Published on October 21, 2021 Updated on April 6, 2023
Obviously, having a disorganized (fearful avoidant) attachment won’t enable you to fly or grant you the power of invisibility. However, you might be pleased to learn that our attachment styles gift us with unique abilities.
*Note: this article uses the terms “disorganized attachment” and “fearful avoidant attachment” interchangeably
An attachment style refers to the way in which an individual relates to the other people in their lives. Studies show that attachment styles form in early childhood and are stable throughout our lifetime. Furthermore, they play a key role in how we think and act within the important relationships in life – regardless of whether they are personal or professional.
Attachment styles can either be secure or insecure. There are three forms of insecure attachment: anxious-preoccupied, avoidant-dismissive, and disorganized.
If a child develops in an environment that could be considered consistent, reliable, and safe, then they are likely to develop a secure attachment. However, if a child develops a fearful avoidant attachment then they may have experienced trauma or abuse in their early years.
During their formative period (typically the first 18 months of life) their caregivers may have acted chaotically or bizarrely. As a result, their caregiver becomes both a source of security and fear; the child may end up seeing their caregiver as “scary”. How can they turn to someone that they fear for comfort and support?
Because someone with disorganized attachment experienced a “chaotic” or traumatic childhood, they frequently grow up with low self-esteem. They may feel a great deal of insecurity. Oftentimes, insecurity causes someone to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, where their beliefs and actions end up forcing their expectations to become reality. This only ends up reinforcing their feelings of insecurity.
Even though it is important to acknowledge the traits and drawbacks of your attachment style, especially when you’re trying to heal it, there are a number of possible benefits that we can derive from focusing on the strengths of each attachment style.
In fact, according to the principles of positive psychology, focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses, and reinforcing the good things in life instead of dwelling on the negative can bring about positive change.
The secure attachment style is one that people typically aspire. On the contrary, fearful avoidant attachment is often seen in the most negative light due to its unpredictable and chaotic traits. However, there are still a number of advantages to having a disorganized attachment – the “superpowers” of your attachment style.
Since you might have a disorganized attachment, you may be more likely to perceive yourself in a negative light and struggle to recognize your superpowers. Therefore, in order to reinforce your strengths, you may first need to identify them.
The benefits of the disorganized attachment style are often similar to those experienced by people with anxious and avoidant attachment styles. It just depends on which one your disorganized attachment style aligns with more. You might even recognize superpowers that you previously thought were a challenge associated with your attachment style!
Be mindful that in many cases, someone with fearful avoidant attachment may need professional guidance to effectively access their strengths. Remember, you made it this far even though you likely experienced a challenging childhood. This already proves that you have at least one superpower – resilience. You have faced challenges and come back from them. You are tough and capable.
According to Ein-Dor et al. (2010), there are benefits to having an insecure attachment style on a group level, even if people struggle with it on an individual and personal level. In this way, insecure adults could be considered evolutionary altruists. Meaning that they often incur personal drawbacks in order to enhance the experiences of others.
This can be seen in the workplace in particular, as disorganized colleagues may be capable of acting as the workplace “sentinel”. In other words, they become the guardian of their team and work hard to make sure nothing bad happens.
Research by Ein-Dor and Tal (2012) also showed that people who scored highly on a quiz designed to assess for anxious attachment were much more likely to detect and alert other people to any threats. Therefore, if a disorganized adult aligns with the traits of anxious attachment then they may just be the “scared savior” of their team.
Another potential benefit of having a fearful avoidant attachment in the workplace is that you may not require the support of your colleagues in order to make decisions or finish tasks. Similar to the avoidant attachment style, fearful avoidant workers may be highly independent at work. As a result, this can reduce the demand for resources and increase efficiency.
Also, as they may not be as interested in socializing as others may be, they might be more likely to focus their energy on meeting deadlines and getting the job done.
Alternatively, due to some disorganized workers’ willingness to open up to others, they may be able to communicate effectively to their colleagues and seek support from others when necessary. You can view this as a balance between the fight or flight autonomic response. So if a disorganized adult aligns more with the anxious attachment style, stressful situations may trigger their fight response.
Thus, they will do their best to work towards a positive outcome and not let others down. However, an avoidant attacher might respond with the flight response as the stressful situation may trigger their tendency to avoid difficult situations.
Keep in mind that someone with a disorganized attachment style might need to do some personal development work before they can fully heal their attachment style within a relationship. However, once they do this then they may be capable of the following traits.
Adults with a disorganized attachment may not act needy of a partner’s time and attention in a relationship. Though they often deeply crave connections with others due to their early experiences. Of course, their partner’s attachment style may determine how they respond to this space. For example, if the partner has an avoidant style, then they will likely appreciate someone respecting their boundaries.
What’s more, a disorganized partner often retains their independence and individuality in a relationship. Due to their early experiences, they are likely to be protective of their emotions. This means that they are less likely to expose their vulnerabilities in relationships.
A disorganized adult could also give themselves over entirely to relationships if they identify more with the traits of anxious attachment. They could potentially fall in love easily and put a lot of effort into their relationships. Even if the relationship is in trouble, they may continue to work hard on maintaining the bond and not call it quits.
Furthermore, a disorganized adult may welcome intimacy in their relationships as they often crave emotional closeness. They also may have the potential to be highly attuned to their partner’s needs and be able to provide them with the support that they require to feel valued and loved.
Finally, although someone with a disorganized attachment may see themselves in a negative light, they may see their romantic partners in a mostly positive one. This means that they could help their partners to see themselves through their eyes – as loveable and worthwhile.
People with a disorganized attachment style are capable of caring deeply about and showing affection to their friends – even though they might place unrealistic expectations on them because of their profound fear of rejection.
They may demonstrate how much they care through kind and supportive words, and acts of service within their friendships. Depending on their mood, they can even be open to sharing personal information and allowing themselves to be vulnerable with others.
A disorganized adult may come across to others as sociable and cool. They often seem daring and adventurous, and people might admire them for this reason. Remember, someone with this attachment style typically craves closeness and intimacy. Therefore with work, and an understanding of why they think and act the way that they do, they are able to love and accept love from their friends.
Which of the disorganized attachment style superpowers do you identify with the most? In the same way that a disorganized attachment is forged through relationships, a secure attachment can also be fostered through the same process.
Although you have the potential to offer many positive traits to romantic partners, friendships, and workplace dynamics, you might find that you need support to access these traits. If you would like details on how group work can help heal your attachment, check out our group work page.
Frankenhuis, W. E. (2010). Did insecure attachment styles evolve for the benefit of the group? Frontiers in Psychology, 172.