Attachment Theory: How to Find Your Style, Why It’s Important, and How It Can Improve Any Relationship with Psychotherapist Thais Gibson

Dr. Caroline Leaf
5 min readJul 16, 2020

We all bring a lot of “stuff” into our relationships, which can affect how we relate to other people, romantically and otherwise. In this week’s podcast, I spoke with attachment theory expert and psychotherapist Thais Gibson on how our past experiences impact our relationships, how we can use the different attachment styles to better understand ourselves and connect with our partners, why we need to communicate our needs and desires, and how we can reprogram past traumas and heal our relationships.

As Thais describes in her new book, Attachment Theory: A Guide to Strengthening the Relationships in Your Life, the 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 young 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 worthiness 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…

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Dr. Caroline Leaf

Mental health expert. I have spent the last 30+ years researching ways to help people manage mental health issues in school, work, and life: drleaf.com