"Attachment" is a developmental mechanism with us from the moment we're born through the day we die. This mechanism affects the emotional bonds which endure over time. We build these bonds with other people, our ability to build meaningful relationships, our sense of identity, and our ability to co-regulate our emotions. It's a big deal!
Some people write off "crappy" childhoods as just "something that happened, I'm over it now". Maybe that's true, but for most of us the relationships we built in childhood with the people taking care of us play an incredibly important role in our emotional well-being as adults. Those of us that struggle with "attachment wounds" often find ourselves either too-far ("You check out whenever we fight!") or too-close ("You're smothering me, I need some room to breathe!) to those we love as adults. We have a hard time building close, flexible, meaningful relationships with the important people in our lives. There's a reason for that!
What is Attachment?
Attachment plays out between us and the people taking care of us as infants and small children. While most parents are sensitive and attuned their kids, sometimes (despite their very best intentions), parents can be under sensitive (not around, ignoring) or over sensitive (helicopter parent, overly anxious). This can create problems!
Attachment can show up in different "styles". These attachment styles are based on "models" of how relationships are "supposed" to work based on our early life experiences. These styles can be overly anxious, overly distant, or waffle back-and-forth. They affect not just how we show up in relationships, but who we're attracted to and who's attracted to us!
We're built (especially as babies) to co-regulate. This is a fancy way of saying we need other people (to varying degrees) to help us manage really difficult emotions. We're built for community! When we have a caregiver that consistently misunderstands what we need or is not attuned to what we need, we miss out on learning how to identify and cope with big, scary, and overwhelming emotions.
When people have a high degree of childhood trauma or attachment wounds, they often report that the "don't know who they are" or that they "lose themselves in other people". Attachment plays a big role in helping us figure out who we are, how we best relate to others, and where we fit in in this big, crazy world. Our identity can become to rigid or too malleable.
What Are Attachment Wounds?
An attachment wound is an emotional injury that is the result of our inner needs not being understood, recognized, or accepted by the people we're most connected to. This happens to everyone in childhood from time to time. Event the best parents or partners get exhausted and miss some cues!
Bigger problems arise when this mis-attunement occurs repeatedly, more times than not, over a long period of time. We have a basic human need to be seen, heard, and understood. When these needs go unmet, we end up with big problems on our hands!
Attachment wounds result from a "felt" sense of being unsafe. This doesn't necessarily mean that we're physically unsafe (although it can). Sometimes our parents feed us, shelter us, and care for us, but we just don't feel safe to be our authentic selves.
These wounds often go un-attended to in childhood, but show up all-too-frequently when adults walk into the therapy room. Attachment wounds don't always fully heal and often get torn back open in our adult relationships. This can happen in the wake of a violation of trust—particularly in a time of need or a moment of loss or transition. When these old wounds are reopened, it can leave one or both partners feeling betrayed or abandoned
How Do We Heal From Attachment Wounds?
This is priority #1! In order to heal, we have to be out of danger. This means our basic needs must be met: food, water, shelter, physical safety. The brain only perceives safety when the world around us is consistent and predictable. This is why priority #1 in this work is to put out fires and achieve stability.
Our attachment figures (parents when we're kids, partners as adults) play a big role in establishing a felt sense of safety. These important people act as a "secure base" we can return to for comfort, reassurance, or help when we're working through something difficult or feeling overwhelmed. Without this home-base, it's tough for us to feel truly safe.
Healing takes openness and authenticity. When we have attachment wounds, getting too close or too far away from someone feels dangerous. If we're going to establish meaningful relationships we have to be honest about when we're feeling scared, hurt, or worried. We have to learn how to show our inner selves to those who won't hurt us.
We're social creatures. Often trauma occurs in the context of relationship and the symptoms of trauma usually disrupt our relationships with others. Healing also takes place in relationship: the therapeutic relationship. It is critical to establish trust, rapport, and a strong sense of connection between you and your therapist.
The Demon Dialogues
Often times our conflicts with others follow a familiar pattern. We call these the "Demon Dialogues". Do your conflicts with loved ones tend to start the same way? End the same way? What are the triggers that start these familiar dances?
How Can We Help?
Our therapist are trained, experienced, and certified in working with attachment wounds in adults. We offer individual therapy, group therapy, and occupational therapy to engage you as a whole-person while you work towards healing.
Wounds that happen in relationship are best healed in safe, predictable relationships. Our therapists are ready to walk with you in the dark and guide you when you feel lost. You don't have to heal alone.