Trauma and Attachment (with Jade Miller): Part Three

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The Healing Process

   We are so honored and eager to bring to you the third and final installment from guest host and author, Jade Miller, who has created a three-part series on attachment and how it relates to trauma. We have already covered the basics on Attachment Theory, the way childhood trauma affects attachment, as well as our goals for this series in previous articles. If you missed those, we strongly encourage you to go back and take a look; they provide a more comprehensive background that will help make this information more applicable. But, worry not, there's enough review here that you'll still be able follow along if you've only got a minute!  Please be sure to check out all the wonderful things you need to know about Jade below! We are truly thankful to her for allowing us to bring you her insights and wisdom, and want you to be able to locate and appreciate all of her other work, too.

 


Changing Unhealthy Patterns

 

    At this point you may have absorbed the information in this series about attachment styles and trauma and made the realization that you have some unhealthy patterns. In that case, you’re in good company.  There are very few people who had healthy enough parents to raise them in an ideal environment that fostered a secure attachment style.

    There is a lot of information out there on attachment styles and its effect on children and even their lifelong relational patterns. But, unfortunately, there is not as much information on what this looks like in adults or its implications for them. Some suggested reading is the information on adult attachment provided by Fulshear Treatment Center, which can be found here

    The good news is, many professionals do believe unhealthy patterns can be changed, and I have found this to be true in my own life. Due to the brain’s lifelong neuroplasticity, neuroscientists believe it is possible to change ingrained thought patterns and learn newer, healthier coping skills. So let’s dive right in to some places where positive change can lead to healthier relationships.

    Please keep in mind as you read these suggestions that I realize they all sound much easier than they really are. There is zero intent to sound reductive - quite the opposite, really. I’ve been in the position of knowing that these things were a struggle for me, and feeling lost and unsure of how to change. I offer these thoughts in an attempt to simplify it and make it sound more attainable. But I know that there are layers and complexities to these thoughts and behaviors, and that changing ingrained patterns takes a lot of time, attention and, quite often, sheer will. However, it absolutely can be done.

 

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Avoidant (also called Dismissive) Attachment Style:

The avoidant attachment style has a positive self-image but a negative worldview. So, this person typically does not seek help from outside resources. Their trust in others is low, and they are usually unwilling to be vulnerable or let people come close. 

People with the avoidant attachment style can work on changing these patterns by practicing taking emotional risks in their relationships. They'll need to learn how to communicate when they are feeling needy or vulnerable, and practice allowing someone to be present with them in those times. Those with the avoidant attachment style have a tendency to believe, deep down, that no one else is safe or trustworthy. This type of thinking will have to be challenged and replaced with a healthier perspective. They can also learn to identify people who display characteristics of true safety versus perceived, and form quality friendships where they can start to practice letting those people see their real selves.

 

Anxious (also called Ambivalent) Attachment Style:

The anxious attachment style presents with a negative self-image but a positive worldview. This person usually seeks help from outside resources but they have few internal resources upon which to draw. They trust others – oftentimes a bit too much – but they haven’t developed very much trust in their own self. They are often described as needy, clingy, and codependent.

People with an anxious attachment style can start to find ways to feel secure within themselves, without needing constant contact with others in order to feel like they are okay. One way to do this is to work on improving their self-esteem. They will need to intentionally set out to learn what is important to them as an individual and why they are valuable as their own person. They require practice in valuing their own selves equally as much as they value the needs and expectations of others around them. Allowing others to become a complement to their independent and secure selves is where they'll find their healthiest relationships.

 

Disorganized Attachment Style:

The disorganized attachment style has the double whammy: a negative worldview and a negative self-image. In short, those with a disorganized attachment style will require help changing both of those things. Some of the strategies for each of the other insecure attachment styles may be helpful, but often people with disorganized attachment styles have underlying trauma that needs to be addressed before those changes are truly feasible without causing more unexpected distress.

While those with each of the insecure attachment styles would benefit from therapy, those with the disorganized attachment style may be most in need of the extra support. Changing one’s self-image and one’s view of others to a more positive outlook can be challenging all on your own. Without an anchor point on at least one side of a relationship, it can extremely hard to determine for yourself what a safe, healthy and balanced relationship would even look like -- let alone trying to go about achieving it. A therapist who is educated in attachment theory can help those with a disorganized attachment style to work through attachment-related traumas and make progress in attaining a healthier self-image and a more positive view of others. 
 


