Attachment patterns have always been a topic of interest for most people. We all have started to see the implications of attachment in our lives. Since we cannot live a life without attachment, it had to be studied, understood, discovered in depth in order to unravel the mysteries of human relationships. We all know that relationships are the most staggering, in the peace or the unrest that they cause us. And when we talk about relationships and attachments it is not obligatory to refer only to the interpersonal ones. People have attachments to objects, to places, to songs, paintings and ideas. We know what it is like to have an attachment to an ideology in the chosen professional field or to passions. Or maybe to the favorite basketball team.
First of all, we must understand about attachment that it represents an affective reaction towards someone or something, a well shaped, emotionally charged bond that forms over time. There are four attachment patterns that were discovered by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, which I will describe in this article. Each of us has an attachment pattern that was formed in the first three years of life according to the mother’s attachment pattern. Certainly, the others around us in the early years are important, but the mother will always have the most important impact.
The attachment pattern dictates the way we feel security in the relationship. We all feel love, but the certainty of the stability of love is felt differently depending on the attachment we have. We all seek to test, to verify, in one way or another, that the love of the other remains destined for us and we experience feelings of fear thinking of losing that love. These feelings of fear may be more intense or less intense, and the way we express our emotions generally determines what kind of attachment we have.
It is important to know what pattern we have in order to understand ourselves and mostly because the pattern that we formed in the first three years of life is the only way that we know to connect with others for the rest of our lives if we don’t intervene. Certainly, this pattern can be changed, but this is possible by working with yourself in therapy, being assisted.
This form of attachment is the most healthy and ensures peaceful and harmonious relationships. People with secure attachment feel safe in the relationships they have, they are not afraid that the partner may withdraw their feelings and they have a good emotional adjustment. As a rule, they openly discuss issues that are important to them, they do not feel emotions too strongly, and are not dissociated from them. They easily accept the distance between them and their partner, they do not slip into thoughts of potential abandonment, the look for their partners in moderation and can secure their partner back.
People with this pattern of attachment do not have a good emotional adjustment and they are often invaded by intense and unstable feelings. They are always concerned about abandonment, they need to stay as long as possible with their partner and they do protest when a distance is required. The emotional states they get are overwhelming, they feel absorbed and helpless. Often in the ambivalent attachment, anger is very easy to be triggered. The fear of abandonment is the main cause of emotional stress of people with this pattern of attachment and they feel the need to merge with the partner in order to feel safe enough.
The fear of being alone is almost impossible to tolerate and they are willing to make great efforts to avoid it. The intensity of manifestation of this attachment varies from one man to another. After a separation from the partner, the person with an ambivalent attachment will be angry and will accept the closeness back while manifesting frustration, transmitting the ambivalence between I want you (hanging) and I don’t want you (anger).
This pattern of attachment is one in which the person is dissociated from her feelings and rarely gets to feel her pain. In contrast to the ambivalent, the avoidant is the one who maintains an emotionally consistent distance and conveys the feeling of self-sufficiency, being difficult to tolerate closeness. They go through separation with an apparent carelessness and when the intimacy is restored they do not show any emotional signs of happyness and they treat things with indifference. Despite appearances, people with avoidant attachment feel a consistent distress and they cannot emotionally regulate themselves in any way and for this reason they stay dissociated.
People with these patterns of attachment are very fond of their personal space and very easily become suffocated. The fear of abandonment is also very high in their case, but the method of managing this basal fear is antithetical to the method found by the ambivalent. If, in the case of the ambivalent, the management method is the emotional overwhelming and remaining in the helpless state – constantly seeking people to help him and stay with him in the position of rescuer – the avoidant found the method of repression and inhibition of emotional flow by keeping people at distance in order to avoid any potential contact with well-repressed emotions.
This is the most complicated form of attachment, which implies a desire for fusion, specific to the ambivalent and a fear of closeness specific to the avoidant. People who have this pattern don’t feel safe in any way, being in a constant state of distress. Emotional instability is definitory, and emotional security cannot be found anywhere. Neither in the fusion, nor in the distance. If for the ambivalent there is peace and safety when merging with the others, and for the avoidant there is peace and safety when it stays at a distance, for the disorganized there is the promise of safety and peace both merging and staying at distance, but they never materialize. People who developed this form of attachment lived with attachment figures that represented safety and danger at the same time, and it was not possible to find a stable adaptation strategy. These people find it very difficult to stay in long-term relationships and they have low tolerance to emotional intimacy.
These are the four forms of attachment, but we must take into account the fact that no one has only one form, but a combination, one being the most prominent and most actively manifested. It is important to identify what form of attachment we and our partner partners have in order to be self aware and aware of the exchanges between us.