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On Thursdays in Loving Difference we typically ask the whole community a question. This week it related to Roots to Freedom – the different new perspectives, information and ideas that helped all of us as Coaches to change our direction and experience of our neurodiverse relationships and our lives.

One of them is learning more about ourselves and how we relate to other people through an attachment style. We reviewed lots of questionnaires and didn’t find them helpful for the nuances of neurodiverse relationships and where we know most Loving Difference members are at when they join us. So instead, here’s an invitation to read some basics about attachment styles and begin to identify yourself inside of this theory.

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A baby's hand holds onto the second finger of an extended adult palmAttachment theory is one of the most well researched theories in the field of relational psychology. It describes how our early relationships with primary caregivers, most commonly our parents, also other family members or significant adults, creates our expectation for how love, security and belonging should be.

Our view of ourself and others is formed by how well these caregivers were available and responsive to meet our physical and emotional needs. In our adult relationships, our attachment system is triggered positively and negatively by others that we’re relating to at home, in friendships and in work.

We tend to recreate unhealthy relationship patterns from childhood in adulthood. As much as people may dislike it, the familiarity is comforting and we ‘know how it works’. We may even confuse feelings of relationship chemistry with the familiarity of our early life experience.

In other respects we may not like ‘how it is’ and it’s not giving us what we really want but changing it is challenging without understanding all this and having new ways and support to do that.

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You can start to identify your attachment style by reading the descriptions below and, from a place of compassion and truth, notice which is most like you. Focus on you, not on others! We can often identify someone else’s attachment style more quickly than our own because this can be vulnerable information to tune into about ourselves.

Anxious Attachment: Develops when one or more caregivers have been inconsistent in their responsiveness and availability, confusing a child about what to expect. As an adult, this person can be clingy and demanding at times, has low self-esteem, tends to seek validation or permission from their partner and others, and finds it difficult to trust self and others.

Avoidant Attachment: Develops when one or more caregivers is neglectful. Children may play by themselves and develop a belief that no one is there to meet their needs. As adults, they are typically very independent and view themselves as self-sufficient and in some cases as an ‘island’ or ‘lone-wolf. They tend to have high self-esteem and a positive view of themselves. They do not like to depend on others and do not want to feel as if others depend on them. There is a tendency to avoid emotional closeness and expression.

Disorganized Attachment:
 Develops from consistent failure to respond appropriately to a child’s distress, or an inconsistent response to a child’s feelings of fear or distress. A child learns to fear caregivers and has no real secure base. As adults, they typically feel unsafe and insecure in their relationships. They often display contradictory behaviours, such as a need for closeness coupled with the tendency to avoid closeness and push others away. They may experience a fear of rejection, coupled with difficulty connecting to and trusting others.

Secure Attachment: Develops when a child experiences and receives consistent and healthy emotional and physical support from all main caregivers. As an adult they feel safe and comfortable when connecting with others, and with expressing their needs and boundaries. They are confident within themselves and feel at ease when letting others into their intimate space. Relationships don’t bring up too many fears. They might struggle to relate to others who don’t communicate or behave in the same way as they do, especially if the other person has insecurities and fears due to having an insecure attachment style. In this situation, relationships can feel challenging or not as connected as they’d like and a secondary attachment style may get triggered and cause them to become more anxious or avoidant.

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Can I have more than one attachment style?

YES! If our caregivers were inconsistent or the context of our childhood was unpredictable, we can develop multiple attachment styles. If we had some caregivers we could securely attach to and others who we became anxious or avoidant with, we develop multiple attachment styles that will play out in different adult relationships.

Can I change my attachment style? 

YES! With new awareness, tools and support you can move towards having a secure attachment style and be steady and boundaried in relationships with loved ones and friends who do not. It is possible to learn new, healthier ways to meet, attach and connect with others.

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Wanting to change your attachment style to a healthier one, alongside other contributing factors in your neurodiverse relationship?

Book a complimentary call to discuss how 1:1 coaching can assist you to make the changes you desire or access support from travel companions via Coaching in Community, in transformational and surprisingly fun coaching adventures that support your step by steps to reverse the impact of unknown neurodiversity, be YOU again and flourish – in your relationships and your life.

With love and sparkle…

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Natalie Roberts

Author Natalie Roberts

Natalie Roberts is an award-winning Master Coach and Mentor supporting individuals and couples in neurodiverse relationships in the UK and around the world. She coaches individuals and couples to reverse the impact of unknown neurodiversity and thrive so that they can be true to themselves and feel empowered to make decisions about their present and future that are positive and hopeful.

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