According to Bowlby, if we bonded with our mother or primary carer in infanthood/early childhood in a healthy way so that strong bonds of love and trust developed between us then we, as adults, will develop a SECURE ATTACHMENT STYLE. However, if the reverse is true, Bowlby suggested that we are far more likely to develop an INSECURE ATTACHMENT STYLE.
According to Bartholomew and Horowitz, (1991), the INSECURE ATTACHMENT STYLE can take on three different forms:
- PREOCCUPIED ATTACHMENT STYLE
- DISMISSING ATTACHMENT STYLE
- FEARFUL ATTACHMENT STYLE
Let’s look at each of these in turn:
- PREOCCUPIED ATTACHMENT STYLE:
A person with a preoccupied attachment style
- feels painfully in need of being in a relationship
- longs to feel a profound emotional connection with another person and worries his/her partner does not feel as emotionally close to him/her as s/he does to the partner and that the partner is keeping him/her at an emotional distance.
- needs to receive explicit approval within a relationship
- has deep concerns s/he appreciates and values his/her partner more than the partner values and appreciates him/her
2. DISMISSING ATTACHMENT STYLE:
A person with a dismissing attachment style:
- feels OK about not having emotional connections
- highly values independence and self-reliance
- does not particularly value emotionally close relationships or even see the point of them
3. FEARFUL ATTACHMENT STYLE:
A person with a fearful attachment style:
- strongly desires a relationship but is afraid of having one as sees self as unlovable and not worthy of the affections or admiration of others and if shown such feelings it makes him/her feel uncomfortable, anxious, and awkward
Now let’s consider how these compare to a secure attachment style.
A person with a secure attachment style:
- is comfortable with emotional intimacy
- is not frightened of being dependent on an intimate partner and, therefore, making him/herself vulnerable, or of a partner being dependent on him/her or feel smothered by such dependence
- does not expect universal acceptance and so can take non-acceptance, when it’s encountered, in his/her stride without feeling crushed
CAN WE CHANGE OUR ATTACHMENT STYLE?
Yes, but this takes work as our attachment style has been ingrained into us throughout our childhood development. For example, research (Levy, 2006) suggests we can develop less insecure attachment styles by examining and, where appropriate, correcting, how we perceive ourselves and others in the context of our relationships and, in light of these new insights, adapting how we approach interacting with others so that our interpersonal interactions become more productive One therapy that can help as to achieve this is cognitive behavioural therapy. Learning self-soothing techniques for helping us to control our behaviour and regulate our emotions when inevitable tensions within relationships threaten to overwhelm us can also prove highly valuable.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).