In attachment theory, humans have an innate drive to form close emotional bonds to feel a sense of safety and to be able to bounce back from disturbances. Babies and children who learn their caregivers are available, responsive, and dependable feel good about exploring and learning new things. They know if anything scary happens, they have a “secure base” to go back to for comfort and safety. They approach new relationships with trust and confidence that allows them to relax through normal ups and downs. Rooted in the secure base, they know that if Mom is not paying attention for a little bit, they can trust she will be right back.
In contrast, when babies and children learn their caregivers are often not there, disregard their needs as not important, and cannot be depended on, they tend to feel anxious about their worth and their survival. Without the secure base, they experience the world as dangerous, fear situations they can’t control or can’t predict, and have a hard time bouncing back from feeling let down. They approach new relationships with an expectation of being abandoned or hurt. Not trusting themselves to be good enough to be loved, they may take disappointments personally, suspect their loved ones of wanting other people more, and need frequent reassurance. Without a secure base, their survival brain panics when Mom is not paying attention to them, because they truly cannot trust that she will come back. Fear of abandonment becomes a recurrent theme.
Attachment trauma results in traumatic attachment. Whether there is relationship abuse and neglect in childhood or adulthood (or both), those injuries can result in patterns of unhealthy relationships later on. Often, those patterns include chasing after people who treat them poorly or rejecting people who treat them nicely. Bad relationships feel normal and familiar, and good relationships feel weird and unsafe. Sometimes, traumatic attachment involves codependency.
Codependency originated as a concept in substance abuse and alcoholism that says some people need to be rescuers for others with self-destructive behavior. It has since evolved into a general concept of poor boundaries between two people, where one person’s self-esteem and feeling of survival is tied up with the welfare of the other person. Extreme sacrifices are made to put the other person first, to a point where resentment forms. Sometimes, codependent persons are afraid to be themselves or don’t even know who they are anymore because it becomes all about the other person.
In group, we talk about attachment trauma and how it has impacted your lives and your relationships. We become aware of our patterns of relationship behaviors, what healthy relationships feel like and what unhealthy relationships bring up. We discuss and process fear of abandonment and codependency. We learn to communicate, negotiate, and set boundaries to be able to say no to things we don’t like. We talk about the difference between core emotions of the wounded child within and the reactive emotions that swirl in an endless cycle like a tornado. The group teaches psychoeducational material from trauma research as well as provides a space to process your own emotions and growth.
If you are interested in this group, please give me a call and schedule an intake to get your background information. I will then match you to the right group. The groups are small (3-5 people) to be able to allow each person to participate fully. They run 75 minutes long. Televideo attendance is available.