As we move away from the center and to the left of the spectrum, the reliance on internal resources becomes more and more compulsive because accessing the support of external relationships feels increasingly less “safe.” For a variety of reasons, early relationships with caregivers instilled a lack of trust and safety in relationships.
These toddlers grow into adults who are highly capable, self-sufficient and extremely independent because pervasive negative experiences with early caregivers caused them to develop powerful, yet primarily unconscious beliefs that they cannot rely on the support of other people when they’re faced with stressful situations.
While independence can provide a great deal of internal strength, Dismissive-Avoidant people at the far end of the spectrum usually end up alone and isolated because a compulsive need to assert their independence coupled with an intense fear of relationship causes them to consistently push people away.
As romantic partners, Dismissive-Avoidant people are usually described as strong and effective, but non-emotional, aloof and/or distant.
Copyright © 2017, Dario Martinez. All rights reserved.
There are four primary Attachment Styles on the spectrum. I invite you to read through the following descriptions to see if you resonate with anything.
In the center of the spectrum are “Securely Attached” people. These are the toddlers in GROUP ONE. They’re able to effectively manage stress in relationships because they feel “safe” enough in relationships to reach out for support from others (even after they’ve been abandoned) while also having sufficient access to internal resources to help soothe themselves.
As these toddlers grow into adulthood, their sense of safety and access becomes firmly established, and they’re able to simultaneously reach outward and go inward for support during stressful situations. Neither reaching out nor going inward is “compulsive” in any way because they have access to both kinds of support.
At we move away from the center and below the main line, the remaining three styles represent “Insecure Attachment.” These styles are described as Insecure, because people on these parts of the spectrum lack access to either Internal resources or a sense of safety in relationship. Both reaching outward for support and going inward can be challenging for them—which makes it difficult to manage relational stress in a “secure” manner.
It’s important to emphasize, however, that even though they lack access to certain resources, “Insecurely Attached” people often develop other resources that can be very useful in relationship. As a strengths-based therapist, I believe it’s important to highlight these strengths while also describing challenges that insecurely attached people face. Here is a description of each of the three Insecure Attachment styles:
Moving from the center to the far right of the spectrum, people begin to compulsively reach out for support from other people when they experience stressful situations. People on this side of the spectrum have little capacity to calm themselves—or self-soothe—when they feel negative emotions. The need for external support becomes more and more compulsive as we move out toward the far end of the spectrum.
The strengths associated with Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment are vulnerability and the capacity to make effective use of relationships when feeling distress. While these strengths are vitally important to being in relationship, they become problematic for the Anxious-Preoccupied adult if the need to reach out becomes overly compulsive. People at the far end of the spectrum typically become lonely and isolated because their need for external support becomes so strong that it pushes people away.
As romantic partners, Anxious-Preoccupied people are frequently described as open and loving, but “overly emotional,” overbearing and needy.
By Dario Martinez
The foundational behaviors of reaching out for support or going inward are extremely simple, but they can wreak havoc on adult relationships if either behavior becomes compulsive. Because nobody exclusively reaches out or goes inward in their relationships, all Attachment Styles are part of a larger “Spectrum of Attachment Styles” pictured below: