Understanding the so-called DISORGANIZED Attachment Style

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Understanding the so-called DISORGANIZED Attachment Style

I don’t trust you…! We’re always fighting, it’s like being at war…! I will sabotage this love so he/she will leave…!

Children are born with the instinct to seek care from adults; their survival depends on it. When psychologist and researcher Dr. Mary Ainsworth, an attachment expert conducted the “Strange Situation” test, she noted how a young child reacts when a parent leaves the room and then comes back. Ainsworth actively measured the reunion behaviour on the second reunion. A disorganized attachment in a child expresses odd or ambivalent behaviour toward the parent, i.e. first running up to them, then immediately pulling away, perhaps even running away from the parent, curling up in a ball or hitting the parent. The child’s first impulse may be to seek comfort from the parent, but as they get near the parent, they feel fear to be in their proximity, demonstrating their disorganized adaption. Disorganized attachment arises from fright without solutions, says Dr. Dan Siegel. Parents, often in unconscious ways can frighten their children. Sadly some parents do it intentionally. It might be through abuse or neglect, but it could also be through unresolved trauma and loss in the parent’s own life that leaves him or her feeling afraid, which unintentionally scares the child.

Having experiences of abuse, neglect or unresolved trauma in one’s early life can have lasting residue that leaves a parent prone to being flooded by emotions in times of stress between them and their child. Disorganized attachment can be passed from generation to generation, because parents who struggle with unresolved trauma themselves may have trouble tolerating a range of emotions in their child. The parents may act in ways that do not make sense, demonstrating unpredictable, confusing or erratic behaviour. At these moments, the parent may act out destructive behaviour and not even be fully aware of how they are behaving. A person who grew up with a disorganized attachment may have trouble socially or struggle in using others to co-regulate their emotions. It may be difficult for them to open up to others or to seek out help. They often have difficulty trusting people, as they were unable to trust those they relied on for safety growing up. They may struggle in their relationships or friendships or when parenting their own children. Their social lives may further be affected, as people with secure attachments tend to get on better throughout their development. On the other hand those with disorganized attachment, because they struggle with poor social or emotional regulation skills, may find it difficult to form and sustain solid relationships. They often have difficulty managing stress and may even demonstrate hostile or aggressive behaviours. Because of their negative early life experiences, they may see the world as an unsafe place. The important message to take away is that there is so called “earned secure attachment.” People with disorganized attachment can heal by making sense of their story, for example to be writing a coherent narrative helps people understand how their childhood experiences are still affecting them in their lives today. Through this process, they can find healthier ways to deal with unresolved trauma and loss by facing and feeling the full pain of their experiences. Hiding from their past or trying to bury their emotions doesn’t work, as painful feelings will be triggered in moments of stress. Getting help to resolve early trauma can come in many forms. Most important is to form a healthy relationship that exists over time with a romantic partner, a friend or a therapist, which allows a person to develop trust and resolve issues with attachment. This can help a person to break the cycle often perpetuated by the formation of a disorganized attachment.

By | 2018-12-16T04:08:46+00:00 December 16th, 2018|Resolving Trauma|0 Comments

About the Author:

Devi is a body oriented psychotherapist, relationship counsellor and Somatic Experience Practitioner® with over 20 years of experience.

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