This page is a continuation from *COLLINS ON RESPONDING TO NEED – Part Three
as it deals with information contained in the following writings:
Nancy Collins of the Department of Psychology, University of California, University of California in Santa Barbara is one such expert.
Her homepage can be found at: http://nancy.collins.socialpsychology.org/
I will be working in my writing today with information that can be located at:
Collins, N. L., Ford, M. B., Guichard, A. C., & Feeney, B. C. (2006). Responding to need in intimate relationships: Normative processes and individual differences. In M. Mikulincer & G. Goodman (Eds.), Dynamics of romantic love: Attachment, caregiving, and sex. New York: Guilford. (pages 149-189)
These authors do an excellent job of describing how attachment patterns work in adult to adult relationships, which are assumed to occur between equals. Their points also describe how adult attachment patterns would optimally be working as they relate to their children, not as equals, but as immature beings who are completely dependent upon them for all their needs.
The term ‘dyadic’ refers to interactions between two people. Between adults operating as equals, the dyadic interactions between them do not take on the awesome job of building a partner’s brain. We can then read the following statement from the above Collins article differently in relationship to parenting activities than we would read it for children. I believe a large part of what causes so much difficulty related to inadequate parenting happens because the parent’s own three systems of attachment, exploration and caregiving are not in balance within themselves and do not operate in their own lives correctly in ANY situation.
“In order for attachment bonds to function effectively, the attachment and exploratory behavior of one partner must be coordinated with the caregiving behavior of eir or her attachment figure. Indeed, Bowlby (1969/1982) referred to attachment bonds as a “shared dyadic programme” (p. 377) in which careseekers and caregivers play complementary roles and in which the behavior of one partner commonly meshes with that of the other. The caregiving behavioral system is thus an integral component of attachment bonds….Just as infants are motivated to remain in close proximity to their primary caregivers, caregivers feel a strong urge to remain close to their infants and young children; they routinely monitor their infant’s whereabouts and remain ready to respond on short notice should any threat arise.” (Collins et al, 2006, pp. 155-156)
In healthy infant to caregiver relationships this ‘shared dyadic programme’ operates constructively. The caregiver’s needs are met as they take care of their infants and young children. Collins is making it clear that this is not an attachment situation where the adult is having its attachment needs met. In order for a parent to effectively take care of a dependent infant or young child their own attachment needs CANNOT be met by the little person they are offering the care giving to at the same time. These are mutually exclusive operating systems.
The adult’s attachment system must be shut off in order for, and during the time period that this adult is providing adequate care to its offspring. If the adult’s attachment system is NOT deactivated, adequate caregiving cannot be activated, and the infant or young child will not be appropriately or adequately taken care of.
Infants and young children have clear, definite and definable needs. Caregivers with versions of insecure attachment patterns will not be able to, in my opinion, have their own attachment needs satisfied ‘good enough’ that their attachment systems can deactivate completely as they attempt to care for their children. I believe that all manor of maltreatment, neglect and abuse are a consequence of this fact.
My mother’s treatment of me is an excellent example of how bad this can get. Her disorganized insecure attachment system could never shut off. She could therefore, except for the basic physical needs of her family, care give to her children. Because of her psychosis about me, the very worst of her disorganized insecure attachment disorder surrounded all of her actions (even her thoughts and emotions) as they related to me.
For whatever reasons her mental illness formed and operated the way it did, when it came to taking care of me her ACTIVE disorganized insecure attachment system never itself shut off, and I carried the burden of that fact as it prevented her from caregiving to me. Our ‘shared dyadic’ program never meshed.
In the case of my own parenting of my children, my disorganized insecure attachment system never shut itself off in any normal way like an adult’s attachment system is supposed to do so that a parent’s caregiving system can kick in. I believe that mine was ‘shut down’ but not ‘shut off’ because I found a way to close myself off from the operation of my attachment system. I just plowed forward in spite of this fact, determined to take care of my children.
My children and I shared a dyadic program between us, which is what does form the patterns within an infant’s brain. But it was barely ‘good enough’. I will describe in detail in future posts how these mother-infant dyadic interactions are supposed to mesh, what interferes with optimal patterning, and what happens inside the infant’s growing body and brain in response to these patterns.
