Attachment Theory in Personal & Professional Relationships!

Attachment theory is a pretty simple and well-researched area to grasp nuggets of wisdom from. It was originally developed by John Bowlby and has had many variations of research created. 

Attachment styles refer to how you bond with others, your attachment style as a child may differ in your attachment style as an adult. I am focusing on the adult styles because most of you are adults!


The way we bond personally, directly impacts how we bond professionally! 


Knowing your attachment style and healing it, now they are two very different things. However, awareness is key so here is a quick overview. Recognizing our attachments styles equips us with knowledge of our strengths and vulnerabilities in relationships. 

So many of us use terms like "it's just not professional" in response to being triggered personally. We also like to ignore the fact that to do something professionally, we have to first be there personally. For instance, we can't go anywhere in this world without ourselves present, and often I see personal attachments interfering with professional progress. 



Secure personality
People who had secure attachments as children, continue to have secure attachments as adults. They desire close connections with others and have a positive view of themselves, their partners and their relationships. They are both secure in their independence and in their relationships. 

Dismissive personality
People with avoidant attachment styles in childhood mostly have a dismissive attachment in adulthood. These people tend to like being alone and don't hold relationships in an important role in their life. They suppress their feelings. They are inward and out of balance and emotionally removed from themselves and others. 

Preoccupied personality
Children who have an ambient/anxious attachment style often grow up to have preoccupied attachment style. As adults, they are self-critical and insecure. They seek external approval, yet never feel good enough. In relationships, they fear rejection and become worried and fearful easily. This creates needy behaviours in the person. These people have not balanced and the insecurity leaves them turned against themselves and clingy in relationships. 

Fearful-Avoidant Personality
People who grew up with disorganized attachments often develop fearful-avoidant attachments. As children, if they detached from traumas they tend to continue this in adulthood. They desire relationships and are comfortable with them until they become close. At which point the repressed childhood emotions resurface and they experience them in the now, this person is suddenly reliving old trauma. These peoples lives are not balanced, they do not have a clear sense of themselves and they do not have a clear connection with others. 

Some research has suggested that successful adult relationships depend on the ability to manage stress, stay connected to emotions, communicative body language, be playfully engaging and don't hold grudges, forgive with ease. This isn't only relevant to romantic relationships but very much relevant to professional ones also. 

One thing that surprised me at the beginning of learning these theories and yet also seems true; through my own experience and research is that you will seek out someone who reinforces and supports your perception of reality whether healthy or unhealthy.

So this means someone experiencing anxious/preoccupied attachment style will feel a need to always be with their partner and feel reassured but will seek out someone who is isolated and hard to connect with. 

Or someone experiencing dismissive/avoidant attachment has a tendency to be distant because they learnt this is how they get their needs met, basically act like you don't have any. They then choose someone who is more demanding for attention. 

So we set ourselves up to find partners, friendships and work with those that confirm our models of attachment. That proves we are right, we can't trust people, or people want too much from us, or people are just annoying or people never appreciate us. We find others to prove the thing we believe, even if we do not wish it to be true! 

If we grew up with an insecure attachment style we will seek to project or duplicate these even if they hurt us or don't work for us. That's why so many people are so hurt by personal or professional relationships because they resemble other relationships from our early years. 

If you find yourself experiencing the same issues in relationships, again and again, I would suggest getting to know your attachment style and working through it with an effective therapist or coach


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I have found when facilitating relationship coaching for individuals and couples that this understanding can help de-personalize responses and bring more clarity and understanding to the process. Allowing individuals to work with, rather than against each other. 


And this is also true for working relationships, ones in which you have to make it work as your career growth depend on it. 


I hope this resonates and brings a little insight, 

Sile Walsh 

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