The Impact of Our Attachment Style on Everyday Life

Most attachment theories focus on attachment in our infancy and have little to say about attachment past this stage. However, in recent years, psychologists and self-help gurus have used attachment styles to explain certain psychological phenomena relevant in pop culture and the real world today. And why wouldn't they?

What is Attachment Theory?

In psychology, attachment theory refers to empirical models that attempt to describe how infants become attached to their primary caregivers and how those attachments indicate how we will form relationships in our adult life. Developed by John Bowlby and further developed by Mary Ainsworth amongst others in the UK, different attachment styles refer to how infants interact with their parents or adults.

For example, a baby with a secure attachment style subconsciously knows that their parent or caregiver bond is healthy and will not easily be broken. They feel confident with exploring the new and exciting world around them and have little concern about abandonment.

Secure babies tend to (but not always) grow into secure adults; they are self-confident, independent and not easily influenced by others.

A baby with an insecure attachment style is more likely to grow up into a less secure adult. Insecure attachment includes anxious and avoidant individuals in their adult relationships and most likely experience social phobias. Someone with an insecure attachment style may struggle more with mental health problems, especially when dealing with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety.

What Attachment Style Do You Have?

Our attachment style develops throughout our lives, from infancy into adulthood, focusing on certain relationships, specifically between parent and child. Attachment theory explains the psychological mechanisms linking attachment experiences to later mental health. It forms a basis for how we will act when dealing with others and gives a framework for us humans to understand ourselves further.

There are four types of attachment styles:

Secure Attachment Style

This is what everyone ultimately strives for. A secure attachment style fosters independence and a sense of trust in their relationship. The child is comfortable expressing their own emotions and doesn't rely on the other person for assurance. As adults, people with a secure attachment style experience successful, long-lasting relationships. Typical behaviours include being able to effectively problem solve and do not fear being alone or in partnership.

Anxious/Preoccupied Attachment Style

An anxious attachment style is an opposite of secure. It is associated with excessive dependence on others and a fear of rejection. People who are overly attached to their relationships have a deep fear of abandonment. As adults, they often find themselves in unfulfilling or distant relationships. Typical behaviours include wanting to be around their partners all the time, lacking trust, needing reassurance and feeling like their partner does not prioritize them.

Avoidant/Dismissive Attachment Style

This style represents individuals that struggle to get close to others. They often prefer to be independent and are not good at asking for help. As a result, they experience loneliness and isolation. These individuals also fear intimacy and do their best to avoid it all costs. Typical behaviours include shying away from expressing their feelings, disliking touch or getting very close to someone.

Fearful Avoidant/Disorganized Style

This is the double whammy, combining numbers 2 and 3 above. Individuals with this type of attachment style want to love and be loved but are terrified of rejection. They often feel misunderstood, as if the world is moving too fast for them. People with the fearful-avoidant attachment style also have trouble regulating their emotions. Typical behaviours include constantly checking in with their friends, pushing away loved ones and being constantly anxious or worried.

Just like any behaviour, our attachment style develops from a series of conditioned and subconsciously learnt behaviour. Usually, we learn the most from our parents/ caregivers and anyone we have spent a lot of time with during our earlier years. Even though our behaviours are malleable, we are still working with long-term patterns for years, if not decades.

Still not sure what your attachment style is, go here to take the quiz

How do our attachment styles impact our day-to-day?

I'm going to illustrate this by using myself as an example. I am a 31-year-old woman who has to go through the process of buying a new-to-me car for the first time in her life. As both a psychology student, a former marketing consultant and a hyper-aware human being, the agony of being taken advantage of as a young, clueless about cars woman makes my skin crawl.

Now, if I were someone with an anxious attachment style, I might think, "I'll be okay; everything will work out." In reality, I really don't want to proceed with the car buying process; I want to daydream about the car but not actually go through with buying it. Individuals with an anxious attachment style worry more while very rarely springing into action, especially when stressed out. If this is you, you may even have a team of people around you that you rely on that reaffirm you're doing things right. For instance, making sure the purchase a new car is the right choice.

Sometimes our attachment style prevents us from doing something our brain knows is the right decision.

