In previous blog post we looked at attachment styles and how they form the foundation of how we understand ourselves and our relationships. In this post we will take brief a look at how early attachment patterns are manifested in adult experiences, and can influence how we connect with each other in our intimate relationships.
Adult Attachment Styles
As we have learned from John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, early attachment patterns form templates for later life experiences as we interact and form emotional bonds with others. In the 1980s, there was further research into how attachment in adult relationships develop. Although there are remarkable differences between an infant-caregiver relationship and intimate partner relationship (of course), there are strong similarities. Clinical Psychologist Sue Johnson uses attachment theory to develop Emotionally Focused Therapy - an evidence-based model that has been effective in couples therapy. Psychologists Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver later conducted further research on attachment in adult relationships.
Adults with a secure attachment pattern typically have generally positive sense of self. They are usually comfortable with connecting emotionally with others, and are confident in the ability of others to meet their needs, as they are in meeting others' needs. Their approach to relationships are characterized by trust, reliability, warmth and empathy.
In this attachment style, there is a positive view of self, and a negative view of others. Characteristics of this style include mistrust of others' ability to meet one's needs, confidence in one's sense of self, independence and self-reliance. People who exhibit the dismissive-avoidant attachment style tend to appear emotionally distant or rejecting, and are likely to suppress their feelings.
The dismissive-avoidant style is typified by a negative view of self, and positive view of others. It is further characterized by self-blaming, personalization of problems, fear of rejection or abandonment, and requires ongoing approval and responsiveness from the attachment figure or partner. People with this attachment style may demonstrate emotional dysregulation and explosiveness, particularly if there is a threat to the relationship or the fulfilment of their needs.
People with fearful-avoidant attachment typically have previous experiences of trauma and/or abuse. They usually have a confused sense of self, and have mixed feelings with regard to establishing emotional closeness. In that, there may be a desire for emotional connection, but there is strong mistrust, shame and/or fear to develop that connection due to their trauma history.
If you notice that these are recurring themes in your relationships, you may want to talk to a counsellor or other mental health professional to help you explore these issues in a safe and healthy way. You may contact me for a complimentary brief consultation by calling 416-688-5274, or by booking online here.