The Collective Counseling

Attachment Style & Trauma Therapy

Early interactions with your caregivers can influence the health of your future relationships. We’re all born as helpless little creatures who depend on our caregivers for everything. Human infants are vulnerable beings who rely on others to keep them fed, safe, comforted, and protected.

Five decades of research show that your earliest emotional bonds with the person most responsible for your well-being — often your birth parent — can directly affect the health of your future relationships. Caregivers who regularly meet their babies needs while providing comfort and attention tend to have children who grow up to have more stable relationships. Babies who have caregivers that do not regularly respond to their distress or offer focused attention and nurturing tend to struggle forming healthy relationships with others. 

What is attachment theory?

There is a long list of scientific literature that categorizes how we form emotional attachments to our primary caregivers in order to ensure our safety and survival.

The most famous study comes from a 1969 experiment called the Strange Situation, which gave rise to the four styles of attachment we know today. In the study, babies and their birthing parent played in a room together. The parent left and then returned a few minutes later. The baby’s reaction was then monitored. From that study, the four attachment styles below were identified.

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The 4 Attachment Styles

Secure

Babies became upset when their parent left and were comforted by their return.

Anxious

Babies would become very upset when their parent left and would be difficult to comfort upon their return.

Avoidant

Babies would barely react — or not react at all — when their parent left or returned.

Disorganized

Babies had more erratic or incoherent reactions to their parent leaving or returning, such as hitting their heads on the ground or “freezing up.”

Working with Attachment Injuries

Processing attachment and developmental trauma is not about blaming; instead, it is working towards restoring what was needed. Some caregivers are struggling, distracted, neglectful, or abusive. Relationship issues, addiction, societal or work stressors, and finances can limit their capacity to be fully present for their infant and child. This is simply a fact of life for most parents. Postpartum depression can also play a role through no fault of the mother. Absentee fathers, whether by choice or necessity, contribute to the development of a child’s attachment to self and others. Sometimes a parent’s lack of positive mirroring from their own caregivers as a child is a form of generational trauma that can linger and be passed on inadvertently. 
 
Complex trauma is the intertwining of unresolved adverse experiences from the past. The dysregulated nervous system in those with a history of complex trauma often time prevent the brain from processing day to day triggers without distress or dissociation. 
When the brain can’t shift the way it views these triggers, it can get trapped in a default setting repeating (and even looking for opportunities) the same unhelpful responses and patterns of responding to stressors.
 
When complex trauma is rooted in an attachment injury, it is not uncommon for the person to have several psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, anger, and multiple internalized personalities. The impact of unresolved trauma doesn’t stop there; auto immune diseases, allergies, chronic pain, fatigue, or digestive issues can also be present with no other medical justification.
 
Attachment injury and complex trauma are almost always interrelated. Many people with complex trauma did not have sufficient co-regulation with their caregivers in their developmental years. As a result, they remain vulnerable throughout their lives until there is a repair. The good news is that repair is possible later in life through therapeutic support because successful co-regulation at any age builds deep inner resilience. With the right somatic techniques, it’s possible to tap into the body’s innate wisdom, calm the nervous system and unlock a greater capacity for healing and repair.
 
 

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