Do you find yourself often doubting if your best friend, significant other, or parent will be sufficiently supportive and care about you? Do you believe that they won’t support you and you can only rely on yourself? If so, you may have an avoidant or anxious attachment style.

Individuals with avoidant attachment tend to turn inward as they do not believe people will support them. 1 However, individuals with anxious attachment turn to outward support for affirmation as they overcompensate for fears that others will not be supportive or care due to self-esteem issues. 1 While research suggests that attachment styles are relatively stable, recent findings suggest that they have the potential to change. 2 

But how easy is it to change your mind and internal working model if attachment has the power to twist your memory? One study found that when significant others were told to recall a discussion about conflict in their relationship, insecurely attached participants had inaccurate recollections immediately after. 4 Since insecure styles are highly active during distress, people may improperly remember their interactions in close relationships. Not only could this reinforce attachment, but it also hinders their responsiveness. 4 However, hope is not lost as researchers have found that changes in attachment style are possible through work on the self and the relationship! 1

Let’s say you nodded along to my first question, then you might have some level of anxious attachment. Do not fret, even though you might want others to show you unwavering support despite never feeling like it is enough for you, that cycle can come to an end! In fact, studies have shown that intervention strategies require inward improvements through self-esteem. 1 While this may seem like it’s asking for a lot, it also means that you have some control as you can work on improving your self-esteem. Yes, your seemingly perfect partner may someday arrive and shower you with love, however, it may still not feel sufficient if you don’t believe you are worthy of the support.1 You can’t fully depend on someone else to help you become securely attached, although they may help it is crucial to work on yourself. Not only will it allow you to believe your partner when they care for you, but research has shown it makes anxious individuals less likely to depend on others, feel autonomous, and generally feel more secure. 1 

Now, let’s say you nodded at my second question, then you might have some level of avoidant attachment. Again, there is no need to worry or keep your fears hidden within, ha, instead you should feel excited that there are strategies you can work on with people to feel more secure. I know, crazy, turning to other people?! But yes, for individuals with avoidant attachment, research suggests that improvements need to be made amongst your relationships by establishing trust. 1 While establishing trust in relationships, especially when you don’t have faith in others, can be very challenging, studies have shown that priming techniques can be used as an intervention method to increase trust, even with strangers. 3

So, before you are told by some stubborn psychologists that your attachment style is set in stone, or even crazier that it has “doomed” you, remember if you want to, you can change your mind! 2 Not that you need it, but if you want to become more secure in your relationships, you can intervene by priming yourself to increase trust or by working on your self-esteem! 3 & 1

  1. Arriaga, X. B., Kumashiro, M., Finkel, E. J., VanderDrift, L. E., & Luchies, L. B. (2013). Filling the void. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(4), 398–406.  
  2. Jakubiak, B. K., Fuentes, J. D., & Feeney, B. C. (2023). Perceptions of oneself and one’s spouse following a stressor discussion predicting attachment insecurity over one year. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 40(10), 3195–3219.  
  3. Posten, A.-C., Ockenfels, A., & Mussweiler, T. (2014). How activating cognitive content shapes trust: A subliminal priming study. Journal of Economic Psychology, 41, 12–19. 
  4. Simpson, J. A., Rholes, W. S., & Winterheld, H. A. (2010). Attachment Working Models Twist Memories of Relationship Events. Psychological Science, 21(2), 252–259.

3 Replies to “Can I change your mind?

  1. One of my concerns, and we discussed this in class, is producing long term changes in attachment. It has been shown that priming is effective in small periods of time but I would be surprised if these effects persisted. I am particularly skeptical because of Simpson’s findings — that our attachment styles twist memories when we are under distress (e.g. heightened blood pressure and/or heart rate). I think that when we’re under distress, we struggle to regulate our emotions and would rely on the attachment styles that we’ve had our entire lives. So, I fear that many of the priming studies fail to account for the role that distress plays in relationship events, and that stressful situations make it particularly difficult to alter our engrained attachment styles.

  2. I like the way you described anxious/avoidant attachment styles and made the tone so relatable, while keeping a positive tone of those who may have more insecure attachment. You also really well-incorporated the different articles, addressing how one may change their attachment style within their relationships.

    I’d love to learn more about priming to increase trust, especially because it was found to be strong enough to develop trust with strangers! I’d also be interested in how interventions may interact with the memory twist effect, and if there were a way to almost harness these memory augmentations to make the intervention more effective in changing one’s attachment style.

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