The best way to find out your attachment style is to take a research-backed test like this one at yourpersonality.net.
Know your results? Let’s find out what they mean.
View of Self: High. View of Others: High.
A secure attachment means that you generally expect the best of people, and expect emotional bonds to be healthy. You’re okay with vulnerability and needing other people, and okay with being by yourself. You know you’re never truly alone, because the people you keep in your life are people you trust.
When constant-secures were children, their caretakers recognized when their children were truly distressed, and reacted appropriately with reassurance. This taught that it’s okay to have feelings and express them.
Earned-secures had a insecure attachment, but at some point in their life worked on their traumas enough that their view of love changed. They often still carry personality traits of their former attachment, but are no longer at the mercy of their instinctive reactions.
Insecure Attachments (Anxious, Avoidant)
An insecure attachment forms when needs – emotional or physical – are repeatedly not met. As we learned in the last section, when this happens children blame themselves. They try to hide their shame, and learn to act in a way that minimizes the chance of being “found out” and abandoned.
Depending whether they internalize or externalize this shame, it develops into one of two insecure attachments: the belief that people will abandon or harm you if you get too close to them.
(aka Anxious-Preoccupied, Ambivalent)
- View of Self: Low. View of Others: High
- Increased blood flow to right brain.
- Feels “too much”.
- Fight response to abandonment.
The anxiously attached internalized their shame, and hide how “bad” they are from others. They are constantly preoccupied with their relationships, as somewhere inside they believe that if people were to know the real them, they would be abandoned.
As adults, they spend a large amount of energy chasing closeness and affection. In general, this attachment style has high levels of dependence, need for approval, and hypersensitivity to other people’s emotions.
The anxiously attached are afraid of being alone, and are usually in or seeking a relationship. However, in romantic relationships they tend to focus on the problems rather than the positives.
To address the problems, they constantly look for reassurance of love and affection. Their distrust leads to extreme, game-playing behaviors that end in pushing their partner away.
This is usually a result of inconsistent parenting, where the child could never predict what was going to happen. Their solution was to become more unpredictable than their environment, provoking their parents into meeting their needs.
- View of Self: High. View of Others: Low.
- Increased blood flow to left brain.
- Feels “too little”.
- Flight response to abandonment.
Avoidants externalized their shame, and repress how “bad” they are from themselves. They believed that if they could become “good”, and responsible enough to take care of their own needs, they would never be abandoned. Ironically, in romantic relationships they abandon themselves.
As adults, they become extremely anxious when getting emotionally close to someone. In general, this attachment style has high levels of independence, need for recognition of competency, and difficulties identifying their own emotions.
The avoidantly attached have difficulties forming close relationships, as they expect their needs won’t be respected. To feel safe, they tend to pick unavailable partners: long-distance, frequent travellers, or married.
When relationships get emotional, they typically feel overwhelmed and withdraw from the relationship. This creates more emotional distress and anxiety in their partners.
This is usually a result of emotionally distant parenting, where the child was expected to control or hide their emotions. Their solution to keeping their parent available was to suppress their emotion, which over time becomes an inability to feel.
(aka Fearful-Avoidant, Anxious-Avoidant)
- View of Self: Low. View of Others: Low
- Diminished impulse control due to HPA axis overactivation.
- Constantly conflicting emotions.
- Freeze response to abandonment.
Disorganized attachment is when someone is both scared of being alone but scared of getting close. Their reactions to emotional closeness are often contradictory: in vulnerable situations, their words, vocal tone, facial expressions, and actions don’t match.
They’ll spend a lot of energy chasing closeness – and once it’s achieved, start running the other direction.
Although classified as its own style in adults, in children disorganization is repeated, temporary disruptions of an organized attachment pattern. After the disruption is over, they go back to an anxious, avoidant, or even secure behavior.
As a result, this type has the most variation in how it presents and gets its own section.
What If I’m Multiple Types in Different Situations?
We all have times we behave anxiously and times we withdraw. These are normal human behaviors, and do not necessarily mean that you have a disorganized attachment.
Though attachment can be identified by behavior patterns, it is about underlying core beliefs and motivations.
If you test insecure with one group but secure with another, ask yourself:
Do you really let these people into your life in equal amounts? Are you vulnerable with all of them?
Attachment is triggered by situations where we want our needs to be met. If we structure our relationships to be only on the surface, we’re avoiding attaching to the people in our lives.
If you’re still not sure and want to test if you’re disorganized/FA, I’ll have one coming soon.