Disorganized Attachment (Part One)

“The closer I want to be, the more I fear you and want to run away”

Those who relate to this type of attachment style most likely received mixed messages from their primary caregivers:  “come close, but go away”. This narrative can manifest from many types of situations: emotional or physical abuse, parents with addictions or mental health concerns, preoccupation, loss of a caregiver, neglect, violence, or transgenerational trauma (having a disorganized style of attachment themselves) where a child receives both messages of “love” and fear, presenting the child with an unsolvable Catch 22. 

In this paradoxical upbringing, a child learns in a parallel process that the person who claims to love them the most, and does provide them with some sort of “safety” (basic needs, inconsistent affection, praise, protection) is also the person that they need to be most fearful of, and protect themselves from.  A deep rooted sense of rejection is developed as a child takes on the responsibility of not being good enough to be loved, and not being able to “fix” themselves or their parents in order to be loved. These children adaptively, as a means of survival, learn to distrust and fear their need and desire for connection and belonging.

The first step you can take towards addressing your unmet attachment needs from childhood is to start talking to yourself with self-compassion when your attachment alarm is activated. It is important to fully validate yourself, and the pain that you experience opposed to dismissing it. Dismissing your pain will only continue your suffering.  Using self-compassion, and kind self talk such as “ Fear, I understand that you are present to protect me and keep me safe like you did in the past” will help you to start feeling trust in yourself. Using a kind inner voice not only strengthens or core selves, it actually activates feel good chemicals in our brain, which can dramatically shift our perspective from fear based to feeling safe and protected.

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