Today I explain what no one teaches us about our attachment styles. How many are there and which one are you? Are you aware of both the gifts and the challenges of your attachment style? Finally, what can we do with that information to help us find and cultivate healthy love? Listen to this episode to find out!

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Show Notes:

  • What are the four main attachment styles
  • What are the core gifts of people with anxious attachments styles
  • Why should we learn about attachments styles
  • What are the pros of the four attachment styles
  • What are the cons of the four attachment styles

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What No One Teaches Us About Our Attachment Styles

 

There are four main attachment styles – where do you fit in? And in your attachment style what are the gifts and the challenges that nobody might have told you about, and how can you use that awareness to date and be intimate in a wiser way? Stay tuned to this episode to learn more.

Hello and welcome to the Deeper Dating® Podcast. I’m Ken Page and I’m a psychotherapist, author of the bestselling book Deeper Dating, and the host of this show. And today I’m going to be talking about some different perspectives on the whole concept of attachment styles.

We’re going to look at the challenges and the gifts in each of the four attachment styles and talk about how to navigate dating and intimacy through the lens of each of those styles. But what I think is different is that we’re going to be talking about the challenges and the limits of secure attachment style, and the deep gifts in the three types of insecure attachment.

And in this episode, and every episode, I’m committed to sharing with you the greatest tools and insights that I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing and heal your life in the process. Because the skills of dating are the skills of love, and those are the greatest skills of all. And if you want to learn more about the Deeper Dating® path to real intimacy, just go to deeperdatingpodcast.com.

And if you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll get free gifts and you’ll learn about how to use these ideas to transform your own intimacy journey. And you’ll also find complete transcripts of this and every episode. And if you like what you’re learning here, I would love it if you could subscribe on iTunes or anywhere, and leave me a review as well. So thank you so much for that, and let’s jump in.

 

People with avoidant attachment styles love and need freedom and are often shamed for that. Click To Tweet

 

Understanding attachment styles gives us a really powerful window into understanding how we relate to the world and the patterns that we are going to enact in our relationships.

I’m just going to be speaking briefly about the four attachment styles, and if you want to learn more about that, I think a wonderful place to start is with the very popular book by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller called Attached. And if you’d like to take a quiz to determine your own attachment style or your partner or date’s attachment style, you can go to attachedthebook.com, and you can take a quiz there. 

Let’s start with a secure attachment style, which research suggests about 50% of the population have a secure attachment style, which is a little hard to imagine, but that’s what research suggests. Someone with a secure attachment style has the ability to form secure and loving relationships. Someone with this style is not afraid to be dependent but doesn’t lose themself in the relationship, but they’re not afraid to be vulnerable. They don’t shame themselves for their need for connection.

They don’t get easily panicked at the many micro and even larger ruptures that can happen in an ongoing way in intimacy. If their partner, let’s say, has a more anxious attachment style and kind of freaks out about some stuff, they’ve got the bandwidth to understand where that’s coming from.

They’re less likely to be intensely reactive, to get really afraid of being abandoned, to really shame themselves for their need and desire for love. They can get close to other people with a relative amount of ease. And they live with the experience of a pretty high level of trust, just basic trust. They’re able to trust without getting essentially panicked and triggered that easily.

So if you are one of those 50% of people in the population supposedly with a secure attachment style, that’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. And there are so many obvious gifts here. The ability to love deeply, the ability to not shame yourself, the ability to get less triggered. People with a secure attachment style can set boundaries more easily as well, as well as letting themselves be vulnerable, and it’s like less of a terrible freakout for them to share that vulnerability. And someone with a secure attachment style can be unabashedly, unashamed that love really matters to them.

These are some of the really wonderful gifts of a secure attachment style, but there are some challenges too. One of the challenges is that whatever your attachment style, that attachment style is your homeostatic space, it’s what’s comfortable to you, and you got to give stuff up to remain in your homeostatic state.

