Here is a brief description of the four primary attachment styles. You can also try some of our attachment assessments.
These people find trusting others easy and natural. They expect that others are largely honest and want what is best for them. They are at ease with intimacy, connection, and readily rely on others. They naturally reciprocate as well. They are good explorers. They know what they find meaningful in life and pursue those activities. Collaboration with others comes naturally. They have well developed meta-cognitive abilities being able to have a balanced and considerate view of their own thoughts and emotions and the thoughts and emotions of others. They are also good about managing their own emotional reactions as well.
People with secure attachment don’t need to do the Schema Repatterning Meditation (SRM) for attachment repair. However, most people with secure attachment do have ‘Early Maladaptive Schemas‘ as identified by Jeffrey Young. These can be assessed in a schema inventory and worked through with the Schema Repatterning Meditation (SRM) work.
The cause of secure attachment is thought to be “good enough” parents that did an average or better job of tending to the infant’s emotional needs and keeping him/her safe.
Dismissing attachment is thought to come about primarily as a result of the infant experiencing consistent rejection by their caregivers of their ‘attachment bids’, the requests for connection, soothing, and emotional validation. They are called avoidant as infants and dismissive as adults.
As adults, dismissives tend to have more superficial relationships, staying distant emotionally. They don’t readily rely on others, tending towards excessive independence. They tend to be more out of touch with their own emotions and the emotions of others. There is often an air of superficiality and coolness
They are typically good explorers, able to go out into life and accomplish the goals they desire. However, the explorations and accomplishments tend to be status-oriented. The dismissive often doesn’t feel worthy of love due to the pattern of rejection experienced in childhood. This unconsciously drives them.
They don’t value attachment and connection as much as someone who is securely attached. This makes sense. They experienced rejection in the place of attachment and connection. Yet, the dismissive is driven to connect with others just like any other human. So, for this reason there is a sense of internal dilemma: “I want to connect. Yet, I don’t want to be rejected and feel all the shame and sadness of that.” This is such a hard place to be.
People with dismissing attachment often report fewer memories of childhood before puberty. As noted earlier, their primary caregiver was typically rejecting of their attachment needs such as empathy, and physical affection. The caregivers typically supported the child’s explorations as this relieved the caregiver’s discomfort with the attachment needs of the child. If the child is out exploring the child won’t try to connect with the dismissive caregiver which is uncomfortable for the dismissive caregiver. So, the child who later develops dismissing attachment “goes off on their own” never developing truly secure and collaborative inter-dependance with others.
How can dismissing attachment be treated? The Schema Repatterning Meditation (SRM), consistent with Bruce Ecker’s Coherence Therapy, produces “Emotionally Corrective Experiences” that are at odds with the old negative emotional learning. This creates cognitive dissonance. The positive experience that is dissonant with the negative ‘felt belief’ is reinforced and “pushes out” the old negative belief. To illustrate, the inner parents are especially warm and welcoming of the attachment needs of the dismissive’s inner child. Thereby the schema of internalized rejection and shame is repatterned with acceptance and love. However, this can be strange and unsettling, at first, for the dismissive. So this takes place at a measured pace calibrated to our comfort level.
This short guided meditation can give you an actual experience of the mental state of Dismissing Attachment.
It is thought that preoccupied attachment is the result of distracted and inconsistent care during the attachment period. There also seems to be a pattern of role-reversal where the caregivers, either subtly or explicitly have the child be responsible for the caregivers’ mental states. Often the caregiver presents as helpless and thereby enlists the child’s help. This inconsistency and role-reversal cause anxiety around attachment and the sense that the child should stay with the caregiver and help regulate the caregiver’s mental states instead of venturing away from the caregiver to explore. This is what accounts for the anxiety around both attachment and exploration, general sense of helplessness, fear of abandonment, the underdeveloped exploration capacities, and compulsive caretaking behaviors frequently seen in preoccupied adults.
Those of us with preoccupied attachment are excessively outward in orientation focused on the attachment figure. They often try to gauge what the other person is thinking and feeling so that they can present themselves in a way that is pleasing to the attachment-figure. They thereby neglect contact with their own thoughts and emotions. They tend to be somewhat deficit in self-monitoring and not very good at emotional self-regulation. They are also more emotional and not as cognitive in orientation.
Treating preoccupied attachment is similar to treating dismissing attachment. However, in the guided meditation the sense of guilt and worry about the mental states of the inner parents are addressed with recognition and soothing from the parents. The inner parents clearly show how much they enjoy being there for us. This helps abate the abandonment fear and thereby tamping down the anxiety about the parents’ mental states.
For those of us with preoccupation, anger often arises in the meditation towards the inner parents. This is given space and allowed. It’s made clear that the inner parents won’t get hurt by or upset about these displays of anger. Moreover, as we get more settled and soothed, the inner parents encourage exploration of both the inner world and the outer world.
This short guided meditation can give you an actual experience of the mental state of Preoccupied Attachment.
Disorganized attachment is generally caused by fearful experiences with the caregivers during the attachment period. As John Bowlby said that the source of soothing is the source of fear. This is an insoluble problem. Inner fragmentation, and dissociation are what result
These fearful early experiences imprint as deep, a priori truths about life. As a result, people with disorganized attachment often have a deep fear of intimacy and relationships, despite having the same human longing for connection that we all do.
Confusion and tumult are common internal experiences. Emotional self-regulation skills are also typically lacking as well. For this reason, the person with disorganized attachment tends to be unreliable. All this together makes establishing healthy relationships difficult.
Relatedly, they often lack a coherent sense of self to carry them through life. Their minds tend to be disorganized and they shift into different states frequently. They often have preoccupied parts that are afraid of abandonment and exploration. They often have dismissing parts that avoid closeness, and reliance. This makes them more difficult for others to read and be relied upon. Understandably, this loneliness is unbearable. Often they end up giving up on relationships entirely due to repeated failures.
With poor emotional self regulation skills, a poorly developed sense of self, and an underdeveloped social network the foundation is lacking for healthy development of career, relationships, and personal interests.
For these reasons, their quality of life tends to be much lower than those with organized attachment (secure, dismissing, and preoccupied).
Untreated disorganized attachment is associated and likely causal of characterological problems which often meet the diagnostic criteria for personality disorders (paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, borderline, narcissistic, antisocial, histrionic, avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders). Also, disorganized attachment can be a causal factor in Axis I conditions like ADHD, depression, anxiety etc.
Additionally, people with disorganized attachment conditioning typically have strong deficits in meta-cognitive abilities.
Those with disorganized attachment stand to benefit most from attachment repair.
The Schema Repatterning Meditation for disorganized attachment is similar to that of dismissing and preoccupied attachment described above. The guided meditations emphasize Emotionally Corrective Experiences that are at odds with the old negative emotional learning. Fear is often central to the set of maladaptive schemas. So, in the meditation, the inner parents protect the inner child and patiently build trust. Often dismissing, and preoccupied parts present in the meditation, as well. The inner parents are responsively facilitating the emotionally corrective experiences in the corresponding ways to these dismissing and preoccupied parts as mentioned above.
Parts-work is also important for people with disorganized attachment and is done with those of us with disorganized attachment. Parts-work focuses on soothing and acknowledging the parts various parts, recognizing their utility and formerly adaptive nature to a harsh early-childhood environment. This brings about a more solid and unified sense of self that is better able to move through life achieving normal life goals and having desired impacts on others and the environment.
This short guided meditation can give you an actual experience of the mental state of Disorganized Attachment.