Enneagram Attachment Styles: The Secret Bonds of Enneagram

12 March 2024

Enneagram attachment styles allow us to comprehend the behavior of each Enneagram type on a very deep level. Moreover, learning how each Enneagram type forms an attachment will also contribute to our understanding of their relationship needs.

Therefore, we combined the insights from one of the fundamental psychological theories with the wisdom of the Enneagram personality test system to explain the internal logic of each personality type.

In this article, we’ll explain the concept of attachment styles and the manner in which each Enneagram type constructs relationships and organizes their life strategy.

What Are Attachment Styles?

Attachment styles describe the way we connect and build relationships with other people. Attachment theory, developed by psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the mid-20th century, explains how the bonds formed between the child and their caregivers shape individuals’ relationships throughout life.

The attachment theory, later expanded by psychologist Mary Ainsworth, became one of the fundamental theories for comprehending the psychology of personality.

So, according to this theory, there are four different attachment styles:

#1. Secure attachment. People with secure attachment styles have positive experiences of their earliest bonds. They are not afraid to give and receive affection and communicate their needs assertively. This attachment style is formed when the child is surrounded by caregivers who are consistent and attuned to their needs.

#2. Anxious-preoccupied attachment. People with anxious, preoccupied attachment styles experience inconsistent affection and care and, as a result, have a deep fear of rejection and abandonment. For this reason, they tend to obsess and worry about their relationships and constantly seek reassurance from their partners.

#3. Dismissive-avoidant attachment. People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style tend to be fiercely independent and struggle with emotional expression and emotional intimacy. The reason behind this is that they were raised by emotionally unavailable caregivers or have experienced the loss of caregivers very early.

#4. Fearful-avoidant attachment (also known as disorganized attachment). When children grow up surrounded by caregivers who are unpredictable, insecure, inconsistent, and emotionally unavailable, they develop a fearful-avoidant attachment style. They desire emotional intimacy in relationships but are terrified of being emotionally close, which causes them great internal turmoil.

Attachment Styles of Each Enneagram Type

The majority of people (about 51%) fall into the secure attachment category. But, in light of the modern psychological insights that indicate that attachment styles can change, these statistics don’t offer much practical benefit.

As a result, any given Enneagram type could potentially exhibit any given attachment style under certain circumstances. We can, however, predict which attachment style each type will gravitate to when functioning poorly or under extreme stress.

Enneagram Type 1 Attachment Style

Enneagram Type One attachment style usually leans toward fearful-avoidant. Fearful avoidant types have a negative view of themselves and of other people, which results in their distancing from relationships.

This negative self-perception of Type Ones is usually the result of being brought on by caregivers who are too demanding, critical, and harsh, making the child feel like they are never good enough.

As a result, Ones internalize their caregivers’ criticism and develop perfectionistic traits, led by the belief that only if they are perfect do they deserve to be loved and accepted. However, they project their high standards onto other people too, and they often expect some kind of perfection in their relationships too.

Nevertheless, since perfection is impossible to attain in real life, Ones tend to be chronically disappointed in their relationships. This also explains why Ones are prone to self-isolation.

As a result, they may avoid relationships, throw themselves into work, and mask their fear of bonding with other people by engaging in self-sacrificing altruistic projects.

Meanwhile, Ones with a secure attachment style will show the traits of healthy perfectionism, and focus on building meaningful relationships, understanding that everyone is a ‘work in progress’.

Enneagram Type 2 Attachment Style

Enneagram Type 2 attachment style strongly gravitates toward anxious-preoccupied. People with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style have trouble believing they are deserving of love and tend to doubt their partner’s affection constantly.

Moreover, Twos believe they need to earn love and respect by putting other people’s needs first. In relationships, they tend to emotionally monitor their partners, constantly checking for early signs of abandonment and obsessing over whether they are loved as much as they love their partners.

For this reason, Twos engage in all kinds of behaviors with the goal of pleasing other people, hoping that if they satisfy their needs, other people will reciprocate with love and respect.

This kind of attachment style is often the result of Twos growing up with immature caregivers, overwhelmed with their problems, and unable or unwilling to attune to the child’s emotional needs.

As a result, roles become reversed, and the child tries to soothe their caregivers and develops a belief typical of type Two—‘I am only as worthy as I am helpful’.

Meanwhile, Twos with a secure attachment style are generous and caring, yet they have strong personal boundaries and have no trouble saying ‘no’ to other people when they want to.

Enneagram Type 3 Attachment Style

Enneagram Type 3 attachment style leans toward dismissive-avoidant. People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment pattern tend to perceive themselves as better than other people. This clarifies why Threes are so competitive; no matter the task at hand, they feel the need to demonstrate their superiority.

The background of this attachment style in Threes usually involves caregivers who focus on the child’s achievements while neglecting their emotions. In such an atmosphere, Threes learned that they can only preserve attachment if they prove to be the best at everything they do.

For this reason, their image of a winner often hides a deeply insecure personality. Moreover, Threes choose partners who fit the image they want to project onto the world, and, in turn, their relationships may be shallow and artificial. They not only struggle to connect with other people, but they also have difficulties staying in touch with their own feelings.

Experiencing unconditional acceptance and honest love through friendship or a romantic relationship can help Threes move toward a secure attachment style.

Enneagram Type 4 Attachment Style

Enneagram Type 4 attachment style also gravitates toward fearful-dismissive. Like Threes, they tend to assume a superior attitude. However, their superiority is based on the belief that their perception of the world is deeper than that of other people and that others are not yet at their level of insight.

The reason why Fours are inclined to this attachment style is that they were usually raised in families where there wasn’t much emotional support and understanding. There’s often a lot of loneliness and sorrow in their upbringing.