I think that a lot of people with secure attachment styles have to give up on a deep sensitivity to the micro fractures and micro ruptures that happen in relationship, which might actually be very deeply valuable things to see. There can even be a subtle numbing of your nerve endings of sensitivity in relationship because balance is so important to you and stability is so important to you.

A question for people with secure attachment styles is, are you jettisoning a deeper sensitivity in order to maintain this beautiful balance? Also, is it harder for you to understand – Let’s say your partner has a greater sensitivity to the ups and downs in a relationship, the micro ruptures, the micro hurts.

If you live in secure attachment land all the time and if you’re deeply committed to that, you might have a problem understanding the richness and the depth of a partner who perhaps has an anxious attachment style, and hence who allows them to feel the joys and the angsts of life and relating in a more radical way than perhaps you can.

 

What No One Teaches Us About Our Attachment Styles

Find your gifts and challenges: People with avoidant attachment styles love and need freedom and are often shamed for that.

 

And I’ve talked about this in a previous episode. The research shows that couples with a low negativity threshold, meaning that when they notice these things that aren’t right, are really committed to doing something about it, talking about them, working them through, addressing them, that’s a sensitivity that for some people with secure attachment styles, they need to work at and develop.

Also, often, because they have the capacity to tolerate a lot and metabolize a lot and stay resilient, often people with secure attachment styles run the risk of absorbing too much of the brunt of difficulties in a relationship, just simply because they can and they end up tolerating too much crap. Or allowing and passing over things that they shouldn’t really allow or pass over like that.

In dating, if you have a secure attachment style, watch for people who milk that, who maybe take advantage of that,  who don’t give back in the same way. Who don’t, because of whatever their issues are, just don’t have the space to allow you what you’re giving them so freely. In other words, just because you have really broad shoulders and can shoulder a lot does not mean that you have to take more than you should be taking, or receive less than you should be receiving.

 

Explaining anxious attachment styles:

 

Now I want to speak about anxious attachment style, as I raise my hand, because that’s where I land. We are the folks who are constantly thinking, “Is something wrong? Is anything wrong? Is this not going to work? Is there going to be an issue? Is there going to be a problem?”

People with an anxious attachment style really crave deep intimacy. It’s important to them, but they worry a lot. They tend to be insecure about their body, about their relationships. Worrying about their partner leaving them. Maybe need an extra amount of validation. Maybe they get anxious or get worried if their partner doesn’t respond back quickly enough. And research suggests that about 20% of the population have anxious attachment styles, for what that’s worth.

So if you have an anxious attachment style, and that is one of the insecure attachment styles, this one and the next two attachment styles all fit under the category of insecure attachment styles. Those three insecure attachment styles are anxious, avoidant, and fearful.

So coming back to anxious. You are someone who cares deeply about love. You’ve got lots of nerve endings, lots of sensitivity when it comes to the micro issues, the micro ruptures, micro wounding that happen in relationships, as well as the bigger ones.

 

Whatever your attachment style, the first step is to find, honor, and treasure the gifts inherent there. Click To Tweet

 

The issue in the struggle is that there can be an exaggerating of those fears, exaggerating of the meaning, the negative meaning, of what these micro ruptures are. These places where there’s a lack of really strong connection. It’s really easy to get afraid, to experience dread, to worry that love has disappeared or is diminishing.

And to say to yourself that you’re too much. “I’m too demanding. I’m too needy. I feel too much. I want too much.” And so much dating advice out there is anathema to people with this kind of attachment style because play hard to get, be independent, act like you don’t care? Well, that’s not going to work. What it does is it creates a giant pressure cooker. That is where need, which is a healthy, beautiful thing, turns into neediness because it’s being shamed.

So a big part of the work for people with anxious attachment styles is to honor the depth of your capacity, to feel the depth of your capacity, to give the depth of your capacity to care. People with an anxious attachment style are truly gifted at noticing these micro ruptures in connection, and being passionate about correcting them and repairing them.

