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Ditch the way You Look at Attachment Styles

As the world crumbles into lawlessness, one final pillar of security remains: personality quizzes.

Alone, furrowed away into my bed sheets, I peek onto the Myers Briggs website: perhaps my recent party attendances have unearthed a seed of extraversion that the quiz can confirm. Call it a form of self-soothing, but it really tickles my fancy to boil my entire existence down to a few letters or numbers. I relish the opportunity to identify myself with an arbitrary, subjective title that was designed to typecast people for work output optimization in a capitalist society. I realize how trivial personality quizzes can be, but please indulge my harmless vice just this once.

Recently, one personality quiz has not left my mind: attachment styles. Airing on the side of seriousness and based in solid psychological research, the attachment styles are a far cry from the quizzes I frequent. John Bowlby, the psychoanalyst who developed attachment styles, claims that a child’s relationship with their primary caregiver(s) informs their communication patterns in adulthood. I truly think that there is so much to learn from understanding your attachment style, but I have been put off by the way the attachment styles are discussed.


But first, let's dig into the lore. Bowlby maintains that there are 4 main attachment styles:


Anxious:

An anxious personality seeks consistent validation and approval from their partner. They have a negative view of self and positive view of others. Their actions are driven by a fear of abandonment or rejection; as a result, they can be clingy and highly aware of their partner’s needs, often prioritizing their partner’s needs over their own.


Avoidant:

An avoidant personality may self-identify as highly independent and reject guidance or assistance from others. They avoid emotional intimacy and have a tendency to repress their emotions. Emotions are observed as weakness.


Anxious-Avoidant:

An anxious-avoidant personality exhibits anxious and avoidant traits. They may struggle to regulate emotions and their actions may be perceived as contradictory. Anxious-Avoidants have a fear of rejection and find it difficult to trust others.


Secure:

A secure personality is emotionally regulated and has healthy mutual dependency within relationships. They excel at creating bonds, trusting others, and communicating their needs effectively.


Beyond my basic descriptions of the four types, there is much to explore regarding how we can understand, challenge, and work with our attachment styles to build healthier relationships. But, the way that attachment styles are discussed on many platforms detracts from the purpose of the quiz.

Many websites make sweeping assertions about childhood relationships and claim that certain communication styles are indicative of childhood abuse or neglect and that others are a result of positive childhood relations. While certain relationship patterns may lend themselves to particular adult behaviors, assigning absolutes isolates and narrows the breadth of experience. As a result, individuals may feel defensive or turned off to attachment styles as a whole, thus getting distracting from the whole point: to understand and learn from your attachment style.

Personally, I thought I must’ve taken the quiz wrong when I received the multiple page report about how my upbringing was. It was entirely wrong, I thought. Then, I started questioning if everything I believed to be true about my childhood was a lie. The consensus is that my mental gymnastics was entirely unnecessary, albeit a testimony to the power of a quiz. I came back around to the results a week later and realized I’d be damned if I got caught up in the “diagnosis” instead of the “symptoms”. And, when I looked beyond the strict guidelines for each attachment style and developed my own interpretation, I gleaned some incredibly powerful takeaways about my relationship patterns.

Now, I absolutely believe that our early relationships play a crucial role in forming our adult patterns, but there must be a less prescriptive way of exploring ourselves. After all, it's a personality quiz. There’s nothing prescriptive about it all. We’re relying on our own biased self-perceptions to paint a comprehensive version of self. It’s faulty to begin with. So, when viewing attachment styles, it can help to detach yourself from any title. Through passive viewership, you may notice certain thoughts or feelings popping up upon reading descriptions. Notice them and tune into what it conjures up. Those feelings are so much more telling than anything a website throws your way. Now, get quizzing, my fellow perception junkies.


Sincerely,

Your resident 4w3/INFP




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