On the other hand, if I were someone with an avoidant attachment style, I might think, "Wow, under no circumstance do I want to speak to these car salesmen in person; I wonder how much I can do from the comfort of my own home?". Individuals with an avoidant attachment style are terrified of intimacy, mainly because they did not receive enough tenderness during their times of need during childhood. People with this type of attachment tend to push everyone away and only have a couple of people they trust. They are fiercely independent - to their determine - and have trouble establishing solid relationships.

Now, if you're someone with a fearful-avoidant attachment style (like myself), you are a beautiful combination of anxious and avoidant attachment styles that results in a willingness to go through some serious chaos to avoid doing things. And believe me, it can become quite the headache. I am fighting an inner battle of "I want and need a car so badly, let's do this" while simultaneously thinking, "can I just keep my 14-year-old car and keep sinking money into it with hopes my car problems will disappear without effort?". To deal with the constant back and forth in my head, my actions usually look like power napping to escape the stress and hyper fixation on scrolling through used car ads.

Buying a Car Brought Up So Much For Me, and Wow, Did Attachment Theory Explain it Perfectly.

The process I went through when it came to buying a car was rough. As someone with a fearful-avoidant attachment style, I wouldn't say I liked it one bit. The avoidant side wanted to run away from the situation, but the anxious part prevented me from doing so as my old car was unsafe to drive.

Not to mention that:

  • There is a history of being bad with money, and dang, it makes me anxious and shame when money is at the core of a transaction. It also takes the joy out of the process (fear-based)
  • I wasn't eligible for financing because of my lack of a job, making me scared I'm too far behind in life for my age (fear-based)
  • I don't trust myself enough to make the right decision - and honestly, I'm still more sure if the car I bought was the right decision (fear-based)
  • The car buying process is new to me, and as a reformed toxic perfectionist being new at something is agony (fear-based)
  • I have some deep-rooted anger for white men with inflated egos (thanks to my gather) (avoidance based)
  • Unbalanced power dynamics and negotiation are the absolute worst (avoidance-based)
  • I've been avoiding (like the literal plague) all adult responsibilities until I was thrown into the deep end when my father was away in December 2019. Buying a new car is just another one of those responsibilities I'm reluctant to accept (avoidance-based).

You know your attachment style; now what?

Attachment theory is a great way to look deeper at why your situation is so challenging for you. However, it doesn't offer the solution of how to change it. So what do you do?

First, offer yourself compassion. Regardless of political beliefs, skin colour, and sexuality, every one of us experiences traumas throughout the lifetimes that trigger us. Attachment theory is just another vantage point to look at it. Naturally, we tend to subscribe to negative emotions when we create a narrative around our stories. I encourage you to remember that we're all doing our best with where we're at. Easier said than done.

Second, this one is said with the most love, understanding, and empathy because I have been here and am currently in some areas of my life. Sometimes, we're attached to our pain. Acknowledging it and giving voice to it is your first form of release. Please don't beat yourself up for it in the process. Being hard on yourself will do you no favour in the long run.

Journaling Exercises To Help You Integrate This Information

Journaling is a great way to get an idea, perspective or brain dump out onto paper so you can see what is swimming around in your brain. It is especially great for people who aren't great at self-exploration. If re-iterating your day is all you've got, then let that out on the page. It's more important you're putting pen to paper than what you put on the paper. No one will read it, and if you want to through it out each day, you can do that too. Tailor it up to you.

Remember, this is time for you to learn something about yourself; the only person who can tell you if it's valid or not is you.

Below you'll find a list of journal prompts that you can use, adapt or use as inspiration for what your subconscious wants to let out on paper.

  • What are some ways in which my attachment style has shown up in my life?
  • What is the most prominent characteristic of my attachment style?
  • In what ways does your attachment style help me understand myself better?
  • What is my least favourite thing about my attachment style?
  • How has my attachment style helped me to get what I want in life?
  • In what ways does my attachment style limit the way I show up in everyday life?
  • When does my attachment style get triggered?
  • What's the coolest thing about my attachment style?
  • What do I wish I could change about my attachment style?

If you feel called to share your insight or ah-ha moments with someone, please reach out to me at I'm here to support you.

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