For someone with this kind of attachment style, I think we definitely need someone who also really cares about love and we can feel that from them. And someone who shows us that they really care about love, for us to be happy. I’m saying us, because I consider myself part of this clan. I have other areas too, but this is my main one.

 

What No One Teaches Us About Our Attachment Styles

Find where you fit in: Whatever your attachment style, the first step is to find, honor, and treasure the gifts inherent there.

 

Your sensitivity is a treasure. It is a core gift, and ultimately it needs to be honored. And a question that you can ask yourself in your dating life again and again is, “In an essential way, does my soul feel safe with this person?”

If the answer is that in an essential way, it doesn’t feel safe, then this is not a safe person for you. And watch for the tendency to say, “I’m just being too sensitive,” and to suppress your awareness of what’s happening. It’s so much better to be able to speak about these things.

And also, this is such an important point, is that when your feelings of insecurity are laden with shame, they start to feel shameful, toxic, and humiliating. And so we act out by kind of acting out against our partners when we feel insecure, or we act in by shaming and condemning ourselves.

Whereas if we find a language where we can talk about what’s concerning us, what’s bothering us, what we’re noticing, it’s a gift to our partner and it’s a gift to our relationship, but it’s not something the world teaches us to do.

 

Find and honor your gifts:

 

Now I’m going to move on to talking about the avoidant attachment style. And that is a type of insecure attachment style that’s marked by a fear of closeness. People with this avoidant style tend to feel uncomfortable getting really close to people or really trusting people. It is not that they don’t care about intimacy, it’s that often they care so much and they’ve been so disappointed that they have to put up a wall against it.

And it’s a wall that’s not conscious in many ways. Avoiding people often have this experience of feeling like relationships can be suffocating, they can’t breathe. Or that their relationships are going to impact upon their sense of freedom and their sense of freedom is so paramount. And their partners might experience them as distant or even emotionally unavailable.

Through the years I’ve worked with a lot of people who have an avoidant attachment style, and for me, that’s the third most predominant, for me. I relate to this in many, many ways. I think that my fear of suffocation, of not being able to breathe, kept me out of relationships for a really, really long time. I think that one of the deep core gifts that many people with avoidant attachment styles have is a deep, deep love of freedom.

And I think that it’s so important that we talk about the gifts in each of these insecure attachment styles because there are gifts. And I think the popular concept is that the secure attachment style is the be-all and end-all.

And yes, we all do want to move toward that, but there are gifts in each of the other attachment styles that are powerful. And that when we merge those gifts with intimacy, healing, and trauma work, and learning the language of our own needs and being able to speak about that in relationship, we form these gorgeous hybrids that encompass a whole range of gifts as we become who we’re meant to be on this intimacy journey.

 

You won't be able to do the growth work well if you don't start with the treasuring of the gifts because the gifts are the impetus for healing. Click To Tweet

 

I’ve seen this a lot, that people with avoidant attachment styles, love freedom and need freedom and are often shamed for that or ashamed of that quality. And I think that one of the most important things that those of us who have avoidant tendencies need to do, again, is to learn to honor the gift here.

And the gift is around a need for a certain amount of freedom and space. People who are avoidant, who haven’t yet found the language of how they need to have space, are going to become hyper-avoidant.

People who are avoidant, that learn the language of how they need space when they need space, often are incredible in relationships, because when they can articulate that, when they need space they take space. When they can be close, they move into deep, deep closeness because they’re able to, because they’re given the gift of freedom.

So if you have an avoidant attachment style and you start demanding too much of yourself, “Oh no, I have to be able to sleep all night, cuddled up with this person.” And this is something I’ve talked about before, is highly sensitive people often need extra amounts of space. Highly sensitive people who shame themselves for their need for an extra amount of space, become avoidant.

Often avoidance is a sign of depth. Depth mixed with wounding, yes, but who isn’t wounded by life? And so avoidant folks need to just not always think of themselves as afraid of intimacy, but instead, the task is to learn the language of space that they need, when they need it, how they need it. To dignify that, to honor it.

