Four Types of Attachment

ATTACHMENT STYLES IN ADULT RELATIONSHIPS

Our early learned attachment styles carry over into our adult lives, as we try to meet our more complex adult relationship needs.

WHAT ARE ATTACHMENT STYLES?

When we seek love, support and comfort from others, our attachment type or style––secure, avoidant, ambivalent or disorganized––simply refers to the way we relate to others.

Attachment Styles & Adult Relationships

We are all born with an innate attachment system, designed to help us get our needs met by connecting with caregivers. The behavior of our primary caregivers (often our parents) contributes to and forms the way we perceive close relationships.

When caregivers respond to our connection cues consistently and responsively… meeting our physical and emotional needs… we tend to develop secure attachment

If, however, our caregivers ignore our needs, respond inconsistently or behave in a scary manner, our attachment systems adapt the misattuned experience by developing an insecure attachment style: avoidant, ambivalent or disorganized.

Our attachment style is like a “blueprint” or relational template that is wired into our brain, body and nervous system in early childhood. It affects––often unconsciously––how we perceive, respond to and interact with others in all future relationships. 

Many of our habits, unhealthy behavior patterns and misattunements are rooted in the unresolved early attachment adaptations that continue to influence our relationships as we try to communicate our more complex adult needs.

Yet attachment styles aren’t always set in stone.

Over time, most of us have developed multiple, or layered attachment styles. Depending upon the situation, relationship, environment and our own attachment style, we may respond differently in different situations and circumstances.

Connect to Heal

Remember, attachment styles are neither “good” nor “bad”––even if we learned insecure attachment patterns in childhood, secure attachment is possible because we are biologically hardwired to connect and heal.

Despite significant emotional trauma or challenging attachment adaptations, our brain’s neuroplasticity gives us the capacity to create new neural pathways, change unhealthy patterns and restore secure attachment in adulthood.

While we can all learn skills and practice behaviors that help us return to this healthy, more effective state of relating––sometimes we need help from others. It can be challenging to heal in isolation. 

Attachment-based therapists, who have been trained in the process-oriented form of counseling can help their clients better understand their relational trauma and guide healing from relational trauma.

Securely attached adults tend to have trusting, lasting relationships, seek out social support and generally have the ability to share feelings with others.

Insecure attachment adaptations––avoidant, ambivalent and disorganized––are simply the response our brain and body use as a reaction to adverse conditions.

SECURE ATTACHMENT

Secure attachment is rooted in attunement––or the ability to be aware of and effectively respond to needs. It is how we “tune into” and work to understand someone’s thoughts and feelings.

Securely attached people generally grew up with plenty of love and consistent support from responsive caregivers.

People with secure attachment have a basic sense of trust in others, are comfortable expressing their needs, and handle conflict and setbacks adeptly and with resilience.

What Does Secure Attachment Look Like in Adults?

AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT

When caregivers are emotionally unavailable, insensitive, rejecting or neglectful to a child’s need for connection, the attachment system copes by disconnecting––both physically and emotionally. 

Without intimate nurturing, the brain’s neurobiology never receives the signals and stimulation it needs to build social responses and develop proper bonding. As a result, this disconnection extends first to the parents and then to all other relationships––where the avoidant feels they are “on their own” and respond by withdrawing or isolating.

Like all of us, avoidants desire love and intimacy… but they experience extreme discomfort asking others for help or trying to express what they need in a relationship.

Trust in another person poses the greatest obstacle for those with attachment injuries. Healing happens with consistent messages that their needs are important––being steady, reliable and present with the avoidant can support safety and strengthen secure attachment skills

Avoidant Attachment in Adults

AMBIVALENT ATTACHMENT

Ambivalently attached people experienced inconsistent, “on again, off again” caregiving in early childhood. Because of this lack of consistency, connection is a gamble––the child is vigilant, searching for cues as to how their behavior may or may not elicit a response.

