4 Strategies To Help You Shift Your Attachment Style
One of my clients' most common concerns in therapy is how to improve their relationships. Nearly all my clients, friends, family members, and I have faced problems establishing and maintaining secure and healthy attachments with others. In this post, I am going to describe secure attachment, identify insecure attachment, and list ways to move from insecure to secure attachment.
What is an Attachment Style?
Attachment Style describes the way a person connects to others in relationships. This is expressed in our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. A person’s attachment style is highly influenced by their attachment to their primary caregivers (i.e., parents) in childhood. However, it is essential to note that an individual’s attachment style manifests not only in intimate relationships but also in other kinds of relationships, such as friendships and siblings. Attachment styles can also evolve throughout life.
There are several factors that play a role in the development of an attachment style; intergenerational trauma, neurodevelopment, and our primary caregiver’s attunement to our emotional needs. If the parent is able to teach the child to regulate their nervous system through co-regulation, then the child develops a secure attachment. By secure attachment, we mean that the parent is physically and emotionally present at least 30 percent of the time, helping the child understand the world and providing a sense of comfort and safety. Such children are likely to trust their partners, have high self-esteem, and know when to self-soothe vs when to seek support and comfort in their relationships. By contrast, if the child’s emotional needs are not met consistently, the child may develop an insecure attachment. Insecure attachment can be characterized as anxious, disorganized, or avoidant.
Questions to bring awareness to your Attachment Style.
Do you worry that your partner will stop loving you? Do you overly fixate on your partner’s needs? Do you get attached to your partner quickly and overvalue them? Do you find it difficult to maintain boundaries and assert your needs? Do you feel angry or scared when there is distance between you and your partner? Do you undervalue relationships? Overly reliant on self? Have trouble expressing emotions? Does intimacy scare you? Do you find faults in romantic relationships to avoid closeness? Afraid that the relationship will make you lose yourself? When stressed, do you avoid the support of friends or family? Do you feel emotionally detached from relationships? If you answered yes, to most of the questions, there is a high likelihood that you have an anxious attachment style.
4 strategies to practice moving from an Insecure Attachment to a Secure Attachment Style
When dating, try to find a secure partner. Being with a secure partner or finding secure connections in different kinds of relationships can not only provide an individual with increased love, care, support, and comfort, but can also provide a role model to observe, imitate, and learn to be secure in relationships. This is not essential, but it helps.
Practice identifying and expressing unmet needs. This will be scary at first because historically, your needs have gone unmet. You may need to work on giving yourself permission to reflect and identify what your needs are under anxiety, anger, sadness, shame etc. Then, if the relationship is safe(investigate this) practice expressing your emotional needs to the other person.
Practice learning when you need self-soothing vs co-regulation. Both are needed in a secure relationship. You may feel more comfortable with self-soothing if you have an avoidant attachment style. If you are anxiously attached, you may feel more comfortable with co-regulation. Bring awareness to this and take some steps to regulate your nervous system when you are stressed or scared. You can regulate your nervous system by grounding yourself in healthy thoughts, safe relationships, positive activity, movement, sounds, and tuning in to your current environment or nature.
Practice bringing awareness to how the past connects to the present. Gaining insights into your past experiences helps you understand the recurring patterns, provides an opportunity to heal past wounds, and learn about your unmet needs. Going to therapy can help establish valid connections between the past with the present, learn healthy coping skills, and progress toward developing secure attachments with others. Your relationship with your therapist can be reparative and help you learn to safely co-regulate. Keeping a journal can also help you to identify patterns.
Go slowly, and be kind to yourself because your Insecure Attachment may result from relational trauma. If a romantic relationship is too challenging, start by practicing in your relationship with yourself, friends, or/and siblings. In other words, start with the relationship you feel is most safe and secure.
Learn more about your Attachment Style Here.
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