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     So, we have come to the end of our series on attachment and trauma. We know this information can be a lot to digest, and even very painful. Having to uncover all of the ways in which you may have been disadvantaged before you even had a chance, can be such an emotionally-charged experience. Allow yourself the permission to grieve those things; to be angry, upset, and sad about them. Yet, on the flip side, we sincerely hope we've also been able to provide you with clarity, understanding and even real hope. Sometimes, just knowing what you're up against, and to have someone explain to you why all the changes you've been trying to make may not have been the most successful, it can be relieving and even alleviate self-blame. And, knowing there are real things you can do to change how you see yourself and the world around you - that it doesn't have to feel so chaotic and confusing all the time - can present a real opportunity for feeling optimistic. And, we know how hard optimism can be for so many of you!

    We want to thank Jade for all of her hard work on this series. Not only did she bring to you the best-researched information on this topic, she did so having gone through this exploration herself and wholly empathizing with every way this can be difficult and painful.  ...but also knowing it is ultimately really worth doing. We hope you have found this series valuable, and if you have, please be sure to let Jade know below, or find her on her various platforms to pass along the appreciation (or questions!).  We are also glad to answer any of your questions, so don't hesitate to ask!  Thank you, Jade, and to all of you who brave the hard task of facing the things that are difficult head on, and working to make those positive changes in your life. You are a beacon of light to us all.

 

 

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    Jade Miller would describe herself as a blogger, artist, SRA survivor, peer worker, and member of a poly-fragmented DID system.  ..who also desires to bring education and awareness about the reality of SRA/DID to the public and increase the number and availability of resources to survivors for healing.  We would firmly agree, and also add that she's a fantastic advocate, with an abundance of passion, knowledge and experience of which we can all benefit.  Her blog is not only an invaluable resource, but she's also a published author with some must-read material.  Notably for survivors are her two illustrated books for younger parts of DID systems called Dear Little Ones and Dear Little Ones (Book 2: About Parents)!  You can even listen to her read it on YouTube, and see the illustrations.  She's also written books on Attachment and Dissociation, and has also compiled her experiences of struggle and healing into more personal books in the past.  All of these are very well worth your time, and we strongly encourage you to seek out all of her published work as well as her online presence (listed below).  We are super honored to partner with her to bring you this series and deeply value her support to us, and to survivors everywhere!
 

FIND JADE ON ALL HER PLATFORMS!

  -  Thoughts From J8  (blog)         -  Amazon Author Page
  -  Facebook                                    Pinterest
  -  Twitter                                       -  LinkedIn

 

MORE INFORMATIVE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  -  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
  -  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  -  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light

 

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

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When #MeToo Hurts

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When #MeToo Helps.....then Hurts

    It was mid-October when the words “Me Too” took us all by storm and shook the ground; impassioned, strong voices broke through the earth to let their stories of sexual assault be heard and felt.  Survivors worldwide began disclosing their experiences, discussions about sexual assault began to spark, and together we all faced the brush fires stirring in our own communities. What started in Hollywood spread to our personal feeds and many were completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of loved ones who’d been affected by sexual misconduct in some way.  Brave, courageous stories were being told, honesty and openness were being more respected, and incredibly moving work was taking off at an unprecedented rate. While difficult, it offered the first glimmer of hope to all the survivors who’d been sitting in their silence since they were small children, ignored and mistreated for so long. This could be the turning page! “This could be the moment we’re seen. This could my chance to be believed! The battles I face every single day just to make it through could lift! …someone will finally understand us!”  Unfortunately, over time many started to see that the movement that held, and still holds, so much promise was letting them down and, at times, even actively causing them pain. Survivors who were most broken by sexual violence were being left out, others were being narrowly characterized as the problem, and then there were those being lifted into the spotlight with whom most couldn't identify. What aimed to amplify the voices of those hidden and silenced the harshest, instead began doing the silencing and hiding.

 

    It’s been three months. Three months since we’ve begun having daily, public conversations about sexual assault, consent, harassment, power dynamics, manipulation, silencing, fear, coercion, and so much more. These topics are fiercely important. Yet, somehow we’ve moved on to where the conversation delved into the smallest of details, to where we even openly analyze the very minutia of one person’s assault, but managed to jump right over entire groups of men, women and children who are most affected by sexual assault. They were left out of the broader conversation entirely. Men have been almost completely shut out. We even had two famous men come forward with their experiences, but as more came forward against Spacey, those men devolved into just part of a number count - not people with names and stories, like each individual woman against Weinstein was given. You also had to work exceptionally hard to find anything about them. On another plane, and it has already been well-observed but bears repeating, people of color have been largely overlooked in favor of powerful, white, attractive women. The most neglected, however, have been those abused as children and teens. So, if you are/were a little boy, or a child of color, forget it. Three months and no one with influence has taken the time to speak on your behalf or any of the populations most exposed to sexual/complex trauma.  Survivors themselves have been speaking, though. They’ve been sharing their stories, as well as their frustrations, their pain, their sense of invisibility, their disappointment, and their desire to just be seen and be given care. But, these strong souls are forced to talk mostly amongst themselves — with those who already get it. Any attempt at more public dialogue or even education has been so explicitly redirected or avoided. That's unacceptable.

 

    Several weeks into the movement, we saw branches like #ChurchToo take off. This brought with it renewed hope for many, particularly the groups feeling most ignored. It felt like there was still a chance we could get to them soon; just give it time, soon the spark will catch. But, then the compassion fatigue seemed to set in, sympathies were waning, and many had their embers snuffed out as they saw it barely trend, never given a hashtag icon, and articles about it remaining very few and far between (and, most were about churches defending themselves). Over time, it seemed concerns about the direction of MeToo - including its re-traumatizing and triggering effects - were either disregarded or met with hostility.  ..as if by expressing concern, one was arguing against its necessity or importance as a movement. Which, is typically untrue and worrying at best.

    In the last month, MeToo has been increasingly described as a women’s movement. “Thanks to #MeToo, it’s the year of the woman,”  “#MeToo gave a chance for women to tell their stories,” “Stars are dressing in black to support the women affected by sexual assault.”. To add insult to injury, men were universally being characterized as the perpetrators. They were emphatically told it’s their turn to LISTEN. They were told they aren’t to be doing any talking, just listening and taking notes on what they plan to do to help women. Male victims are an afterthought or a parenthetical to an article about women. They aren’t allowed to speak, just learn and don’t abuse. This is dangerous, toxic, and painful. It takes away their voices to come out as victims themselves, and re-impresses to ALL victims that, unless their abuse was at the hands of a male, they just shouldn’t come forward. Abuse perpetrated by women has been responded to in a wildly different way. Some have even said it’s “not the time for those stories because we’re trying to help women right now”. No. No, we aren’t. We’re trying to help victims of sexual assault. Humans. That includes men. That includes those who were hurt by women. It means little boys, teens, children and little girls. It means we fight for those hurt by family members, those with multiple perpetrators, whose abuse lasted for years, and those who’ve been trafficked, who are poor, who have nothing to their name, and those with no power elsewhere.

 

    THIS IS NOT A WOMEN’S MOVEMENT. IT’S NOT A POWERFUL-WOMEN EXCLUSIVE movement. IT IS NOT A MOVEMENT AGAINST MEN.

    This is a movement for survivors of sexual assault. And, to exclude any group is to abuse them again. To say their voices aren’t important, their stories insignificant, motives impure, or not as glamorous a story for a magazine cover, is inexcusable. Being selective with the voices we lift up, and when, says to everyone else, “You don’t fit our agenda, your story is too messy or hard to hear, you can wait your turn”. Only, their turn won’t ever come if no one takes a stand for them. They cannot just be expected to talk amongst themselves indefinitely and expect anything to change. They need the world to see them, understand them, to HELP them.

 

More Evidence of Inequity

    We currently have the largest criminal case of sex abuse against children, teens and adults that the U.S. has seen in decades. The number of girls who've survived the abuse of Larry Nassar - former team doctor within USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and club gym Twistars - surpasses the number of Sandusky, Weinstein and Bill Cosby victims combined. Yet, somehow, even in the era of #MeToo, it’s gotten a fraction of the coverage as each of those cases independently. Over one-hundred and forty girls [update: currently over 200 girls and the addition of a male as of January 23, 2018] and women were hurt by one man (as well as the organizations that employed him, and specific individuals who enabled his abuse), over the span of 3 decades, with many reports against him that went ignored or were hidden -- but somehow, the story and all of its lessons has struggled to have any lasting power in the media or public discourse. Is it because many were children and teens when they were hurt? Because it wasn’t sexual harassment, or abuse against independent women, and seen as off-topic? Was it just too difficult to hear? Too unbelievable? Was it because these precious survivors weren't wealthy, didn't have a current platform or large following, or were mostly just strangers from Michigan? In truth, it is because of all those reasons and more. Some of the more ludicrous-sounding posits even have evidence behind them. There only was a sudden uptake in interest, after an entire year of coverage and legal proceedings, once McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and, most recently, Jordyn Weiber, each stepped forward in the case against Larry.  Only then was attention given to this beyond the walls of the gymnastics community. You can even witness the trend yourself. The week Simone Biles came forward is when coverage took off, but then it took celebrities offering monetary support to McKayla Maroney; 156 of the 200+ victims sharing their impact statements in court, to Larry and anyone who would listen; and Aly Raisman's testimony and forceful words being specifically picked up and featured in the New York Times, just to keep it there. To further update: it actually took sassy, fiery, gif-worthy Judge Aquilina to thrust the story into the real spotlight -- I mean, look at those numbers since the case broke. Many deemed her their new hero, but it seems they forgot who the real heroes in this case are.

