Monday, September 21, 2015. If we have a history of early traumatic relationships that built our developing nervous system, brain and self within unsafe and insecure attachment conditions rather than within safe and secure attachment conditions those patterns of insecurity within us can very easily become activated in every relationship we have – especially our most meaningful ones – for the duration of our life.
While I am certainly not saying that safe and securely attached people do not have relationship difficulties, I am saying that because we severe early trauma survivors were built in, by and for a primarily malevolent world we have never been designed for default patterns of safety and security in this world – certainly not within the human-to-human world.
While it is often very helpful to us in our efforts to build healthy safe and secure attachment relationships to have identified the specific details and nature of our early traumas, I do not believe this information gives us – by itself – the most important avenues we need in order to create and sustain the kinds and quality of relationships with people we most want to have in our current and future life.
We need to learn to identify the PATTERNS within the range of how human attachment systems operate. These patterns exist as very early-forming neurobiological expressions that appear in our body/brain and then in how we feel, how we think and how we act/react.
I continue to most highly recommend Dr. Daniel J.Siegel and Mary Hartzell’s book
for its practical explanation of what attachment is, how to identify patterns of attachment, how these patterns originate, how we experience them in relationships and how we can change them.
Trauma survivors are not alone in having human needs. Everyone has them. When anyone has an attachment need that is creating an “insecurity” within them this means, most simply, that their attachment system is turned ON (it is activated).
If person A is called in some way to “caregive” to another person B –whose attachment need system is also turned ON — person A will not be able to fully caregive to B unless A can either turn OFF (deactivate) their attachment need system or at least relegate their need to an inconspicuous level at this time.
I have found this toggle-switch-like ON/OFF (attachment need/caregive in response to need) connection between activated need (insecurity) and caregiver response is most clearly conceptualized and explained in the writings presented here:
All the links are contained together here: +CAREGIVING IN ADULT ATTACHMENT RELATIONSHIPS
Links in the series separately:
Ahh! But there is so much more to our story!
The end goal of early safe and secure attachment is to create a fully autonomous adult who can flexibly and appropriately choose from the widest array possible of health-and-happiness producing options in response to self, others and one’s environment.
High Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score people and/or people with severe early attachment trauma histories of abuse and neglect usually suffer from what I call a PRIMARY insecure attachment disorder. Our attachment need system rarely if ever turns itself OFF or can be turned OFF.
We were formed in an environment that did not meet our basic human needs and that by its severely traumatic nature also created additional extraordinary needs within us.
As adults we work to become conscious of our own needs as we take responsibility for them. It is nobody else’s job to take care of us. (We are grownups, no longer kids.) When we lost sight of what our own needs are we can also become very foggy about our “demands” for someone else to respond to us in ways we WANT them to. (For a connection to “codependency” CLICK HERE.)
Having lived many years in a high desert region where much research goes into learning about the lifespan of trees has given me a useful image in my thinking about the differences between those with “primary” insecure attachments and those without them.
Evidently a tree left to grow through too many of its early developmental years in a pot will never grow a true taproot once it has been transplanted into the earth. As I see it people raised in a safe and secure (benevolent) attachment world are enabled to grow their taproot from the start of their life within the enriching soil of healthy human interactions. Those of us raised in the horrors of a drastically unsafe and insecure (malevolent) attachment world are like trees whose potential for life is constricted within a pot of impossibility.
When developmental expert Dr. Martin Teicher speaks of the kinds of physiological changes that happen during the developmental stages of maltreated infants and children he also notes that it is most often the total MISMATCH between growing up in a malevolent world and then being transplanted later into a mostly benevolent world that creates so many additional problems for severe early trauma survivors.
Our body/brain/self was designed to keep us alive in a world that WAS impossible to survive within.
In the words of Dr. Donald Woods Winnicott (some of whose writings are presented here: The Language of Winnicott) — “going on being” is an essential component of the development of an authentic “self” – which, from a severe trauma survivor’s point of view, is only possible if LIFE ITSELF is allowed to “go on being” at all.
It is the unsolvable paradox of surviving what cannot be survived, of “going on being” when “going on being” is not possible for a tiny infant/child, that forms the basis of the “primary” insecure attachment disorder patterns some of us are left to negotiate relationships with throughout our lifespan.
Yet, we are NOT trees! We do continue to stretch and grow our attachment relationship taproot into the soil of health, happiness, safety and security – in the best way we know how to — no matter what our early trauma experiences have been.
But we are not indigenous inhabitants of a safe and secure attachment relationship (benevolent) world. We are transplants. We live in the complicated aftermath of severe early trauma.
How DID we remain alive when doing so was impossible?
How DO we give so much to others when so many of our essential early needs were never met?
We replaced “No, you CANNOT” with “Yes, I CAN!”
We replaced “No, you WILL NOT” with “Yes, I WILL!”
“If there is a good way forward, I will find it. If there is no good way forward, I will create one.”
But I think the hardest part has to do with having been SO ALONE, having to essentially survive as a self – alone.
How do we even learn what safe and secure attachment IS? How do we learn to be TOGETHER with other people? How do we learn to help others learn how to be TOGETHER with us?
How do we learn to be alone without – well – FEELING SO ALL ALONE? How do we — come to think about it — even learn how to be around other people without STILL FEELING SO ALL ALONE?
No other person is ever going to be able to take our pain away from us. No one else is going to remove from us the essences of all that we have been through. These elements are a part of us.
But the risk is that we might WANT someone to take care of us, to heal us, to remove our essential aloneness – WHATEVER it is that should NEVER have been a part of our life in the first place.
HA! Not gonna happen! And that is perfectly OK!
Boundaries lie where you remain you while I remain me.
This is the integrity of life.
Here is our first book out in ebook format. Click here to view or purchase –
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Tags: adult attachment disorders, adult reactive attachment disorder, anxiety disorders,borderline mother, borderline personality disorder, brain development, child abuse,depression,derealization, disorganized disoriented insecure attachment disorder,dissociation,dissociative identity disorder, empathy, infant abuse, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),protective factors, PTSD, resiliency, resiliency factors, risk factors, shame