The first style can be described as Secure. When people are more secure in their relational style, they can ask for love and caring when they need it, expecting that their partners will be there for them and responsive to their needs. In addition, they are attentive and responsive to their partners and may easily share their feelings and receive the feelings of their partners with a sense of curiosity and compassion.
When partners make the assessment, either consciously or unconsciously, that their feelings and needs might not be heard or respected, strategies of anxiety and avoidance may be used and relied on. EFT therapists Veronica Kallas-Lily and George Faller have provided the following metaphors as decribed below (and as detailed in Stepping into Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (2018) by Lorrie Brubacher) to more fully describe anxious and avoidant styles of attachment.
In an anxious relational style, an individual may pursue for emotional connection and become preoccupied with the threat of not getting their needs met or losing their partner. Here’s a metaphor: Imagine you are swimming in a deep lake and the sky is darkening. You realize that you’re far from land and don’t have the strength to swim back to shore. A motorboat drives by and you call out, hoping to climb on board, but instead it circles around you. You cry out again but instead of taking you on-board, it drives by again, and you become increasingly panicked and desperate, fearing you may drown alone in the cold waters, becoming angry and suspecting that the driver of the boat sees you, but doesn’t care that you are about to die.
Avoidant people also feel insecure in their relationships, but instead may withdraw and keep their feelings hidden deep-within by distancing, numbing-out, shutting down or acting as if they are independent and don’t really need emotional connection. Here’s a metaphor: Imagine you are crossing a huge, open field, where you know there are buried landmines. Far in the distance, you can see the person you love on the other side of the field, yet you feel the danger and risk of crossing the field. Carefully, you begin to tread across the field when a landmine explodes and BANG!! You narrowly escaped an injury, when you try to again move closer to your loved one across the field, attempting to suppress your fear and escape injury. You start to feel that you would be much safer staying on the other end of the field, alone.
In the third common insecure attachment strategy, both anxiety and avoidance become activated into a strategy of fearful avoidant. “Come here, come here; go away!” In this type of attachment strategy which is commonly seen with trauma survivors, both anxiety and avoidance are high. There is an overall sense of needing someone, yet feeling you can trust no-one. Here’s a metaphor: Imagine you are alone and lost on a dark street in some strange town where you know no one except for your travel companion. Somehow you get lost from your travel partner and wander up and down streets by yourself becoming increasingly anxious. Suddenly, you think you see the familiar jacket of your travel companion and call out, only to discover that it is not your companion, but instead the menacing face of a person carrying a weapon. You turn and run, and once again think you see the familiar jacket of your travel companion, only to realize that when the person turns around to face you, it’s the grim reaper and you continue to run, alone and frightened.
EFT couples therapy is research-based to be highly effective in creating secure strategies of reaching and responding, so that deep emotional bonds of attachment and connection can be fostered and enhanced, and insecure styles of relating can become secure.