Discovering Your Attachment Style

If you have not already done so, review the four styles of attachment and decide which one you most resemble. But remember, you are unlikely to fit any one style to a T. So pay attention to how your personal attachment style incorporates some of the characteristics of the other styles. For instance, are you basically secure but with a tendency toward doubting your self-worth (being preoccupied)? Also keep in mind that although you have a particular, characteristic style, it will likely vary a bit with different relationships.


Fearful Attachment: Conflicted in Love

This conflict between an intense fear of rejection and a desperate need for reassurance and closeness is typical of people with a fearful attachment style. When they are not totally avoiding relationships,
they end up behaving in contradictory and confusing ways. Prone to seeing partners as emotionally distant, they sometimes try desperately to get their partners’ approval and attention by using hyperactivating strategies such as exaggerating their distress. However, when they perceive
their partners as getting close, they feel vulnerable to getting hurt. So they instinctively look to protect themselves from their partner, turning to deactivating strategies to avoid intimacy.


Dismissing Attachment: No Need for Love

Like those with a preoccupied style, those with a dismissing style are also prone to believe that their partners will not reliably be there to support or comfort them. But they protect themselves by unconsciously using deactivating strategies that “turn off” (or deactivate) their attachment system, enabling them to avoid being in the untenable position of feeling a pull to rely on an undependable partner. They effectively suppress, avoid, or ignore their emotions and attachment needs. They tend to remain distant, limit their interactions and intimate conversations, and frequently denigrate their partners.


Preoccupied Attachment: Desperate for Love

Those who have a preoccupied attachment style are sensitive to the possibility of being overlooked or rejected by their partner, whom they need to protect them. So they use hyperactivating strategies to keep their attachment system “turned on” (or activated), which ensures that they will continue to seek out a reliable.


Secure Attachment: Happy in Love

Securely attached individuals are basically comfortable with their full range of emotions and feel like lovable, good, caring, competent people. They are also inclined to think of their partners as trustworthy, well-intentioned, sensitive, and emotionally there for them. So they are happy with themselves and in their relationships.


As I’ve explained, attachment styles can best be understood by combining the way people relate to themselves (which can create anxiety) and to others (which can result in avoidance). By dividing the dimensions of anxiety and avoidance into high and low, the following four possible combinations are created:

Preoccupied: High Anxiety, Low Avoidance

Fearful: High Anxiety, High Avoidance

Dismissing: Low Anxiety, High Avoidance

Secure: Low Anxiety, Low Avoidance


How Much Anxiety and Avoidance?

To learn how much attachment-related anxiety and attachment-related avoidance you experience, consider how well you fit the paragraphs below (Ainsworth, Blehar, Water, and Wall, 1978;
Simpson, Rholes, and Phillips, 1996; Collins, 1996; Feeney, Noller, and Hanrahan, 1994; Griffin and Bartholomew, 1994; Brennan, Clark, and Shaver, 1998; Levine and Heller, 2010). Rate yourself on a
scale of 0–10, with 0 being not at all and 10 being that you completely relate. Hold on to these numbers so that you can use them later in assessing your attachment style.


Whom do you turn to when you are really upset? At those times, your attachment system is turned on; like turning on an internal homing device for which the target or “home” is an attachment figure. When an adult’s system works well, he has a secure style of attachment. He seeks out his partner or other primary attachment figure for reassurance when he’s upset. And once he finds her to be reliably available and effectively responsive, his attachment system turns off. He feels calm and comforted.

But people with an insecure pattern of attachment don’t fully or consistently find such comfort in their partners or in others, an indication that their “homing device” is malfunctioning.


To see a birth is to witness a miracle. No mother can resist wanting to hold, cuddle with, and tend to her newborn. And this is where the story of every person’s life of relationships and love begins.

Infants quite literally need their caregivers for survival. So, thanks to Mother Nature, infants are hardwired with a need to connect with others, and the wherewithal to do it. For instance, they like to look at people’s faces, can get others to care for them by crying, and are usually comforted by being held or rocked. And, of course, babies just look so darned cute that people want to care for them. All of this keeps their primary caregivers (usually their mothers, and secondarily their fathers) interested in protecting and nurturing them. As children become mobile, their continued need for help to survive motivates them to stay close to their mothers. A little one who ventures out will look back to Mommy for reassurance. It’s in these early years, beginning with infancy, that people first learn how relationships can help them feel safe and can calm them when they are upset.

My Beautiful Distraction