    This deeply disheartening trend in media coverage and public interest sent a very, very loud and clear message to the 135+ non-famous little girls, teens and women who originally csme forward in the last 2 years: that they alone weren't important enough for the public to care. Their abuse, suffering and stories of survival weren’t something people wanted to hear about or learn from unless they were already emotionally invested in them as a fan. Several of these remarkable girls were even vocal about how much that hurt. They weren't 'marketable' or click-worthy enough by their own accord -- not even in the era of #TimesUp, or as they fought back against the most heinous criminal, and the very powerful organizations, that created the worst case of institutional child endangerment that the U.S. has seen in decades. Once clout, power and celebrity were introduced, publications couldn't be written fast enough. These are the kinds of actions that hurt everyday survivors deeply, and everyday survivors are who this world is made up of. However, even once the brilliant voices of our Olympic gold medalists were added, breathing new life into its visibility, it was clear their fame and power were still inadequate to that of a Hollywood celebrity. They provided a bump in exposure, but only a bump.  They, too, were given the message that their fierce, powerful and also heartbreaking voices, after years and years of abuse, weren’t as meaningful as those retelling one night as a Hollywood elite. And, that not only stings and cuts deep to those experiencing the neglect, but to many witnessing it. Because, if that’s true for even them, it begs the question to survivors everywhere, sitting in their nondescript homes, with names no one knows, and traumas deemed “too bad”, “too gross” or “too complex”: “What chance do I have for anyone to care about me? Who will help me? Who will fight for me to make my life safer? Who helps make sure that what I'VE been through never happens to anyone else? Who will help me get the treatment I need to stay alive? When will anyone believe us? WHEN WILL ANYONE JUST HEAR US?!”

 

    If that isn't a repeat dynamic of the questions they asked themselves as children victimized in their own homes, schools, daycares, and sports teams, I’m not sure what it is.  #MeToo, #TimesUp, and those championing them the hardest promised to fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves. Who can’t come forward. Who are scared, unseen, and voiceless. But so far, we’ve only witnessed stories of abuse to children, teens and men being pushed out of the discussion in favor of celebrities and those who have power elsewhere in their lives. It hurts. This version of #MeToo hurts. And, I can promise you that was never part of Tarana Burke’s mission statement ten years ago.

 

 Looking Ahead

    One thing that we MUST also keep in mind as we continue to spotlight sexual assault and have extremely important conversations about the behavior of those who abuse — is how it invariably pushes those who are actively abusing individuals, especially children, further underground. …which typically involves worsened abuse. Fear of being caught leads to firmer punishments, deeper threats, drilling victims much harder about not telling anyone, convincing them no one will believe them, and instilling the fear of God (or death) into children who might think for even second of telling a loved one or teacher. Teens may be the most vulnerable because their abusers know they have access to the internet and may see these conversations about abuse in the media. They have a unique opportunity like never before to realize “them too” and want to seek help. Unfortunately, those who abuse only care about themselves and will not be scared into inaction; they will only abuse more violently and creatively to further insulate themselves. We need to remember that, while we cannot and should not be quieted just because these individuals exist, we need to do that much more for those presently trapped in abusive environments. If we’re going to have these global conversations — and we MUST — we must also take thoughtful, intentional care of those who are still under threat. Those who are being further endangered by our mission to deconstruct the institutions that make abuse so prevalent deserve better. And, despite beliefs to the contrary, there are absolutely things that we can do on this front. There are actions we can take. We just need to remember to explore them and that this is not just about us sharing our stories and letting people know it’s an issue, but going out of our way to protect others from future victimization as well as rescuing those still in its vice grip.

 

   Above all, we must remember the most vulnerable. A movement FOR the broken, should not leave anyone more broken. Children and most teens are the truly voiceless. They cannot say #MeToo. They cannot put a post on social media and be enveloped in support and care. They may not even know what’s happening to them is even wrong yet. They’re terrified and afraid, just as so many who are now adults but hurt as children remain.  Yet, they’re the ones left out of the global effort to create a better world for survivors right now. We must remember them always. And, we must remember men. The men who’ve been violated but still told to hush up and just listen. The men who were hurt as adults, as little boys, who were trafficked, and men who were hurt by women. We must think about anyone who’s EVER been hurt at the hands of a female — who is struggling with that independently, let alone in the public sphere. We must think of those who are not wealthy, who are disabled, who don’t have jobs, who cannot go to court, who are not safe, who cannot even share their story. We must keep in mind every survivor who is too scared to speak against someone more powerful than them because having their motives questioned, being told they’re lying for attention, or are only seeking justice because they want money/fame is too great an assault on their character and integrity to bear. They've been assaulted enough. They don't need one more against the core of who they are.  We must keep in mind every survivor whose trauma was severe, unpretty, chronic and whose abuse left them with severe mental health issues. They are not crazy, they are not weak, they are not ‘bad’ or ‘gross’, they are not lesser than. They are just as important as anyone else with a trauma history they never asked to own.

