For all of the scholarly articles ‘out there’ on the subject of insecure attachment disorders, tonight I turn to what might be the simplest baseline description that can be found online about how early attachment patterns are observed and ‘diagnosed’. Wikipedia has a page titled Attachment in children.
Although the basics about attachment are informative and interesting, it is this I post below in italics that matters most to me in the Wikipedia article — (I added the bold type and left in the reference numbers.):
“A fourth category termed disorganized attachment (Main & Solomon, 1990) was subsequently identified and empiricized when a sizeable number of infants defied classification in terms of Ainsworth’s original tripartite classification scheme. It can be conceptualized as the lack of a coherent ‘organized’ behavioral strategy for dealing with the stresses (i.e., the strange room, the stranger, and the comings and goings of the caregiver) of the Strange Situation Procedure.
Evidence from Main et al. has suggested that children with disorganized attachment may experience their caregivers as either frightening or frightened. A frightened caregiver is alarming to the child, who uses social referencing techniques such as checking the adult’s facial expression to ascertain whether a situation is safe.
A frightening caregiver is usually so via aggressive behaviors towards the child (either mild or direct physical/sexual behaviors) [and/or VERBAL] and puts the child in a dilemma which Main and colleagues have called ‘fear without solution.’
In other words, the caregiver is both the source of the child’s alarm as well as the [supposed-to-be] child’s haven of safety.
Through parental behaviors that are frightening, the caregiver puts the child in an irresolvable paradox of approach-avoidance.
This paradox, in fact, may be one explanation for some of the ‘stilling’ and ‘freezing’ behaviors observed in children judged to be disorganized.
Human interactions are experienced as erratic, thus children cannot form a coherent, organized interactive template.
If the child uses the caregiver as a mirror to understand the self, the disorganized child is looking into a mirror broken into a thousand pieces.
It is more severe than learned helplessness as it is the model of the self rather than of a situation.
There is a growing body of research on the links between abnormal parenting, disorganized attachment and risks for later psychopathologies. Abuse is associated with disorganized attachment. The disorganized style is a risk factor for a range of psychological disorders although it is not in itself considered an attachment disorder under the current classification.”
I absolutely believe that disorganized-disoriented IS an attachment disorder. I would have to distract myself by running around the www for some info to back myself up – However, I have other things I need to be doing right now…..
“Model of the self rather than of a situation” — I personally find this terminology useless in a discussion of severe early abuse survivorship with its corresponding attachment disorders. As an adult survivor of 18 years of severe abuse from birth I know more from within myself about what this topic is about than any non-abuse so-called expert will EVER know. Every time parental abuse disorganizes-disorients the experience of an infant-child, pathways and circuits are created in the brain-nervous system-body accordingly. This has NOTHING to do with SELF in the beginning! These patterns DISTORT the victim’s ability to form a self in the first place. When a little one is forced to remain in a traumatic environment without end the ‘situation’ all but becomes ‘the self’.
Making any distinction between situation/environment and ‘self’ during the most critical brain developmental stages before age one – that FORM the social-emotional brain and the pathways and circuitry that regulate (or dysregulate) social and emotional experiences for a lifetime – cannot be done. Only when a little one is safe and secure ENOUGH to begin to develop a self that is something OTHER than a ‘survival machine’ can we think about the luxury of the formation of a self.
I sat to write this post because I wanted to TRAP into a text two words that have been periodically appearing in my thoughts over this past week: FRANTIC PANIC.
As I track ‘anxiety’ in my body I usually do not let myself follow it far enough to its source, which was (and is on some level today at age 60) exactly this state of feeling/being: FRANTIC PANIC.
I recognize that this feeling state was forced upon me by a TERRIFYING, brutal Mother who did not hesitate to attack me from the time I was born. Mother attacked me for the following 18 years – and I know especially before the age of 9 or 10, FRANTIC PANIC was my response.
Mother’s attacks usually came at me out of the blue. She was psychotic. What she saw either did not happen at all, or did not happen the way Mother said that it did. I was unable to predict anything about what she did to me, when she did it, or why she did it.
From my child point of view, her attacks DISORGANIZED AND DISORIENTED me. I believe the disorganizing and disorienting experiences of repeated traumas built dissociation into my body-brain – and just like there is electricity inherent in a bolt of lightning, there was FRANTIC PANIC in my responses to Mother’s attacks.
FRANTIC PANIC is not “fear without resolution” in my thinking, it is a natural, physiological TERROR response to an attack for which a young child has no possible resolution abilities – hence, very often dissociation is the result – not AS attacks happen but BETWEEN the attacks.
Anyone who doesn’t know what this feeling state is like, just think of a giant bigger than your house attacking you right this moment out of the blue – violently, terrifying you, startling you, crashing your world – and you have NO defense, no escape, no understanding of ANYTHING that is happening to you. There I was, over and over again more times than I could now count, being a little person – and suddenly out of nowhere BOOOMMMM!!!
My FIRST response? FRANTIC PANIC. What do the ‘professionals’ want to call that feeling left in the body of infant-child abuse survivors? Anxiety: What a paltry, pasty, pathetic, completely inadequate word!
THE EFFECTS OF EARLY RELATIONAL TRAUMA ON RIGHT BRAIN By Dr. Allan Schore