People with ambivalent attachment tend to ignore their own needs and often smother others with unrealistic demands or expectations. And while they have a strong desire for connection, they simultaneously fear the loss of that connection.

As a result, they are often on an emotional “see-saw,” where they alternate between their needs being met and not being met––and so, they can feel quite anxious, insecure, unloveable or even undeserving of love.

To heal, the ambivalent attachment style must focus on recognizing and meeting their own needs, practice self-regulation and learn how to shift complaints into expressions of wants and needs.

Ambivalent Attachment in Adults

DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT

The most complex of the attachment styles, disorganized attachment forms when the attachment system gets entangled with the threat response—our fight/flight/freeze survival instinct. This occurs when the source of safety—the primary caregiver—is also a source of fear or threat, often in chaotic or abusive situations. 

The disorganized attachment style can present in unpredictable behavior patterns, marked by sudden shifts—like a mix of avoidant and ambivalent but with survival defenses always on and ready to respond to threat. 

Navigating relationships and intimacy can feel dangerous to people with disorganized attachment, but progress is possible. Understanding disorganized attachment adaptations and the unique challenges it poses is a great first step. In many cases, progress may require the help of a professional therapist who has specific experience working with trauma and relational wounding.

Disorganized Attachment in Adults

Adult Attachment Style Quiz

EVERYONE HAS AN ATTACHMENT STYLE. WHAT’S YOURS?

Take the free quiz now to discover your attachment style—and learn how to break free of unhealthy patterns and behaviors.

Ways to Learn Attachment

Attachment & Trauma Training

Learn how to apply a proven framework that heals emotional wounds, facilitates repair and restores secure attachment.

HARDWIRED TO HEAL

The foundation for all of our training rests on Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s firm belief that we are all hardwired to heal. Our bodies and our brains store memories of early experiences, creating patterns that deeply affect our relationships and behaviors in adult life.

And when you can discover the source of those patterns––to get to the root of unresolved trauma––you can turn theoretical insights into practical help and healing to deepen intimacy and restore secure attachment.

Whether you’re ready to broaden your thinking and deepen your clinical toolbox or you’re simply curious how an understanding of attachment styles can support psychological, emotional and behavioral growth, there’s a training program right for you…

Adult Attachment Styles

INTRODUCTION TO ATTACHMENT

In this 2-hour, 4-part self-paced video training series, Dr. Diane Poole Heller delivers a quick, yet thorough primer on the four attachment styles: secure, avoidant, ambivalent and disorganized.

For only $67, you’ll learn:

This video training includes a short welcome––plus four video and audio recordings, transcripts and a follow-along workbook filled with experiential exercises, tips, and space for reflection––all designed to help you begin your healing journey as you strengthen secure attachment skills.

SPECIAL BONUS

To help you better understand how each of the four attachments presents in your life and relationships, you’ll also get the Attachment for Everyone eBook and the Adult Attachment Styles Reference Guide for FREE as our way of saying thanks for registering!

Attachment & Trauma Mastery Training

TWO WAYS TO LEARN DARe

Your clients need help now more than ever before. But few of us expect the work to be easy. 

In everyday therapeutic sessions, you need more than theory alone to get to the root of unresolved trauma to help yourself and others heal.

Using the framework of Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s signature DARe approach (Dynamic Attachment Repatterning experience), we offer a variety of courses and programs that help you apply concrete skills, interventions and strategies to clinical sessions––integrate the work with existing modalities to strengthen secure attachment and bring healing to any relationship.

Choose how you want to learn…

No matter which way you choose to learn DARe, you’ll quickly identify the relationship or coping patterns that underlie the dynamics of a person’s emotional difficulties––and discover practical ways to integrate and apply training that’s highly applicable to your personal and professional life.

Advanced Training for Clinicians

DARe CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

Elevate your clinical skills and work more effectively with clients. Discover how to address unresolved trauma, heal attachment wounds and restore and strengthen secure attachment skills––to support healing and resilience for any type of relationship.

Using the framework of Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s signature Dynamic Attachment Repatterning experience approach (DARe), the Certificate Program combines psychotherapeutic modalities, scientific and spiritual perspectives with attachment and  trauma-informed tools, techniques and strategies.

Gain skills you need to work more effectively with clients…

Monthly Training for Clinicians

Therapy Mastermind Circle

Join a monthly online membership program where we explore relevant topics, share expert learning and gain practical skills and interventions that help you and your clients grow and thrive.

The Power of Attachment Book

CREATE DEEP AND LASTING RELATIONSHIPS

Why do we experience recurring struggles in our relationships? And why do traumatic events often awaken or amplify our fear, anger, isolation and helplessness?

Overwhelming experiences can disrupt our most important connections––parts of ourselves (within), the physical world around us and with others. And in the wake of trauma, your attachment style deeply influences what happens next. 

With expert guidance, this book teaches the principles and practices for finding your way back to wholeness, resilience and connection––based on the unique way you connect with others.

Here, you’ll learn key insights and practices to help you:

Adult Attachment Styles

INTRODUCTION TO ATTACHMENT

In this 2-hour, 4-part self-paced video training series, Dr. Diane Poole Heller delivers a quick, yet thorough primer on the four attachment styles: secure, avoidant, ambivalent and disorganized.

For only $67, you’ll learn:

This video training includes a short welcome––plus four video and audio recordings, transcripts and a follow-along workbook filled with experiential exercises, tips, and space for reflection––all designed to help you begin your healing journey as you strengthen secure attachment skills.

SPECIAL BONUS

To help you better understand how each of the four attachments presents in your life and relationships, you’ll also get the Attachment for Everyone eBook and the Adult Attachment Styles Reference Guide for FREE as our way of saying thanks for registering!

Attachment & Trauma Mastery Training

TWO WAYS TO LEARN DARe

Your clients need help now more than ever before. But few of us expect the work to be easy. 

In everyday therapeutic sessions, you need more than theory alone to get to the root of unresolved trauma to help yourself and others heal.

Using the framework of Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s signature DARe approach (Dynamic Attachment Repatterning experience), we offer a variety of courses and programs that help you apply concrete skills, interventions and strategies to clinical sessions––integrate the work with existing modalities to strengthen secure attachment and bring healing to any relationship.

Choose how you want to learn…

No matter which way you choose to learn DARe, you’ll quickly identify the relationship or coping patterns that underlie the dynamics of a person’s emotional difficulties––and discover practical ways to integrate and apply training that’s highly applicable to your personal and professional life.

Advanced Training for Clinicians

DARe CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

Elevate your clinical skills and work more effectively with clients. Discover how to address unresolved trauma, heal attachment wounds and restore and strengthen secure attachment skills––to support healing and resilience for any type of relationship.

Using the framework of Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s signature Dynamic Attachment Repatterning experience approach (DARe), the Certificate Program combines psychotherapeutic modalities, scientific and spiritual perspectives with attachment and  trauma-informed tools, techniques and strategies.

Gain skills you need to work more effectively with clients…

Monthly Training for Clinicians

Therapy Mastermind Circle

Join a monthly online membership program where we explore relevant topics, share expert learning and gain practical skills and interventions that help you and your clients grow and thrive.

The Power of Attachment Book

CREATE DEEP AND LASTING RELATIONSHIPS

Why do we experience recurring struggles in our relationships? And why do traumatic events often awaken or amplify our fear, anger, isolation and helplessness?

Overwhelming experiences can disrupt our most important connections––parts of ourselves (within), the physical world around us and with others. And in the wake of trauma, your attachment style deeply influences what happens next. 

With expert guidance, this book teaches the principles and practices for finding your way back to wholeness, resilience and connection––based on the unique way you connect with others.

Here, you’ll learn key insights and practices to help you:

THE POWER OF ATTACHMENT WORK

NEW! Working with Complex Trauma: Untangling Somatic Wounds w/ Peter A. Levine, Ph.D. ENROLL NOW >>

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