How early relationships influence happiness and attachment

This article is brought to you by Social Worker, Elena Bishop. Elena is the director of Supportive Therapy and Social Work in Arana Hills. She has a wealth of knowledge and insight into the industry.


Attachment theory is my bread & butter – I want everyone to understand why we are the way we are, & how to be in safe secure relationship. For me, this is the most simplistic explanation that can describe who we are and why we react the way we do. This influences how we choose our friends & partners, how we feel we deserve to be treated and how we resolve conflict. So, there are 4 types of Attachment, they can evolve over time & we can have different ones with different people. Determined by how we were raised. This influences how we parent our own children. This is amazing, because it proves that we can evolve into the person we want to be, we are not bound by our past. 

First is Secure – Parents were always appropriately responsive & supportive of you, no judgement & unconditional love. As an adult, you can confidentially say “I’m worthy of being seen, my opinions are worthwhile, people should listen and respect my feelings because that’s what we all deserve.” This is the name of the game! You can recognise healthy relationships, can set healthy boundaries, & expect love when love is given with no ulterior motives. 

Second is Avoidant – Growing up parents were quite strict and dismissive “stop crying or ill give you something to cry about, grow up, toughen up, don’t speak unless you are spoken to, your grade isn’t good enough”. Also smacks, wooden spoon? Yes, as an 80’s baby I can still feel it now… ouch. When we are constantly criticised & made to feel like an inconvenience, it teaches us our feeling aren’t safe. So, we avoid emotions & don’t ask for support or help. We have learnt we don’t need anything from anyone, we withdraw to avoid conflict, we crave attention but scared of rejection, we can also be quick to find faults in others since we may be ruled by our own perfectionism. This means negative self-image and low self-esteem. 

Third is Ambivalent – hot and cold, parents not consistent at all. So, you never really know where you stand. Sometimes they were there, then not. Sometimes they were loving, then insensitive. They were inconsistent & unpredictable. You were always worried about what ‘mood’ they were going to be in when you got home. Would you be loved or yelled at? It was always about them & never about you. So now, as an adult we have learned that I need a lot of reassurance, I need to know that people really care about me -so prove it. Sometimes I push others away to see if they will fight for me & come back. I get called clingy or moody, & I feel like my partner sometimes isn’t reliable or can meet my needs. Funny, as adults – avoidant & ambivalent are like magnets… trigger each other’s insecurities. Avoidant shuts down & walks away. Ambivalent feels like they are being ignored, then pushes avoidant away. Then keeps going around & around in circles. But they both want to feel safe with unconditional support. 

Finally, forth is disorganised. A small percentage of the population. These beautiful children experienced significant abuse, chaos & unpredictable responses. Your needs were never met, severe, abusive or neglectful. Registered in the body as trauma. Without support & compassion, you may repeat patterns. You can become untrusting with anxious & avoidant behaviours. You honestly just crave acceptance & security. We all deserve love. 

This is not for judgement, but for understanding. By this simplistic explanation, we can recognise our patterns, normalise our reactions, acknowledge motivations & help prevent negative cycles. Also gives us something to aim for, Secure Attachment! If you are feeling upset or triggered by this article, listen to your body, find someone safe to talk to & seek a therapist who understands Attachment Theory like myself. You may not have had control over the events that have happened in your life, but you can control if they define you – or motivate you. 

“In psychoeducation Attachment system is a biological system – that have been developed from a child and when recognised as an adult can be changed. It is the emotional and psychological needs, developed within relationships, internal working models and patterns of relating to others – how safe we feel in the world. If we don’t have our attachment needs met, we will find them in other ways, Related to our nervous system and biology 

Type A – Insecure Avoidant (shut down and soothe their own needs, learn to be independent, appear quite strong and not much emotion, haven’t had a reliable safe haven to come home to

Type B – Secure (very rare) they have been met without any adaption 

Type C – insecure, anxious ambivalent/resistant – inconsistency in primary care giving. How our primary care giver responds to the child often the child will focus heavily on the care giver and if the needs are not met they may actually reject the care giver. Shift between being overly dependent and clingy and angry/distressed – come her go away; hot and cold attachment style. 

Type D – Disorganised severe traumatised brain, those who were meant to protect me hurt me the most. Emotional bond that develops with adult partners is part of the same motivational system that gives rise to the emotional bond to your partner

 For more information, visit the Supportive Therapy and Social Work Website

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