Alternative Healing
Trauma Center


The Four Attachment Styles


Secure healthy attachment with parents who are consistent, attuned, present, and safe, offers the holding environment that allows for healthy relating and bonding. Fortunately, we can re-access the original, innate healthy attachment system later in life.

When we come to understand our early attachment styles in a healthy environment today, the original imprints that are the foundation of our self -protective ego structure can be healed so that we can have more contact with our intrinsic core intactness and enjoy fulfilling relationships embodying our Authentic Self.



  1. Have basic trust in self and others from good enough parenting
  2. Are well-attuned to others, can stay present for connection, and be aware when something feels “off”
  3. Can be present in life and in relationships in an embodied way
  4. Have strong self-esteem and are respectful of others
  5. Practice initiating and receiving repair attempts when needed
  6. Most of the time think, feel, and express feedback to and about their partner in the positive
  7. Can leave unhealthy and/or abusive relationships relatively easily with confidence that they will be ok
  8. Do not endure bad situations, and know they deserve to be well-treated
  9. Are clear about their own needs and express these needs directly
  10. Address difficulties in the relationship when conflict needs to be worked out
  11. Are not afraid of being alone
  12. Feel compassion for themselves and others when there is suffering
  13. Are mature in their responses in relationships, and orient most often to the adult ego state as their identity

THE GOAL of this work is to return to our inherent secure attachment as adults, even though we may have had difficult attachment disruptions as a child. We will be exploring how to learn secure attachment through experiencing and creating healthy relationships and drawing on the unlimited compassion and essential states available in the universal field. We can heal bio-psychologically, and also from expanding into spiritual dimensions.



Unavailability, hostility, and lack of fulfillment from caregivers in the ‘Avoidant’ attachment model can result in a feeling that relationship and intimacy are so difficult that we tend to stay on the sidelines…perhaps a major ‘disconnection’ from relationships is a source of comfort in life. Parents may have been distant emotionally, and rejecting and insensitive to child’s needs.

We need to create enough safety and presence for an avoidant person to risk reaching out again in adult relationships after the intolerable frustration, hurt, and unavailability they experienced as children. What happens when the other person they meet has the capacity to be present and safe enough for potential bonding to occur? We must honor that to not feel, and to dismiss others, was the strategy that helped them survive childhood.

  1.  Avoidant attached adults avoid and move away from true intimacy and relationships
  2.  Minimizes importance of relationships in life
  3.  Lives on their own, which is a mental adaption versus a conscious choice of the infant
  4. Can have dissociative symptoms. May disappear or disconnect without realizing it
  5. Stay busy and may believe in hard work and extreme independence
  6. As a child, may have experienced a world emotionally isolated from parents
  7. Reduces expectations of others
  8. Minimizes proximity seeking
  9. Distances self from others and self, may dominate his or her experience and may be unaware of disconnection
  10. Engages in dry, logical, analytic thinking; lack of sensory or intuitive component
  11. May have factual memory of an event in the past, but no felt sense
  12. See self as loner
  13. Often dismisses others, and over-focus on self
  14. Difficulty in experiencing and expressing emotions or needs
  15. Person may incorrectly determine that they are happiest alone, and deny their need for others
  16. Have given up on humans, and relate to animals, nature, spirit helpers, etc. for support
  17. May feel alien, not belonging, outcast, and not seen
  18. May have a lot of energy stuck in their head, without realizing it
  19. Easy to be brilliant cognitively, but difficult to experience emotions
  20. Fear risk, wanting or belonging, as it feels overwhelmingly vulnerable
  21. Not available in relationships
  22. Deny their own needs and resent their partner having or expressing needs, and harshly judge and label their partner weak for having needs. Emotion is a foreign language
  23. Not showing up or present in the relationship, re-enacting the way the parent may have been with them
  24. Difficulty with contact – visual or touch


May have many friends and engage on a somewhat superficial level, and most issues may not arise until they enter a deep partner relationship where deeper needs may begin to surface and deeper transference issues get triggered.



The here today, gone tomorrow ‘anxious’ type of bonding leads to continual frustration and insecurity in relating, that may manifest as feeling incapable of ever being truly loved or lovable enough, and an over-focus on the “other” and an under-focus on the self.

We need to create enough consistent and reliable contact for an ambivalent person to relax the over-focus on others and to find and connect with themselves. They avoid distance with others, and fear abandonment. They seek closeness, but struggle with the fear of losing it. They often underestimate themselves and their real capacities. This comes from the parenting style they received of an “on again/off again“ connection, and unreliable love. Their was no consistency. They may feel unloved and/or unlovable, due to the dynamics of the past, and project the unavailability and lack of fulfillment on current partners. Sometimes in adult relationships, the person reverses the pattern and becomes the unavailable one.

