What's your attachment style?

In this podcast (episode #571) and blog, I talk to attachment theory expert and psychotherapist Thais Gibson about attachment styles, how childhood experiences shape us, why attachment styles can change, and more!

Thais Gibson is a best-selling author, counselor, speaker, and leader in the personal development field. She has been recognized by Psychology Today, Time Business News, The New York Post, Yahoo! News, Success Magazine, CEO Weekly, and many other outlets for her cutting-edge research on the subconscious mind and personal transformation.  

Thais has a Ph.D. and is certified in over 13 modalities, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, NLP, Somatic Processing, and Trauma Work. Her scientific research, personal experience, and compassionate approach led to her founding the Gibson Integrated Attachment Theory™.  

Thais’ approach to personal development has accumulated over 38 million views across her social platforms, helping thousands of people create tangible change in their lives.

Through her academic training and client-based research, Thais has created renowned and inspiring courses for personal development, growth, and relationships. These teachings have been distilled into the in-depth programs, courses, and modules inside of The Personal Development School

In her amazing new book, Learning Love, Thais discusses in depth how our attachment styles can impact our relationships, and how we can learn to become “securely attached” so we can improve our relationships and build a strong and supportive community. She talks about how our early childhood experiences impact how we show up in adulthood, and how we can find healing and change our attachment style!

As Thais describes in her previous book, Attachment Theory: A Guide to Strengthening the Relationships in Your Life, how different attachment styles highlight the fact that we have all learned to relate to people in different ways. These are the rules that we live by when it comes to our interpersonal relationships. If we don’t recognize this, it can impact how we interact with the people in our lives—it is like playing a board game with completely different sets of rules. This is not only challenging, but can also cause a lot of pain, reinforcing past traumas and negative thinking patterns. 

The attachment styles are largely the result of programmed experiences, both good and bad. These are patterns of thought built by repetition and emotion, mainly during our childhood, which provide a framework through which we see and engage with the world around us. 

There are four main attachment styles, one positive and three negative:

  1. Securely attached: the securely attached learn from youth that their feelings can be expressed, that they can and should deal with them, not suppress them, and that their needs can and do get met. These people learn that it is okay to be vulnerable—it is safe to express their needs and desires. They feel worthy and have an easier time bonding with others and showing up in a romantic relationship. This is the ideal attachment style that we all hope to develop in our relationships.
  2. Dismissive avoidant: This is the most avoidant attachment style, which often results from emotional neglect in some form. It can often fly under the radar, especially if a child’s parents are not emotionally available, or a child has no emotional safe space to express their feelings or needs. This attachment style is often afraid to commit, doesn’t want to settle down, and runs away when too much vulnerability is required. They have core wounds around being unsafe and the need to look out for themselves. They generally want simplicity and safety in a relationship where they can take their walls down slowly over time. 
  3. Anxious preoccupied: This attachment style is characterized by inconsistency in one’s childhood, which makes them afraid of losing connections. They tend to have a major fear of abandonment, as well as isolation and rejection. This attachment style is often seen as “needy/clingy”—they feel loneliness more deeply than others. Consequently, they need to feel a lot of love, and need a lot of time together as a couple, as well as validation and consistency.
  4. Fearful avoidant: This attachment style is often the result of trauma, or something that did or did not happen when the person was young. They often struggle with trust, inconsistency, chaos—their experiences have taught them that they can't know what to expect, that there is no cause and effect in life. This makes them hypervigilant and experts at reading body language. They are constantly on the lookout and never in a space of trusting. They bring this constant sense of uneasiness and distrust into relationships, which means they share similar characteristics to the anxious preoccupied attachment style and the dismissive avoidant attachment style, and tend to feel defective and unworthy of love. In a relationship, they want and need a lot of transparency, information, openness and trust. 

For many decades, people believed these attachment styles were fixed and could not change. However, as Thais points out, this is incorrect. These are learned styles, based on what we experienced in the past. We are not born with an attachment style—it is conditioned into us through the experiences we have from youth, which program and rewire our subconscious and nonconscious mind. 

