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Can Attachment Styles Change?

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5 min

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Published on:

Thu Nov 16 2023

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Last updated:

Wed Feb 14 2024

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The Personal Development School

According to Attachment Theory -- developed in the 1950s by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby and later expanded on by psychologist Mary Ainsworth in the 1960s and 1970s -- there are four attachment styles: secure attachment, anxious preoccupied attachment, dismissive avoidant attachment, and fearful avoidant attachment.

And also according to the Attachment Theory, you cannot change your attachment style. What attachment style you have, you're stuck with it for life.

However, if you implement the right subconscious tools you can do just that. That's the focus of today's blog.

What are Attachment Styles?

Attachment style is a subconscious set of behaviors and patterns we use to connect and interact with others and how we perceive our world.

These attachment styles are formed in childhood, usually as the result of how you were treated by your primary caregivers.

But often, people don’t realize they have anxious and avoidant attachment styles until well into adulthood.

It's only once you know your attachment style (you can take our 5-minute quiz to get a personalized report) that you can begin changing it.

Firstly, let's look at the basic characteristics of the four attachment styles.

Attachment style chart

Secure attachment characteristics

Securely attached people typically feel comfortable and at ease in relationships, whether those relationships are romantic, familial, or friendship-based. They’re effective at communicating feelings and needs, and are open to being vulnerable in relationships.

Sometimes, however, a securely attached person might have a hard time relating to people who aren’t quite as secure—particularly if they are romantically involved with them.

Anxious preoccupied attachment style characteristics

People with an anxious preoccupied attachment style often feel unsafe or insecure because they have a subconscious fear of abandonment that’s rooted in childhood—typically, one or both parents weren’t around, or they weren’t emotionally available.

Because of this, people with an anxious preoccupied attachment style seek more closeness in their relationships and can feel afraid if they sense a loved one is pulling away.

Dismissive avoidant attachment style characteristics

People with a dismissive avoidant attachment style have intense emotions that can feel overwhelming and cause them to pull away from others.

If you have a dismissive avoidant attachment style, you may find yourself withdrawing from arguments or triggering situations. This need for independence can cause challenges in your relationships and inner conflict because, deep down, there is a strong desire to connect with others.

Fearful avoidant attachment style characteristics

If you have a fearful avoidant attachment style, relationships can feel chaotic, overwhelming, and confusing because you’re sometimes anxious or fearful and sometimes avoidant. You might shift between hot and cold and get anxious about your feelings.

If you’re lucky enough to have a secure attachment style, there probably isn’t much you want to change (although there’s always room for improvement!). But if you fall into one of the other three attachment styles, you may be hoping to move toward a more secure attachment style. So, how can you change your current attachment style? Here’s what you need to know.

secure-attached-coupled

5 Ways to Change Your Attachment Style

One of the best ways to change your attachment style is by taking courses through The Personal Development School, which are geared toward helping people with insecure attachment styles become more securely attached and are proven to work.

In the meantime, here are other tips that can help you change your attachment style:

Understand your attachment style. The first step to becoming more securely attached is understanding what your attachment style is in the first place. People might be aware that they tend to struggle in relationships and that certain thoughts and feelings consistently come up, but they have no idea what to do about it.

To find out what your attachment style actually is, try taking The Personal Development School’s free attachment style quiz. From there, you can sign up for courses geared toward changing your attachment style.

Challenge your story. It’s common for people with insecure attachment styles to have firmly-held beliefs and stories about how things “always” play out in relationships or how they expect themselves or their partner to behave.

These stories are the result of the attachment style you formed in childhood, and while challenging and reprogramming it isn’t easy, it can certainly be done. If you have an anxious preoccupied attachment style, for example, you may find yourself thinking: My partner is going to break up with me if you send them a text and don’t hear back for a few hours.

To challenge your story, you might try instead saying to yourself: My partner is probably busy right now, and they don’t have their phone nearby. I’m going to focus on something else until I hear back.

Practice setting healthy boundaries. Boundaries are incredibly important to change your attachment style. While it might seem counterintuitive for some attachment styles, boundaries actually improve our relationships and make them healthier.

Healthy boundary setting doesn’t always come easily, though, and it may take some practice before you get it down. Try setting boundaries at work: “I can’t take on projects that have a lead time shorter than a day,” boundaries with family: “I love you, but I can’t always be available to help out with your son/daughter/pet,” or boundaries in relationships: “I love you, but I can’t always show up at every family event.”

Seek out relationships with people who are capable or willing to become securely attached. We have no control over the attachment style we develop in childhood, nor do we have control over the attachment style our partner comes to the relationship with. If, however, your partner is insecurely attached and unwilling to try to become more securely attached via whatever methods are available, it can be worthwhile to ask if they’re willing to do the work down the line. If they say yes, that’s a great sign.

Work to build a secure network. Building a secure network is key to becoming more securely attached. This network can come in the form of friends and family members in addition to romantic relationships. When you have a strong, wide network, you will have plenty of people to lean on when various life scenarios pop up—and this can help you become more securely attached.

Having an insecure attachment style isn’t easy, and become more securely attached can be a challenge as well. But with The Personal Development School’s All-Access Pass, you can get lifetime access to every tool you need to change your attachment style and learn a lot about yourself along the way.

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