  1. Have a lack of awareness of one’s own needs
  2. Feel undeserving, inadequate, or lovable
  3. Insecure about whether needs will be met, or if it is even ok to have needs in a relationship
  4. Fear that having needs will result in abandonment 
  5. Accept what is given instead of asking for what one truly wants
  6. Always wanting, never having, so that even when one is given an opportunity to receive real love and caring, they may reject it because it feels unfamiliar, intolerable or “not them”. They have an impaired capacity to receive, which can be corrected
  7. Experience chronic anxiety, frustration, and despair regarding relationships
  8. Always anxious to please, and everyone else is more important than them
  9. May give to get, and resent it when others don’t give as much
  10. They lose themselves in relationships and over-focus on the other’s needs and desires
  11. Has belief that “Sure you love me today, but what about tomorrow?”. This causes their partners to never be able to do enough to prove their love trustworthy
  12. Their fear may eventually be successful in pushing their partner away, self-creating their own worst nightmare
  13. Feel abandoned and disconnect from themselves
  14. Project the past abandonment on the present relationship
  15. Obsessive focus on others
  16. Belief that relief only comes from others
  17. Worry about what other people think of them
  18. Can’t stay present with one’s self when in a relationship
  19. Hunger for closeness, with simultaneous disabling fear of losing it
  20. Always defending against the next loss
  21. Leaky boundaries between past and present
  22. Has a similar dynamic of gambling addiction because of the reward system of the partner’s inconsistency. Hot and loving one minute, and cold and dismissing the next



Feel that conspicuous insecurity has been the most reliable means for gaining the attention of unreliable others. This is hard to give up…and may support a strategy and an identity. Because of the recurring threat of abandonment, anxious disruption may cause a person to be to willing to please, and too fearful to assert their own needs – if they even have an awareness of what those needs are.



When a parent is terrifying, we may become so frightened and confused in relating, that ‘Disorganized’ attachment can result. This describes a conflict between two major biological drives that occurs when a child looks for a safe attachment figure, and finds instead a need to protect one’s self through the survival instincts to dis-attach.

  1. Attachment thrives with safety, and dis-attachment occurs with fear. The need to distance in order to survive counters the need to attach for nurturing care-giving. Child cannot use parent to soothe, as parent is the source of fear
  2. The primary Attachment System is designed around safety for the child. When the child experiences physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, he or she develops dis-attachment
  3. Dual dilemma: The child experiences terror of the attachment figure AND the loss of the safe haven needed for healthy attachment with minimal possibility of fight or flight to reduce threat
  4. Child remains stuck between Approach and Avoidance and can become frozen into trancelike stillness that can move toward clinical dissociation
  5. Child may develop social difficulties, attention deficits, and lack of coherent mind. They may become aggressive with others, or exhibit controlling-style, due to danger experienced with out–of-control, scary parents
  6. Paradoxical messages from caregivers lead to overwhelming feelings most of the time, and an inability to solve problems
  7. May use present tense to describe the past, incomplete sentences, prolonged pauses in speech, and cognitive disruption. They have the greatest risk of psychiatric disorders
  8. Two major drives are in conflict: the innate drive to attach, and the instinctual drive to survive
  9. May feel like a failure in relationships, due to the overwhelming and dissociative reactions that arise due to the intensity of the past relational trauma
  10. Inner confusion about when connection is safe and when there is a valid need to run or fight
  11. Cannot tolerate ambiguity. Lack of clarity can create inner turmoil and an anger or panic response
  12. Inner chaos from exposure to unsafe and crazy-making situations in the home
  13. They may feel disoriented or fragmented in the relationship because parents had a disorganizing effect on the person’s attachment system
  14. They may have physical and emotional numbness
  15. Due to the need to dissociate, persons with disorganized attachment often do not live in their bodies, and then have trouble taking good care of them. If they experience a great deal of fear when they feel exiled, they may take extreme measures to feel them again, in the form of cutting, self-mutilation, or other harmful self–inflicted actions
  16. Fear of going crazy; being exposed to crazy-making situations does not make one crazy
  17. Memory difficulties: The developing hippocampus is temporarily disrupted by trauma, so that implicit nonverbal memory is disorganized. Also, later experience that was traumatic may remain without context, in a timeless and wordless way. In this state, the trauma patient is destined to relive events in a flashback, where all the senses – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, or being touched or harmed during the past the event, is experienced as to be actually happening again
  18. Not knowing who or when to trust
  19. Confusion about evaluating danger signals, because they have needed to override their survival instincts
  20. Chronic need to fight or flee in relationships
  21. Sense of safety severely lacking
  22. Dissociative behavior
  23. Not present
  24. Partner feels abandoned, due to the dissociative reactions and the disorganized adult’s difficulties in maintaining presence
  25. Partners may become afraid of the sudden shifts in states of consciousness, and the extreme emotions or rage or panic that sometimes accompany them, alternating with eerie dissociative behavior
  26. Night terrors or flashbacks may cause the disorganized adult to act out, and dissociation may limit their awareness of impact it is having on them and their relationship
  27. N.V.C. – Non Violent Communication



Patterns of attachment disruption are easily transferred through the generations. When we heal our own wounds, we break this unfortunate chain of behavior. By taking responsibility to heal ourselves, we can enjoy healthier adult relationships, while also healing our relationships with our parents and our children. It is not about “them changing,” but more about how we want to be in our relationships. The choices we make will greatly influence our connections with partners, family, at work, and with friends.

You have just read the four Attachment Styles. You may have a combination model that you are working with. They were honestly earned and developed as a way of surviving and belonging to our original family systems. The intention is to move into Safe Secure Attachment. C.A.P.S. is the antedote (consistency, attunement, presence, and safety). We can give that to ourselves as adults, and move out of our attachment woundings.

I use a lot of different exercises, practices, and processes to develop Safe Secure Attachment which is innate within every human being. All of the information above, and my training, came from Dianne Poole Heller, who has developed wonderful healing for early attachment patterns and for re-patterning. Her website for trainings and further information is WWW.DRDIANEPOOLEHELLER.COM

Attachment in Psychotherapy by David J.Wallin
The Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel

Hazel Williams Carter is not licensed in California (or any other state) as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, marriage family child counselor, or psychotherapist.


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