How to Identify Your Attachment Style Based On Your Childhood Wounds
Everyone has a certain type of attachment style.
We learn it in childhood. The way that our parents treated us formed a particular style of relating. We carry that style into our adult relationships.
Some people develop a healthy, secure attachment. However, most of us experienced some type of childhood wounding. Therefore, we have one of the three insecure styles of attachment.
If you learn about your attachment style, then you will have a better understanding of the patterns in your relationships.
What is Attachment?
Attachment is a style of relating to others that you learn from your early experiences in life. The way that your parents behaved towards you taught you some very important things about the world.
For example, inconsistent parenting leads to ambivalence in adult relationships. After all, how can you trust that your partner will be there for you if your earliest caregivers weren’t always there? Of course, this isn’t a conscious thought; it’s a pattern of relating.
Traits of the Four Attachment Styles
There are four widely recognized styles of attachment. You can identify which one you have based on certain traits.
Young children begin life in total dependence on their parents. As time goes on, they need to become independent. In an ideal situation, parents allow their children to gradually explore their own identities. However, they never abandon the child. If all goes well, secure attachment develops.
If the following statements are true for you, then most likely you have secure attachment:
- I don’t worry much that my partner will abandon or reject me.
- I am comfortable depending on others. Furthermore, I’m comfortable when others depend on me.
- Allowing people to get close to me is fairly easy. So is opening up to others.
- Appreciating my relationships doesn’t lead to obsessing over them.
- I enjoy intimacy, vulnerability, and closeness, but I’m not afraid to be alone.
- I can communicate clearly, empathize, and manage my emotions.
Insecure Attachment: Anxious
Most people don’t have secure attachment. Instead, they have one of the forms of insecure attachment. One type is “anxious attachment,” which is caused by insufficient caregiving.
Signs of anxious attachment as an adult include:
- High levels of relationship anxiety
- Desire closeness at all costs; prefer conflict to distance
- Often accused of smothering partners
- Take partner’s behavior personally
- Afraid of rejection/abandonment
Think of it this way: your parent didn’t provide what you needed, therefore you constantly fear that your partner won’t either. You desperately want them to, though.
Insecure Attachment: Ambivalent
Another type of insecure attachment is ambivalence. As mentioned before, inconsistent caregiving leads to ambivalence.
Signs of ambivalent attachment as an adult include:
- The desire to be in a relationship comes and goes
- Difficulty trusting others and depending on them
- Anxious about partner’s commitment level
- Fears of being hurt in a relationship
In other words, you want to be in a relationship, but you’re scared that you’ll get hurt, therefore you sometimes withdraw as a means to protect yourself.
Insecure Attachment: Avoidant
Some children grow up in homes that are hostile, angry, or violent. This leads to avoidant attachment.
Signs of avoidant attachment as an adult include:
- Strong desire for independence; discomfort with closeness
- Feelings of overwhelm, engulfment, and suffocation in relationships
- Inability to trust others, depend on them, or ask for help
- Can communicate intellectually but not emotionally
In other words, you learned in childhood that relationships are painful and that it’s best to rely on yourself.
Working with Your Attachment Wounds
Remember, none of these ways of attaching are abnormal, bad, or wrong. Instead, they are just patterns of relating that date back to early experiences.
Empowered with the knowledge about which type of wounding you have, you can gain insight into your attachment style. Therefore, you can improve your current relationships.
Of course, working through childhood wounds and painful relationships isn’t easy. A trained therapist can help you understand your feelings and change your behaviors.