 

    We need to get up close and personal with the fact that #MeToo is meant for everyone. Sexual assault is a human issue. And, if your movement doesn’t include those who are affected by it most, then it’s causing more harm to those already hurting than good. But it does not have to remain that way.

 

Our Commitment

    We want to re-confirm our stance to fight for women, men, children and teens today until forever — regardless of race, income level, ability, mental illness or severity of one's story. We will never stop fighting for you or trying to create a better world for us all. That includes helping those already victimized to be seen as whole and complete individuals, and to get them the treatment and care they deserve. It also includes taking every step within our power to educate the public and clinicians on trauma, particularly complex trauma, and to prevent this from continuing. We have faith that this movement CAN shift in the right direction once more. These conversations are desperately important. They are invaluable, and the strength of each and every person who dared utter the words MeToo, as well as those who bear witness, can not be understated. But, we need to see this opportunity be extended to everyone. We believe that’s respectful, responsible and entirely realistic. We also believe the hope we were initially ignited with can be rekindled.

We are honored to be a part of this fight with you, and we will hold each and every hand - big and small - through the journey.


 

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MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  -  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
 -  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
  -  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light

 

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

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Posttraumatic Grief: Healing from Childhood Neglect (with Sarah Flynn)

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Grief from Trauma with Sarah Flynn

   We are so excited and honored to bring to you yet another meaningful guest article - this time authored by therapist Sarah Flynn (MREM, MA, RCC), and coming to you all the way from Canada!  In this, Sarah compassionately addresses the often-overlooked grief that can stem from a childhood missed out on, or lost entirely, due to ongoing trauma.  Grief is so often thought of in a much different context, yet survivors so frequently feel this deep, painful ache and/or longing that most struggle to even find words for or verbalize.  It's grief.  And, this article lovingly and thoughtfully walks you through that realization and validation.  Sarah has been a lovely and very helpful individual to get to know, and the information she brings to the trauma community is invaluable. Be sure to read more about her below and visit all the places you can find more of her work!

 

Posttraumatic Grief: Healing from Childhood Neglect

  Most people think of grief as a response to the loss of a loved one, but grief can be a response to any type of loss, including the loss of something that never was (such as a happy childhood).  This post explores the experience of grief in the present as a response to having bad experiences (from abuse, neglect, or trauma) in the past as a child.  Grief of this sort is a necessary and restorative process that permits a person to bring new life and a renewed sense of hope to childhood hardship and deprivation.  Looked at in this way grief allows us to cleanse ourselves of hurt and loss and continue to grow and to expand our sense of ourselves.

   Many people do not realize that they may be suffering in the present from having been mistreated, deprived or traumatized as a child.  Partly this is the case, because it is hard to know that something is missing if one has never had the experience of its presence.  If you did not have loving, attentive, nurturing parents who were joyful about life and about you as their child, you might not know that this is something that you lacked.  If you were emotionally abandoned or neglected, you may not know what it is like to be emotionally accompanied or cared for.

   A child’s need for love and nurturing is as essential as a plant’s need for water and sunshine.  If you did not receive love, nurturing and attention consistently in your childhood, you may be experiencing pain in the form of grief as an adult and not realize that this is why.  Many children who were mistreated were led to believe that they do not deserve to be treated with love, respect and compassion.  Allowing yourself to fully feel the pain of what you did not receive in the past allows you to empty out these old hurts and disappointments to make room for experiencing joy and the promise of each new day.  As Pete Walker puts it, “…the broken heart that has been healed through grieving is stronger and more loving than the one that has never been injured.  Every heartbreak of my life, including the brokenheartedness of my childhood, has left me a stronger, wiser and more loving person than the one I was before I grieved.”

   Often a person does not begin to grieve their childhood losses until they have reached a point in their lives where in they can emotionally afford to do so.  This may be because the person has found a therapist with whom they feel safe enough or because they find themselves with a social support system that is stable and strong enough for the first time.  The self-compassion borne out of grieving the losses of your childhood makes it clear that you did not deserve the abuse or neglect that you suffered and that you are hurting now because you were hurt then and not because you were bad then.

   If you were neglected or abused as a child your emotional or intellectual development may have been truncated.  This may be because you needed to use your energy to protect yourself rather than to grow and develop naturally emotionally and intellectually.  There may not have been opportunities for you to participate in normal, age-appropriate activities such as playing, asking hundreds of curious questions, using your imagination, experimenting with language and cause and effect, or getting to know yourself and your own emotional internal world in an intimate way.  Moreover, these losses and the feelings of grief associated with them may have been unacknowledged or even actively denied by those around you.  In some cases the lack of acknowledgement of loss can be more emotionally devastating than the loss itself.  The grief associated with unacknowledged childhood loss may be outside your awareness, but actively affecting you to this day.


 

 


    Sarah Flynn (MREM, MA, RCC) is a counsellor in private practice in Victoria, BC, Canada
who specializes in complex post traumatic stress and dissociative disorders. She has
advanced training in several trauma therapies and has been working with those who suffer
from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(CPTSD) since 2009. She offers counseling services by phone, Skype and in person. She
has several articles on dissociation and complex trauma on her website.

FIND SARAH ONLINE!

  Website  ✧              ✧  Facebook  

 

MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

    DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
    Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
    Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
    Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
    Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
    You Did Not ShatterA Message for Survivors with DID

 

FOLLOW BaB ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

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Trauma and Attachment (with Jade Miller): Part Two

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Trauma's Effect on Attachment Styles

   We are so honored and eager to bring to you Part Two from guest host and author, Jade Miller, who has created a three-part series on attachment and how it relates to trauma to share with you. If you missed the introductory article on Attachment Theory, as well as our goals with this series, you can check it out here.  But, fear not! There's enough of a recap here that you'll be able follow along if you've only got a minute - though we still encourage you to go back when you have time. So, let's just jump right into it! Please be sure to check out all the wonderful things you need to know about Jade below! We are truly thankful to her for allowing us to bring you her insights and wisdom, and want you to be able to locate and appreciate all of her other work, too.

 


 

Trauma and Attachment Styles
 

   In the last post, we discussed secure and insecure attachment and what each mean in terms of the inner beliefs a person holds as result of each. To review:

Secure attachment occurs when a caregiver consistently and appropriately meets a baby’s needs over a long enough period of time that the baby learns to expect a compassionate response. This causes them to internalize the belief that the world is basically a good place, that they themselves are worth caring for, and that others are willing to meet their needs.

Insecure attachment occurs when – for any reason – a caregiver is incapable of or unwilling to meet a baby’s needs predictably and in an appropriate way. Babies interpret this in slightly different ways, depending on their unique personality, and thus can result in one of three types of insecure attachment.  But the bottom line will be that their view of the world, themselves, and/or others is negatively affected.

   In this post I’m going to share how trauma affects people differently based on their attachment styles formed in infancy.

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   To put it very simply, trauma occurs when something happens to someone that is beyond their ability to process it in a healthy way, so the experience is not integrated correctly on a physical, emotional, or neurological level. (Some people prefer to understand it in terms of emotional and even physical energy that becomes trapped in the body with no way of being released.) In most cases, trauma happens when a person perceives a threat to their life, bodily integrity, or sanity

    It’s important to understand that the factors that cause an event to be experienced as traumatic are unique to each individual. No two people are the same, so even those who experience the same event (e.g. a natural disaster, or siblings who witness domestic violence in the home) may react to it differently according to their unique biological makeup as well as their individual personalities and sensitivities.

 

Trauma and Individuals with Secure Attachments

   People who are lucky enough to have a secure attachment to a caregiver as infants/children are at a significant advantage when it comes to experiencing a traumatic event. Sensitive caregivers are available and able to help them process the trauma so that it becomes appropriately integrated in their bodies, minds, and emotions.

   When a person experiences trauma, but has a secure attachment to someone, that attachment can restore their sense of security and counteract the effects of the trauma. When a child experiences something potentially traumatic, they seek comfort from their attachment figure. Secure attachments help children regulate emotional arousal that occurs in the face of a threat. Later, the attachment figure will help the child form a narrative about the event so that the brain can adequately process it. Rather than the event becoming stuck in the right brain as just experience and raw sensory data, a sensitive caregiver will help the child contextualize and understand what happened - which is one way of bringing the trauma into the left brain, synching the two halves, and helping the mind integrate the experience.

   Here is an example: Suppose a child is playing on the playground in the park, and suddenly a person walks by with an aggressive dog on a leash. The dog sees the child and lunges toward them, barking and growling, before being pulled away by its owner. 

   A child with a secure attachment will most likely run to its caregiver, crying, and the caregiver will pick up the child and comfort them. A sensitive and empathetic caregiver might say something like, “Wow, that must have been so scary! I’m sorry that dog scared you!” They will comfort the child by holding or hugging them until the child is calm. The very best way of helping a child integrate the scary experience they just had would be for the caregiver to actually put the experience into narrative form. They may say something like, “You were playing on the playground and then a big scary dog came by and barked at you. It scared you really bad. Then you came running over to Mama and I hugged you until you felt better.” The brain’s memory bank is sometimes described as an elaborate filing system. And, trauma has the potential to become stuck in a separate part of the brain, instead of being filed correctly. Forming a narrative helps the child make sense of what happened to them so the brain knows how to file the memory appropriately and can then “close out” of the “file,” so to speak, once it understands. With very young children, they may need to talk about the event and hear the story repeated over and over before they are able to finish processing it.

 

Trauma and Individuals with Insecure Attachments

   If a person without a secure attachment relationship experiences trauma, the event is more likely to remain unprocessed and unresolved from an emotional, physical, and neurological viewpoint. The person is often unable to regain their sense of safety in the world and may experience the threat of trauma as ongoing, even after the actual threat has subsided. In the face of unrelenting hyper-arousal, dissociation is often next in line as the person attempts to cope.

   It’s important to understand that without a secure attachment style, an overwhelming event is more likely to be perceived as trauma, no matter whether the person is still a child or not. People who grow up securely attached have developed much-needed skills to help them process overwhelming events and reduce the likelihood that they will become traumatized by something. However, this does not mean that securely attached people are never traumatized. It simply means the risk that something will be experienced as traumatic is lower, and the amount of time it takes for them to recover from a genuine trauma is often less than those with insecure attachment styles.

   People with an insecure attachment styles do not have a healthy template with which to relate to others, the world, and themselves. They are more likely to experience something overwhelming as a trauma, because they lack the internal (and often external) resources with which to process it. Below are the tendencies of each insecure attachment style in how they cope with emotional distress (traumatic or otherwise).

 

  People with an avoidant attachment style often see other people as a source of apathy, fear, or discomfort. So traumatic experiences do not drive them to seek help from others. Rather, they withdraw internally even more, and attempt to utilize their own resources to cope with an overwhelming event. Many attachment experts theorize that people with this attachment style are more likely to develop addictions. Those with the avoidant attachment style see people as a source of indifference or distress rather than a source of help, so they turn instead to ways of comforting themselves that do not involve other people.

  People with the insecure attachment style see other people as a helpful resource, but their low self-esteem creates a seemingly bottomless void of need. These people are often drawn into co-dependent relationships because they see others as their only source of comfort and soothing. They have not internalized the ability to self-soothe because their early interactions with caregivers were inconsistent or confusing. They did not receive comfort consistently enough to learn how to comfort themselves, so they feel the constant need for contact and connection to others when they are overwhelmed.

  People with the disorganized attachment style – as noted previously – do not have any consistent way of responding to emotional upset. They view others as dangerous or scary, and themselves as unworthy of help. They have never formed a reliable strategy to deal with powerful emotions, so they are often haphazard in their attempts to cope with overwhelming events. They may seek comfort from others at times (although such comfort is rarely internalized), or they may withdraw. At other times, they may seem unaffected or numb to the traumatic experience, and they are prone to dissociation as a defense mechanism. (Please note that anyone with any attachment style can utilize dissociation; the disorganized style is just more prone to it.)

   In the example of the child on a playground, lunged at by a big scary dog: those with insecure attachment styles, if faced with the same situation, could be at risk of a lifelong phobia of dogs. Or, they could be triggered to an anxiety attack by the sound of a dog barking or growling. The fear and panic they felt then, if experienced as trauma and left unintegrated, could cause all kinds of symptoms in their adult life. 
 

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If you are interested in learning more about emotional development and/or attachment and trauma here are some links: 

・・ Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development (Allan Schore)

・・ Joystarters.com – Please note that this is a faith-based blog, but there are some great articles on attachment, crisis, and neuroscience

・・ The Link Between Types of Attachment and Childhood Trauma

・・ Neuroscience Attachments & Relationships



Stay tuned for Part Three of the Trauma and Attachment series, coming soon!

 


    Jade Miller would describe herself as a blogger, artist, SRA survivor, peer worker, and member of a poly-fragmented DID system.  ..who also desires to bring education and awareness about the reality of SRA/DID to the public and increase the number and availability of resources to survivors for healing.  We would firmly agree, and also add that she's a fantastic advocate, with an abundance of passion, knowledge and experience of which we can all benefit.  Her blog is not only an invaluable resource, but she's also a published author with some must-read material.  Notably for survivors are her two illustrated books for younger parts of DID systems called Dear Little Ones and Dear Little Ones (Book 2: About Parents)!  You can even listen to her read it on YouTube, and see the illustrations.  She's also written books on Attachment and Dissociation, and has also compiled her experiences of struggle and healing into more personal books in the past.  All of these are very well worth your time, and we strongly encourage you to seek out all of her published work as well as her online presence (listed below).  We are super honored to partner with her to bring you this series and deeply value her support to us, and to survivors everywhere!
 

FIND JADE ON ALL HER PLATFORMS!

  -  Thoughts From J8  (blog)         -  Amazon Author Page
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MORE INFORMATIVE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  -  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
  -  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  -  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light

 

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Trauma and The Body 101: Introduction

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    After sharing a post on social media earlier today, we thought it was very much worth bringing here since it's an informative, cursory introduction to the topic of trauma and its effect on the body.  ...a topic we're rather passionate about because it is quite a challenge to find a trauma survivor with C-PTSD or DID who doesn't also struggle with their physical health in some way (some more profound than others). Too often, the survivors we help are often put in the unfair position of having to decide whether to spend their time, money and energy addressing their chronic health conditions first, or putting that same effort into therapy first.  It is possible to do both, simultaneously, and can be quite beneficial to do them in tandem, but only in the hands of experienced, trauma-informed clinicians who TRULY understand the mind's relationship to the body.  For now, hopefully this will at least get some of the wheels turning and we can dive into this topic more deeply in the future!

    For decades most of us have been well-aware of the psychological ramifications that can come post-trauma, but for some reason the depths of physical unwellness have largely been left out. Trauma in and of itself is an attack not only on the survivors mind, but their neurological system. And, what follows in the coming months and years, frequently causes an ADDITIONAL kind of damage to their bodies. The welling fear and anxiety, the hypervigilance, the emotional outbursts, and/or spontaneous crying are often each suppressed to the best of the survivor's ability, with intense commitment. "It's not appropriate to cry in public", "If I dive under my desk at work after a sudden sound, I could get fired", "If a co-worker pranks me or comes up behind me and I turn and whack 'em in fear, they could press charges", "If I lash out at my loved one, I'll hurt them and they might leave me". All these concerns and more keep us shutting off these physiological responses our bodies are cued to make as they navigate the circuitry of a traumatized brain. But, in having to exhaust such energy and physical stamina to pull this off, as well as emotionally numb ourselves from our natural responses, the distress it causes the body is remarkable.

    You'll be hard-pressed to find a long-term trauma survivor who doesn't have some kind of unexplained pain, fibromyalgia, migraines, allergies, autoimmune disorders, intense insomnia, or chronic fatigue -- and the number of survivors with POTS, EDS, or some other form of dysautonomia (autonomic nervous system dysfunction) is something of note in many trauma circles. The majority of these conditions come as the result of a collection of physical and psychological processes that tell our bodies how to respond, as well as us ignoring those responses, and how drained of its resources the body becomes over time. It's why it's crucial for therapy to address the whole body, and for the body to find some way to get all this energy OUT.  ...be it through some kind of movement, rhythm or other expression. Talk therapy does wonders for cognitive understanding and processing through traumatic material, but can at times embed these traumatic responses deeper into our bodies (especially as we pretzel ourselves up tight and try stifling some of the terror and/or emotion that spills out into our bodies when we talk about it). The suppression of all that intensity and not allowing the adrenaline and neural energy to process out, find a place to go or level itself out naturally, leaves our bodies having to find their own creative ways to do so (or just makes it harder and harder for it to ever find homeostasis on its own). ...which often leads to some of these chronic illnesses.

   The good news, however, is that there are ways to find wellness again - physical and psychological. Treating the whole body, honoring its natural responses while finding a safe and healing place to channel them, and even just simply recognizing what your body is experiencing more, can all make a dramatic difference in your recovery. Finding therapists and physicians who are aware of this mind/body connection in trauma can also go a very long way in leading you to the proper care your body needs and deserves. And, we also can't recommend enough looking more into this topic in the meantime.  Bessel A van der Kolk, and many of his colleagues, have done some really amazing work and research in this field, and we still firmly believe The Body Keeps the Score is a brilliant and invaluable book on the topic.

    We are sending you an abundance of love and compassion, hope this was helpful, and hope you remain eager for a few upcoming posts we have planned.  From new imagery skills for flashbacks, emotions and intrusive symptoms; to Jade's continued series on Trauma and Attachment; and even doing a slightly deeper dive into Healing is Not Linear!  We'll see you soon!

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MORE INFORMATIVE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  -  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
  -  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  -  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light

 

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