what to do so I would freeze, maybe even distance myself. I also didn't express myself well or read other people well. I learned that this is part of something known as the anxious-avoidant dance, or the pursue-withdraw dynamic, where one partner pursues and the other withdraws.
My goals to move to a secure attachment were to recognize when I have a feeling or emotion, to try to identify it and where it is coming from. It was also to be curious about the other person's experiences. I needed to stay in a conversation without shutting down or running away. I needed to get more comfortable with the uncomfortable, and make sure I am listening and responding, and not reacting.
This was a huge step for me. When I learned how to simply listen and not get defensive, I was able to stay much calmer for much longer, and I could empathize with the person speaking. The other thing that helped me was being more vocal. Sometimes when I am in the middle of an experience, I feel a way that I can't quite identify, or I know how I'm feeling but I'm not quite sure why, I can tell the other person what I'm going through. Then they can help co-regulate, or say that their experience is similar, or be curious about what it is I'm feeling and why.
I highly recommend learning some basic information about attachment styles. It may help you understand a little bit more about yourself, and help you identify areas you can work on to move toward a secure attachment style. Many of the resources in my forum post have a lot of different information available, as well as Googling "attachment theory". If you have specific questions, I'd love to chat about it.