And then when you can do that, you don’t just unconsciously pull away, you express what you need and it becomes a gift to your partner and a gift to the relationship.

I think an image that’s a really helpful one to work with for people who have avoidant attachment styles is, a friend of mine who’s a meteorologist once told me what to do if you’re being pulled out to sea. He said, “When you’re being pulled out to sea, don’t fight the undertow that pulls you out. But whenever a wave comes to bring you in, go with that. Ride it for all it’s worth.”

And so what I would say to people with this kind of avoidant style is, when you have a need for space, honor that and be kind to your partner and yourself by putting words on it and making this into an ask.

And when you do that, you will find waves coming back out that want to move you closer to that person. Ride those, be vulnerable, express your desire, express your need. But that need for space must be honored or we will unconsciously flee intimacy.

 

What No One Teaches Us About Our Attachment Styles

Use your knowledge to cultivate healthy love: You won’t be able to do the growth work well if you don’t start with the treasuring of the gifts because the gifts are the impetus for healing.

 

The fourth type, of which research suggests that about 5% of the population have this type, and it’s not that well researched, is a fearful attachment style or fearful-avoidant attachment style, which is also known as disorganized attachment. And this is a really, really rough one because it’s a combination of anxious and avoidant attachment styles but in a very fierce way.

People with this attachment style deeply, deeply crave love, but they also fiercely push love away. They feel a fierce need to be loved and a fierce need to flee love. And many, many of the people with this attachment style have experienced profound trauma in their life, which has set them up for this attachment style.

And through my decades of work, I have worked with a good, good number of people with fearful avoidant attachment. These are people with profound stories of trauma, stories that could just curl your hair, that are deeply, deeply extreme.

And these people, who have done deep work on themselves through the years but have encountered things that most people wouldn’t even dream of encountering, are some of the most amazing people that I have ever met.

I feel so blessed to have worked with people who come from that kind of struggle and have done so much work around it. These people, through the years, have blown me away with their insights, with a quality of non-judgmentalness, and a sense of understanding of what the world can hold, both in terms of beauty and pain that most of us can’t comprehend. They’ve had to let go of simple frameworks and their understanding is so much more vast.

 

Doing the growth work:

 

And I thought of a poem that I wanted to read that captures the gift of people who have been through really extreme trauma and are doing the work of healing. This is a poem that was written by a dear friend of one of my closest friends in the world.

Her name is Linda, was Linda Nadle. She died of breast cancer and she was a woman’s health activist and she died in 1980. And this is a poem she wrote about her experience. And this poem reminds me of the experience of people who’ve gone through profound trauma and have to work on healing their disorganized attachment style. I’m going to do my best to try to read this without crying. Let’s see how that goes.

“and this life’s road
may be pained
may be excruciating,
filled with nails
to break our skin
and we may bleed
and lose our dinners
and scream with every cell
and have our screams
echo back from the
end of the universe
and if that happens
then a part of us
has been to the end of the
universe

and if we had taken
another path
if we have traveled
carefully, politely
we may have had
no echo at all

Linda Nadle
10/8/80″

So thank you, Linda, for that poem.

And what I want to say in closing is that whatever your attachment style, the first step is to find, honor, and treasure the gifts inherent there. You won’t be able to do the growth work very well if you don’t start with the treasuring of the gifts, because the gifts are the impetus for healing. The gifts are where the magic lies. The gifts are where your humanity is strongest. So that’s always got to be step one.

And step two, once we’ve done that, is to begin to develop a clearer language of what we need, what we don’t need, what we want, to begin to de-shame that process and find beautiful adult words to capture our experience. Which will help us then be able to listen to our partner’s experience as well. And as we do that, we encounter whatever the challenges are that come with our unique blend of attachment styles, because I don’t think anybody is just one attachment style.

Thank you all for listening, and I look very forward to connecting on the next episode of the Deeper Dating® Podcast.

 

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