To shield themselves from feeling lonely, Fours developed a rich inner world of imagination and feelings, and they are terrified to let someone into it.

They project an image of artistic creativity that is hard to understand because being perceived as unique shields them from feeling dismissed, invalidated, and disappointed in other people.

The crucial lesson for Fours to move toward a secure attachment style is to stop neglecting their need for connection and cultivate empathy toward other people.

Enneagram Type 5 Attachment Style

Enneagram Type 5 attachment style mostly correlates with a fearful-avoidant attachment pattern. This means Fives solve their connection anxiety by avoiding relationships. One of the ways they do this is by disengaging from the world and going into their heads.

This is why the Fives insist on logic, rationality, and objectivity, using science and knowledge as tools for distancing themselves from their emotional needs and feelings.

One of the reasons for this is that they usually grew up in highly unstable environments where showing feelings was too risky, as they could never predict how their caregivers would react.

In addition, people with a fearful, avoidant attachment style fear and crave connection at the same time, which creates a lot of anxiety and inner conflicts. Thanks to this chronic inner turmoil, Fives often feel as though they don’t have enough energy to deal with relationships.

Moreover, since emotional intimacy feels profoundly unpredictable and threatening to them, they may insist on platonic relationships, exaggerating the importance of intellectual compatibility.

For Fives to experience secure attachment, it is essential they feel physically and emotionally safe in a relationship.

Enneagram Type 6 Attachment Style

The Enneagram Type 6 attachment style also fits the fearful-avoidant pattern of behavior. Sixes are generally characterized by their anxious nature and uncertainty, which are particularly evident in their closest relationships.

For this reason, Sixes' behavior may oscillate from obsessing about their partner’s affection to avoiding intimacy and feeling smothered in a relationship. This duality is a distinctive characteristic of the fearful-avoidant attachment style and reflects the ambivalence Sixes feel in their relationships.

Essentially, Sixes struggle to trust the relationship and need a lot of reassurance and tact from their partner. Similarly to Fives, they also need to feel safe and protected in an emotional sense to move toward secure attachment.

The reason why Sixes are prone to fearful-avoidant attachment patterns is that they experience a lot of unpredictability from an early age. Their caregivers were either disengaged, emotionally cold, or completely unpredictable, so Sixes could never rely on them for support.

Stability and support in relationships are crucial for them to develop a secure attachment style.

Enneagram Type 7 Attachment Style

Enneagram Type 7 attachment style generally leans toward avoidant types of attachment. They can be fearful avoidants and fearful dismissives. Their connection pattern could be the result of a lack of mature adults during their upbringing. They could have been either spoiled or neglected, but either way, they might not have had their emotional needs recognized and met.

As a result, Sevens are terrified of dealing with deep feelings and insist on keeping everything light and fun. Their insistence on independence and the constant pursuit of new, exciting experiences efficiently mask their fear of close connection.

That’s because emotional intimacy may expose them to conflict, discomfort, and all kinds of painful experiences, which is something they don’t feel they can handle. Therefore, though they easily fall in love, they struggle to maintain relationships and are prone to disengage and run away the moment things get serious.

Sevens need a strong and reliable parental figure to show them what secure attachment feels like so that they can grow and develop more meaningful connections.

Enneagram Type 8 Attachment Style

Enneagram Type 8 attachment style oscillates between secure and avoidant dismissive. Eights are known as the most self-assured Enneagram personality type, and such self-confidence is often related to secure attachment.

However, they also strongly lean toward the avoidant-dismissive, who are also highly self-confident but don’t have positive regard for other people like those with secure attachments.

Eights’ early experiences are often marked by betrayal, manipulation, and control, which is why they become fiercely independent adults who struggle to trust other people. They focus on becoming strong in every sense—physically, emotionally, and mentally—so that nothing can hurt them.

The closer they are to the dismissive attachment type, the more they struggle with accepting their vulnerability. They may also equate tenderness with weakness and find it hard to open up emotionally in a relationship.

Eights need someone who will provide them with love and support without limiting their freedom so that they can move toward secure attachment.

Enneagram Type 9 Attachment Style

Enneagram Type 9 attachment style oscillates between secure and anxiously-preoccupied attachment types. Healthy Nines are generally an excellent example of the secure attachment type—they approach everyone with respect, seek solutions and soothe conflicts, and remain objective and self-composed under pressure.

However, unhealthy Nines are very similar to dysfunctional Twos. They have no perception of their personal boundaries and go out of their way to please other people, chronically neglecting their own needs.

They develop an anxious-preoccupied attachment style as a lot of ambivalence characterizes their upbringing. Their caregivers might not have been consistent and present enough to instill a sense of security in them.

As a result, Nines fear abandonment and insist on maintaining harmony in their connection at all costs, even when the relationship is obviously dysfunctional and bad for them. They invest all their energy into trying to keep the other person happy while repressing their own needs for the sake of the relationship.

What makes the difference between secure and anxiously preoccupied attachment for Nines is stability. The more consistent, reliable, and stable their partner is, the more Nine gravitates toward a secure attachment style.

Key Takeaways

While our attachment style is mostly shaped by our upbringing, it can be transformed by major life events like significant relationships, traumas, the loss of loved ones, and similar experiences.

Moreover, it has been found that just one healthy relationship experience can significantly improve our capacity for bonding with other people. Therefore, every Enneagram type can display any attachment style at some point in their life.

In general, secure attachment styles are characteristic of high-functioning Enneagram types. The presence of unhealthy and dysfunctional behavior patterns reveals the degree to which insecure attachment styles may have developed.