If you spent enough time reading about attachment and childhood trauma, you may be familiar with the idea that there are 4 attachment styles that form in childhood and later on in life, show up in our romantic relationships. What you may be less familiar with is the idea that these attachment styles also reflect the relationship that we have with ourselves, thus forming our internal attachment styles. So what does the relationship with ourselves look like depending on our attachment style?
Secure internal attachment: You feel warm towards yourself, accepting yourself as doing the best you can. You are curious and self-reflective and prioritise having a relationship with yourself. You don't run away from yourself, can spend time on your own but are also content in the presence of others. You don't overly criticise yourself, you have self-compassion but also take accountability. You forgive yourself for flaws and mistakes.
Dismissive avoidant internal attachment: You may not be hostile or resistant towards feelings, but you may be disconnected from them. This means that since you can't feel them, you don't acknowledge them. As such, you are out of touch and may not know what it is you are actually feeling or thinking. You may have a stronger inner critic, demanding perfection and thus it is harder for you to accept your flaws or mistakes.
Anxious preoccupied internal attachment: You may feel more intensely the vulnerability of your inner child and as such can become too overwhelmed to show up for yourself. Instead, you are craving and seeking others to show up for you and to take care of your emotions. You may find it hard to have a relationship with yourself, fearing aloneness and spending time on your own. You compensate for a lack of relationship with yourself by building close and intense relationships with others.
Disorganised internal attachment: You are stuck in an internal battle between automatic self-rejection and yearning for acceptance. You experience a lot of negative internal self-talk and generally see yourself as unlovable. You may swing a lot between trusting yourself and rejecting yourself, looking for others to save you. You may have a lot of deeply rooted shame which contributes to negative self-image and the experience of a strong inner critic.
I hope this has given you a clear overview of what our internal attachment styles may look like. They reflect how we see ourselves, the relationships we have with ourselves, and how we interact and form relationships with others. The reality is that when we do not have a secure relationship with ourselves, we end up projecting our insecurities onto others, thus leading to conflict and toxicity. This is why in my therapy sessions, a main priority is to help and guide my clients towards building a secure relationship with themselves.
Ioana Rotaru is a London-based Psychotherapist specialising in working with people with histories of childhood emotional neglect and trauma who now want to improve their relationship with themselves and others. If you would like to explore addressing any of the issues in this article, please get in touch with Ioana at email@example.com for a free 15-minute consultation about how therapy might help.