how to create secure attachment

How to Develop Secure Attachment

How to Develop Secure Attachment

Attachment theory offers a way of understanding the human drive to connect with others that at times, inadvertently causes dysfunction and self-inflicted pain.

At a basic level, humans learn ways of staying safe in the world during childhood, without having autonomy or control over the environment.

Then, they continue using those strategies as adults and they are not needed anymore, outside the environment of childhood.

Here’s an example of what this could look like:

  • A child shuts down and goes into their room when father started getting angry
  • Child learned that if they stayed out of the anger father’s way, they would be safe
  • As an adult, this person shuts down when their partner expresses frustration
  • They (unconsciously) connect the partner’s expression of anger with the father’s and use the same strategy of going away

While the strategy makes complete sense, it is no longer effective in the present-day environment or relationship.

Secure Attachment

So what is the alternative to unconsciously projecting our childhood programming onto adult partners?

Enter, secure attachment. This is a felt sense of safety and security, within the self, in relationships, and in the environment. It is also responding mindfully to the present instead of reactively to the past.

In the example above, instead of the adult shutting down, they may think “okay disagreement with my partner is not enjoyable, but I am an adult and safe right now, and I can face this conversation.”

Here are qualities of someone with secure attachment:

  • Trust people to reach out to them when you need them
  • Respond to others when needed
  • Ability to hold multiple truths (e.g., impacted by past and able to move forward)
  • Set boundaries
  • Don’t take everything personally
  • Can feel close to others even when there is physical distance
  • Derive meaning from relationships

Peace, calm, equanimity all come when attachment security is strengthened.

If you do not have a sense of security anywhere, the impacts will project everywhere (e.g. your broader family relationships, your work relationships, your ability to function in your society).

Secure attachment is a paradox: the more safety and security we have in our ability to trust and rely on others, the more we can be independent and explore the world.

We move from codependence to effective interdependence- being reliant and reliable, and being independent.

How to Develop Secure Attachment

The schemas that our unconscious minds are operating from run deep.

To alter these schemas, convince your nervous system that you are safe in moments of conflict or disconnection, and act consciously takes repetition of new experiences of security.

Without those experiences, your body is going to keep trying to protect you from harm.

Here are a few places to start on the path to secure attachment.

The process to understanding your history and present dynamics can be complex, and anxiety therapists trained in the EFT model combine their knowledge of the theory with clinical skills to help facilitate this rewiring to safety and secure attachment.

Ultimately, you will work to:

  • Learn to understand yourself with compassion
  • Discover your attachment style
  • Rewire your defensive tendencies
  • Create new intrapsychic + relational patterns
  • Build self-trust and security
danielle sethi therapist blog naples fl

If you don’t have access to therapy, I like to suggest people start with the practice of placing space between your triggers and your reactions.

When you notice yourself feel like you need to shut down, or to aggressively approach your partner, see if you can stop, and ask yourself:

  • What am I feeling like in this moment?
  • What just activated me?
  • Does my intensity match the situation?

Little by little, journal on these thoughts and see what comes up. Take time to process tough emotions that arise as part of this process.

notebook for journaling

Yoga teaches the practice of slowing down, to be present in your body, and to breathe through temporary discomfort.

Through these practices, you are training your nervous system that discomfort ā‰  danger, and you are actively practicing regulation, all of which can develop the felt sense of security we are looking for.

Creating self-regulation and self-trust to tolerate temporary discomfort on a yoga mat provides practice of the skill required in dysregulated situations across experiences in life.

how to develop secure attachment therapy

Similar to yoga, meditation also teaches us to create pauses, actively observe our thought patterns, and stay present in times of discomfort.

This can have a similar rewiring effect- we do not have to run away or fight when we feel uncomfortable, but we can stay present in our bodies and minds to assess our safety from a conscious place.

how to develop secure attachment therapy

Remember, the patterns that we are up against changing are deeply ingrained, and change takes time.

Give yourself grace for the ways you have learned to survive and time to heal your own heart. From there, you can work toward behaviors that will support your ability to develop a secure attachment.


Find a Therapist

  • Individual Therapy: Search Psychology Today for a provider in your area trained in EFT
  • Couples Therapy: Search ICEEFT for a therapist in your state

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2 Comments

  1. Hi! Iā€™m a teacher and studied secure attachment in my early childhood education program. I never thought about the effects of a lack of secure attachment in adult relationships. This post was such an informative read!

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