As the brain is neuroplastic, which means it can change, there is hope when it comes to our attachment styles! They can be reprogrammed/rewired over time. This means the more we understand our attachment style and how it affects our perceptions and worldview, the more we can work on our core wounds, needs and emotions, and communicate our needs and desires more clearly in any relationship, which is what Thais discusses in depth in Learning Love.  

Our attachment style is not a disorder or a diagnosis.  It is a subconscious set of rules that we learn from youth about what to expect in a relationship and what relationships should look like. It impacts what we expect from other people. It is patterned in and impacts how we treat those we are closest to.

But it can change! We can learn to become securely attached and improve our relationships by:

  1. Healing our core wounds. The research shows that securely attached individuals have less core wounds. By rewiring our subconscious approach to relationships and learning how to heal our core wounds, we can change the ideas we have about relationships and ourselves, and learn how to transform our attachment style to become more securely attached. This takes time - a minimum of 63 days to rewire/reprogram new habits in the brain through the mind. But the effort is so worth it! When we recondition core wounds, we can dramatically shift our attachment style and change our lives for the better. Thais gives great tips on how to do this in her book Learning Love.
  1. Developing a good understanding of our needs. If we have a good understanding of our needs and are comfortable communicating these needs to others, we tend to be more securely attached in our relationships. On the other hand, insecurely attached people tend to battle to understand or communicate their needs. Part of the healing process requires understanding what we need and why—how has our past affected us? What daily habit can we practice to heal this and learn to self-source our own needs? Can we give ourselves what we need in a relationship? How do we communicate what we need to others? Here, how we talk to our partners is incredibly important! We need to learn how to communicate with positive framing, rather than just reacting to the other person. We want to be clear about what we need rather than just accuse someone of doing something wrong. It is also important to understand that a lot of people see communication in different ways. We need to be as specific as possible when communicating our needs.

    For more on healing your attachment style, listen to my podcast with Thais (episode #571) and check out her incredible work. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).     

    This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Relationships are tough, but they make life worth it! We are made for community, but sometimes navigating that community can be a challenge. A common misconception about relationships is that they have to be easy to be “right.” But sometimes, the best ones happen when both people put in the work to make them great, whether we are talking about romantic partnerships, friendships, family members or co-workers. And Therapy can be a place to work through the challenges you face in all of your relationships – whether with friends, work, your significant other, or anyone. Indeed, talk therapy is for so much more than working through a past trauma or current problem. It can also help us learn to thrive in every area of our lives, including our relationships. It is not just for when something is going “wrong”, but also for those times we feel we can learn and grow in a specific area of our life. I personally have found talking to someone I trust so helpful when it comes to family dynamics—the outside perspective helped me gain more insight and wisdom into what to do to improve my own relationships and manage delicate situations. So, if you’re thinking of starting therapy, give BetterHelp a try. It’s entirely online. Designed to be convenient, flexible, and suited to your schedule. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist, and switch therapists any time for no additional charge. Become your own soulmate, whether you’re looking for one or not. Visit BetterHelp.com/drleaf today to get 10% off your first month.

    Podcast Highlights

    1:12 Thais’ amazing new book Learning Love 

    2:00 What attachment theory is & how it can change 

    4:35 Attachment theory & cultural bias 

    6:20 Attachment styles are not a diagnosis! 

    7:40 Securely attached vs. insecurely attached styles 

    11:00 The time it takes to heal 

    12:40 The importance of understanding our own needs & learning to self-soothe 

    15:48 How Thais’ own childhood affected her attachment style & how she found healing 

    29:30 How to change your attachment style 

    35:20 Communication & boundaries

    Switch On Your Brain LLC. is providing this podcast as a public service. Reference to any specific viewpoint or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by our organization. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact info@drleaf.com.      

    This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.

    Comments 0

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published