In the DARE model I developed 8 years ago, I became completely passionate about working to heal in the relational field. I feel that, especially when it comes to healing adult relationships, so much depends on the presence of the therapist, as I’m very aware of the fact that it
is virtually impossible to integrate really difficult, disintegrated traumatic experiences without the kind, accepting, and loving presence of another human being. Therapy is a lot about love, it’s a lot about creating a field that’s very nourishing, and very safe, and certainly presence and mindfulness are a tremendously important part of it.
The patterns that influence our adult relationships are “wired in” early in life – through experiences that are non-verbal, non-conceptual and sub-psychological – and then as adults, we may not know why we do what we do in our relating experiences! Such early attachment patterns are formed into a “relationship template” that later in life becomes more of a reflex than a reflection of conscious intention.
We take things personally related to how our partner responds that have nothing to do with us, and in reality, have much more to do with their early caregiver experience. Also we give ourselves a hard time for the reactions we have and feel we have no control over, because these responses push up from the unconscious leaving us “bewildered and betwixt” about our own behavior – especially behaviors we had hoped to change. There are three basic Insecure Attachment patterns:
Avoidant style of attachment can occur when a parent’s caregiving style was mostly one of two experiences for the child: either there was an extreme lack of presence, or there was active hostility or rejection by the parent, so that when the baby’s attachment system was trying to make a connection, it could not do so safely or effectively.
The Ambivalent pattern is where the parenting style has been inconsistent and unpredictable even though there has been actually real love, connection and caring. This “here one moment, gone the next” caregiving style too often interrupts the parent’s presence with the child, and then the child ends up feeling very insecure and anxious about having their needs met.
The Disorganized pattern happens when a child is trying to bond to the same person that they’re also afraid of due to what’s happening in the parenting style. When the
caregiver is disorienting, overly chaotic, or frightening, this situation actually disorganizes the attachment system instead of helping it flourish. There’s too much fear and not enough safety, while the attachment system is still sending strong signals to attach to the caregiver no matter what their behavior. As we heal, we are able to relax and trust in our primary relationships, and experience an easier flow between aloneness and connection, more balance with both merging and separation.
One of the best ways we heal is through adult relationships where both partners are willing to move in and help co-regulate each other, to be present, and address and help meet each other’s needs in relation to the wounds left as residue of their early attachment history. And we also want to make sure we’re not getting too task-oriented in our work-focused culture, and that we really have plenty of time reserved for PLAY. That enriches us, personally, that really deepens our mutual connection, strengthens our physical health, and builds the bridge back to Secure Attachment if either one or both of us had Insecure Attachment as a child.
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