Attachment Disorders - Dark Shadows of Neglect
Attachment Disorders (or Reactive Attachment Disorder)
refers to emotional and behavioral problems arising in young children, usually
resulting from neglect by a primary
caregiver, causing children to distrust people. "Neglect" can
include parents who were working, depressed, abusive, preoccupied or
Damage to children's self-respect and relationships can last
for decades, showing up as lasting emotional and relationship
issues. Children need to learn to trust and love, and if "safe people"
ignore or frighten them, their distress can be lasting problems.
Children's minds are harmed by parents who fight, who are depressed or who are often unavailable. To avoid emotional risk
they may avoid emotional intimacy.
Many adults who suffered childhood attachment disorders avoid
intimacy. If they do not trust or feel close to people, they may
create shallow or distorted relationships (e.g. they may want
their partners to parent them or they want to parent their parents).
Some want to be friendly, yet people may not
trust them to keep their promises, to be reliable or to repay their obligations.
They may be unable to keep a family together. They may
prefer to be alone or distract themselves or take drugs. We
help motivated adults resolve such issues - and if they see their symptoms as
benefits they may avoid changing them.
People with Attachment Disorders
People who believe that lying, distrust and selfishness are
normal may also suffer from parental alienation
(a parent was alienated in the mind of a child), emotional incest
(a parent used a child as a substitute for a partner) or
identification (a child in distress tries to become somebody else).
They may not know how to enjoy healthy
relationships and may only trust people who are similar to
people they trusted as children. We
can help people review their lives and understand whether they suffer from
the consequences of childhood damage ... or from something else.
We can help people change how they react
to early neglect or abuse - just talking about their
stories is rarely enough. We help people assimilate
their emotions, change their values and express themselves as
mature human beings.
Survivors of childhood neglect, abuse and trauma often
seem immature and childish. While some children can
identify with mature adults and duplicate mature values, many people whose trust and ability to
bond were damaged, even as babies, seem unlikely to resolve their damage
without mature guidance.
Age of Relationship Damage
The consequences can be roughly divided into:
Secure: I enjoy feeling close to people
Fearful-avoidant: I want to feel close to people,
but I might get hurt
Dismissive-avoidant: I do not want to depend on
people and I don't want them depending on me
Anxious-preoccupied: I want to feel closer
to people, but
they dont want to feel closer to me
Erik Erikson's work helps us determine the ages in which a
child's ability to bond was damaged. Knowing the ages
that people were damaged provides information about which values could not
be developed and about how to resolve that damage.
Infancy (birth to about 2 years): a time when babies trust that they will be fed and nurtured, babies with relationship damage
may show distress, distrust and withdrawal
Early Childhood (about 2 - 3 years): a time when babies want more independence,
babies with relationship damage may show shame, doubt and compulsions.
Preschool (about 3 - 5 years): a time when young
children want to explore their environments, children with relationship damage
may feel inhibited by guilt.
Junior School (about 5 - 11 years): a time when
most children cope with the challenges of school, children with relationship
damage may feel and act inferior (which may inhibit education and prevent
Adolescence (about 12 - 18 years): a time when healthy
teenagers enjoy friendship and teamwork, teenagers with relationship damage
suffer role confusion, a weak sense of self and feelings of
isolation or withdrawal.
Younger Adulthood (about 19 - 40 years): a time when healthy
young adults enjoy teamwork, partnership and parenthood, younger adults with
relationship damage may suffer loneliness, isolation and brief,
Middle Age (about 40 - 65 years): a time when healthy middle aged adults
enjoy being parents and grandparents, middle aged people with relationship damage may disconnect
themselves from their families and communities.
Old Age (about 65 years to death): a time when healthy
older adults enjoy reflecting on their lives and successes, people with
relationship damage may be preoccupied or obsessed with their disappointments,
blame and despair, leading perhaps to alcoholism or even suicide.
(4) Dissolving Relationship Damage
Erik Erikson's work on psychosocial development helps us
determine "missing" relationship
resources and values . Our systemic work
includes family clarification for improving the perceived roles of family
members, and reparenting to help people gain their
needed relationship resources.
Early relationship damage can inhibit later
relationships and create more damage. (E.g.: If a person cannot be
friendly as a child, that person is less likely to become a team player at
"team" skills are less likely to succeed as partners, parents
or in community
Solutions - Systemic Coaching & Training
Most blocks to quality relationships seem to include
unresolved trauma and unhealthy parenting. Motivated adults can usually change, if
mature guidance is available to help people resolve the adult
consequences of childhood relationship disappointments.
An important issue is trust - if they distrusted a parent - why
should they trust a helping professional? If they distrust someone for any
reason, they may break contact.
methodology includes: non-verbal communication, family clarification, interactive metaphors,
integrity, trauma resolution, age regression, conflict
resolution, integrating split-off ego states, belief change and resolving
We offer workshops and training in our systemic methodology,
and sometimes Internet counseling to help people resolve these issues.
Help for Adults with Insecure
Healthy attachments are usually made with reliable, dependable and
trustworthy adults. Insecure, unhealthy attachments are usually formed during a
series of relationship disappointments, often with immature or preoccupied
parent or primary caretakers. Neglected children may become
expert at seduction, manipulation, lying, theft etc. Other common consequences of insecure attachments include:
- Alienates people
- Impulsive behavior
- Demands attention
- Avoids feeling emotions
- Cannot choose meaningful life goals
- Feeling isolated, lonely or disconnected
- Few close friends - many acquaintances
- Automatically distrusts and avoids people
Childhood neglect can manifest as so many different behaviors that I
see little purpose in listing them. Similarly, our systemic solutions have
so many subtle choice points that I see no sense in trying to describe detailed
We help motivated people to integrate their histories into their lives and change how they
behave. As these people accept their history they can better accept
themselves and understand why they had so many relationship problems. We can help those people change problematic emotions,
beliefs, conflicts, values and habits as they develop their relationship skills.
people resolve attachment disorders, I find that dissolving individual phobias and
compulsions etc seems almost trivially easy. On the other side, many "simple" emotional
problems appear to be rooted in childhood relationship disappointments.)
Online Help, Relationship Counseling & Systemic Therapy
I thought you were just
another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.
Plagiarism is theft. Copyright ©
Martyn Carruthers January 2016-Julyl 2016