What Is Secure Attachment And How To Change Attachment Styles
People with a secure attachment style make up around 50% of the population. A relationship with at least one securely attached partner is proven to be a happier and more satisfying relationship. In childhood securely attached people had parents (or caregivers) who were mostly responsive and sensitive to their needs. The parent/s were there for them when needed, and provided an environment of emotional safety. Other factors that contribute to a child developing secure attachment are if they already have an easy temperament, low stress levels and the type of genes they inherited. In addition, early romantic relationships in adulthood which are generally positive contribute to secure attachment. People with secure attachment style do not get absorbed and go crazy over relationships and do not try to avoid or run from them. They expect partners to be there for them, responsive to their needs and loving.
"The secure attachment style is categorized by a positive view of self and a positive view of others. These individuals are described as having a sense of confidence, a positive approach to others, and high intimacy in their relationships. While their relationships may not be perfect, they are able to cope, be flexible, and adapt with what life may throw at them. They can therefore continue to grow and foster intimacy. Securely attached individuals show suitable amounts of emotional expression and vulnerability, and feel safe enough in their relationships to have reasonable levels of disclosure. Furthermore, securely attached individuals are able to depend and count on their partners, but also express an understanding for the need of some autonomy and independence in their relationships. These individuals can step back and objectively make realistic appraisals of their partner and the issues in their relationship, and also have the coping skills and the resilience to work on these issues." - The Secure Attachment Style, Erica DJossa, The Love Compass
Attachment styles only become noticeable in close intimate relationships, therefore someones personality is not generally an indication of the attachment style they have. For example, a popular, sociable, intelligent person is just as likely to have an insecure attachment style as a secure attachment style. You can find out someone's attachment style by observing their behavior and reactions to vulnerability, closeness, conflict and un-comfortable situations.
"Overwhelmed by the amount of work she'd left unfinished before the weekend, Janet woke up Monday morning in a state of dread. She was convinced that there was no way she'd ever get through the enormous pile on her desk, and her situation made her feel incompetent. She turned to her husband, Stan, who was lying in bed beside her and -out of nowhere- told him how disappointed she was with his business' progress and how worried she was that he wasn't going to make it. Stan was taken aback, but responded to Janet's attack without any visible trace of animosity. "I understand that you're frightened and there might be some comfort for you if I feel frightened too, but it you're trying to encourage me to be more efficient at work - which you often do - this isn't the best way to do it" Janet was dumbfounded. She knew he was right - that she'd been expressing only her own concerns. Seeing that she was tearful Stan offered to drive her to work. In the car, she apologized. She hadn't meant the stuff she'd said, but she was in such an emotional funk that everything seemed dreary to her. It was then that she realized what a wonderfully supportive husband Stan was. If he had attacked her out of the blue, she'd have struck back and World War III would have broken out. She wouldn't have stayed collected enough to see what was really going on, to understand that it wasn't about her but about him." - Attached, Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
This example of secure attachment illustrates how Stan was able to respond to his partner's needs and communicate his own needs clearly. This prevents conflicts from escalating and helps the couple stay connected. Studies show that secure attachment means feelings of threat, danger and loss are less present and feelings of closeness and love are more present. Fear of loss, rejection, abandonment, engulfment and failure are not subconsciously driving people with secure attachment. In general, they are not as sensitive to negativity.
Characteristics of secure attachment
Find closeness easy, physical or emotional.
Able to resolve differences without becoming defensive or punishing partners.
Don't play games with partners.
Treat partners well.
Happy to take responsibility for their partner's well being.
Take responsibility for personal growth and improving the relationship.
Able to share emotions and feelings with partner's.
Generally make life easier for their partner's.
Secure attachment can be learned
Around 27% of the adult population will change attachment style. This means someone can move from an insecure to secure attachment style and vice versa. People with an insecure attachment style, working on personal growth and emotional healing can benefit from focusing on a secure mindset to help them move towards secure attachment. A secure mindset means providing a secure base for partners to explore the world with confidence. Providing partners with plenty of encouragement to help boost their self-esteem. Allowing partners to take their own actions without trying to control or interfere. Providing partners with emotional support. Being available to partners when they reach out and checking in with them at suitable periods.
"If you have a secure attachment style, you know how to sidestep many of the obstacles that people with other attachment styles have difficulty dealing with. You naturally gravitate toward those with the capacity to make you happy. Unlike the anxious, you don't let an activated attachment system distract you - you aren't addicted to the highs and lows of being with someone who keeps you guessing all the time. Unlike avoidants, you aren't diverted by false fantasies of the perfect person waiting for you or "the one" that got away, and you don't unconsciously employ deactivating strategies that cause you to get cold feet when someone starts to get close." - Attached, Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
People with secure attachment have high self-worth. They expect to be treated well by partners and will lose interest with someone that is unpredictable or plays games. If someone treats them badly, they will see that as reflective of that person rather then due to a problem with themselves. If a prospective partner starts displaying conflicting behavior, communicate how you are feeling and see how it is responded to. Practice being assertive, direct and authentic. Setting healthy boundaries with partners is an effective way to do this. Explain what you need emotionally and what behaviors you will not accept. For boundaries to work you must also be able to communicate the consequences of them being broken and be prepared to stick by the consequences.
Secure people are non-reactive and able to resolve conflicts in a way that both partners are satisfied. Start looking at conflicts from a how do we fix this view. Using a model like 5 Steps to Resolve Issues Without Arguing is a good approach to use.
One thing that securely attached people should be aware of is the possibility that they could stay in bad relationships for too long, due to their tendency to forgive quickly and see their partner's well being as their responsibility. If you are secure and start to find yourself having anxious characteristics or avoidant characteristics, this is a red flag that the relationship is bad for you. If you have tried different ways to fix it, and nothing has worked then it might be best to move on.
Amire Levine and Rachel Heller, Attached: The New Science Of Adult Attachment And How It Can Help You Find And Keep Love - 5 January 2012, http://www.attachedthebook.com/
Erica DJossa, The Secure Attachment Style, The Love Compass Blog - http://the-love-compass.com/2013/10/26/the-secure-attachment-style/