“Of course, effective caregiving involves more than simply monitoring a partner’s [including a child’s] whereabouts and remaining alert to signs of distress. In its optimal form, caregiving includes sensitivity and responsiveness to another person’s expressed needs and signals [especially crucial to healthy infant brain development], and it should include a broad array of behaviors that complement a partner’s attachment and exploratory behavior….Thus, according to attachment theory, caregiving serves two major functions: (1) to meet the dependent partner’s need for security by responding to signals of distress or potential threat (providing a safe haven); and (2) to support the attached person’s autonomy and exploration when not distressed (providing a secure base).” (Collins et al, 2006, p 156)
In my case, this statement brings up some interesting thoughts for me: “…effective caregiving involves more than simply monitoring a partner’s [including a child’s] whereabouts and remaining alert to signs of distress.” My mother was insanely obsessed with me (not the REAL me, of course, but the me she had in her head). She monitored my whereabouts nearly all of the time. It was invasive. It was abusive.
For all the thousands and thousands of hours of my childhood that I was forced to stand at attention in corners (from before the sun came up until after it went down, day after day), forced to lay in bed like I was in a coffin for days and days, forced to perform obsessive housekeeping chores within her presence, even forced to ride in the back seat of the car directly in line with her eyesight in the rear view mirror (talk about being under the evil eye!) so that she could focus her glare on me any time her eyes wandered from the road in front of her — when she was driving or riding as a passenger when my father drove.
During all these times was she exercising some distorted version of monitoring my physical being? (Also related to her complete obsesseion with my state of cleanliness vs dirtiness, and with her belief that I WAS a liar.)
And the opposite of optimal also occurred in relation to “remaining alert to signs of distress.” She remained alert to any sign that I was NOT distressed so that she could intervene and reinstate my state of distress. I am not joking here. That was her mission, to punish me. In order to ensure maximum effect for all her efforts to make bad Linda good, she ‘spared me’ from feeling safe, secure, content, or happy as much as she possibly could. I can see as I write this that my life with her was like in an opposite dimension where everything that should happen between caregiver and infant and child was reversed!
She had a maniac’s maniacal focus of attention on me. If you think about the best that a mother could offer her infant child that would contribute to its well being, and then consider that my mother’s psychosis meant that the best thing she could do for me was to turn me from being evil into being good — an impossible set up for failure, I realize — but still, in her own insane way she believed she was mothering me better than any other mother on earth could. She was doing the most fantastic job of punishing me possible, for my own good, because only this kind of mothering, accomplished to perfection, MIGHT possibly save me.
So me being relaxed, safe, secure, happy, content was NOT what was going to save me. Only by making me as miserable as she possibly could did my mother think she was contributing to my ultimate well being. She believed that she WAS responding to my need: My need to be saved from the eternal damnation that I had already received in some previous lifetime. “Gee, mom. Did you think you were bigger than God? Did you think you could overcome what you already believed was His decision in condemning me to hell as he supposedly gave me to the devil in the first place? So that I could kill you as I was being born? If you just did a good enough job of punishing me you could beat God somehow, overthrow God’s (supposed) verdict?”
Dang! How DID I survive that?
Please read the comments to this section. It provides an example of what happened if I ever let my guard down as a child, or ‘suffered the illusion’ of even momentary safety. It is also an example of how good feelings can become tangled up with tragedy for abused children so that good-feeling experiences later in life can become trauma triggers, themselves. It also is an example of how what experts refer to as ‘flashbulb’ memory formation related to trauma also happened to me in good experiences because they were so incredibly rare that they were almost traumatic experiences themselves because they were in such stark contrast to the usual ongoing experience of my life.
It is interesting to me that in spite of her God-devil psychosis, I have no memory of my mother using the word ‘sin’ until she joined the Assembly of God church when I was in 10th grade.
All the links are contained together here: +CAREGIVING IN ADULT ATTACHMENT RELATIONSHIPS
Links in the series separately: