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Solutions for Adult Attachment Disorders
Advanced Systemic Coaching © Martyn Carruthers 2016

Help for Adults who were Neglected or Abused


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 hospitalized etc.

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.

Helping 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 don’t 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 friendships).

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, shallow relationships.

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, showing  guilt, 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 school. Teenagers without "team" skills are less likely to succeed as partners, parents or in community projects etc.)

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.

Our methodology includes: non-verbal communication, family clarification, interactive metaphors, goal  definition, integrity, trauma resolution, age regression, conflict resolution, integrating split-off ego states, belief change and resolving identity issues.

We offer workshops and training in our systemic methodology, also private and sometimes Internet counseling to help people resolve these issues.

Help for Adults with Insecure Attachments

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:

  1. Self-harm
  2. Procrastination
  3. Alienates people
  4. Impulsive behavior
  5. Demands attention
  6. Avoids feeling emotions
  7. Cannot choose meaningful life goals
  8. Feeling isolated, lonely or disconnected
  9. Few close friends - many acquaintances
  10. 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 interventions.

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.

(Compared to helping 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


While imitation may be flattery, copying our work is illegal.
Please link to us - you break the law if you post our work elsewhere.

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If you know someone who might benefit, please mention www.SystemicPsychology.com, www.soulwork.support  or  www.EmotionsRelationships.com

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Solve Emotional & Relationship Issues

Have You Suffered Enough?

 Where are you now? Understand your emotions, fixations and enmeshments
What do you want? Know your life goals and how you sabotage yourself
Do you feel resourceful? Develop your inner resources with Dreamwork
Do emotions block you? Resolve relationship problems and mentor damage
Do beliefs limit you? Change your limiting beliefs and end dependence
Can you feel connected? Resolve identity loss to recover your lost resources
Is your partner happy? Build healthy partnership (or separate peacefully)
Are your children healthy? Happy parents can better manage family problems
Endless relationship problems? Solutions for adults who suffer attachment disorders
Do you have complex goals? Coaching, counseling, therapy & training

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright © Martyn Carruthers 1996-2016 All rights reserved. Soulwork Systemic Coaching was developed by Martyn Carruthers
to help people solve emotional and relationship problems, and to achieve their goals. These concepts and strategies are for general knowledge only. Consult a physician about medical conditions and before changing medical treatment. Don't steal intellectual property ... get permission to post, publish or teach Martyn's work.