Attachment Disorders - Shadows of Neglect
Unless remedied, many people seem to suffer the consequences of childhood
neglect and abuse for the rest of their lives. As adults, these people may be
to enjoy long-term healthy relationships and appear more likely to participate
in shallow relationships, affairs, depression, guilt and stress disorders.
Solutions for Adult Attachment Disorders
The bonds that develop between parents and their neglected or
abandoned children seem
to act as relationship models for the rest of those children's lives (see Bowlby
1969) and affect their personality and behavior. Many affected adults often
behave as if they were traumatized children.
(1) Spontaneous Age Regression
Spontaneous age regression -
The adoption of a pattern of behavior characteristic of an earlier stage of
development - (Oxford Dictionary of Psychology). We find age regression
to be common when people are reminded of
their pasts. Visiting places enjoyed in childhood, photographs, music and
certain smells or foods may stimulate age regression - then forgotten
memories may be remembered.
You have probably witnessed or
experienced age regression many
times. E.g. “How old do men behave when they feel sick?” In these
moments, people can behave in ways that are (developmentally) much younger than their
body ages – perhaps whining, crying, blaming or having temper
tantrums. (E.g. Consider Donald Trump)
(2) Psychosocial Development
Psychosocial development is about people's emotions and
relationships. Erik Erikson noticed that children develop during
a series of stages, in which the steps include some important conflicts and challenges.
I reasoned that “If Erikson's theories of Psychosocial
Development are accurate, then we can explore which developmental stages people
regress to, and we can help those people resolve these old conflicts and
fulfill challenges from those stages".
By applying Erikson's theories of psychosocial development, we can
better help people to resolve the conflicts and fulfill the challenges of each stage.
Most people achieve this development during their upbringing,
and some neglected or abused children identify
with seemingly "safe" family members or caregivers and adopt their values.
But not all
children have mature parents or can find appropriate role models; so they cannot
needed values. Instead they may repeat childish ideas and immature behaviors for
during their relationships.
People whose ability to
bond was damaged during childhood seem unlikely to resolve their problematic behaviors
without guidance. We often utilize age regression to help adults resolve
incomplete childhood issues.
(3) Summary of Psychosocial Development
Stage 1: Infancy (birth to about age 2 years)
Basic Conflict: Trust vs. Distrust (Hope vs. Withdrawal)
Important Events: Feeding and nurturing (Walking?)
Outcome: Children develop a sense of hope, trust and
anticipation to caregivers who
provide reliable feeding, care and affection. A lack of reliable nurturing, for whatever
reason, can lead to a lasting sense of distrust and withdrawal.
Stage 2: Early Childhood (about age 2 to 3 years)
Basic Conflict: Autonomy vs. Shame (Will vs. Compulsion)
Important Events: Toilet Training (Saying "No"?)
Outcome: Children develop a sense of personal control
over physical skills (such as toilet training) to gain a sense of will and independence.
Success in this stage can lead to feelings of autonomy, while failure may result in
feelings of shame, doubt and compulsions.
Stage 3: Preschool (about age 3 to 5 years)
Basic Conflict: Initiative vs. Guilt (Purpose vs. Inhibition)
Important Events: Exploration (Reading?)
Outcome: Children begin exploring and asserting control over
their environments. Success in this stage leads to a sense of purpose while
failure may result in a sense of inhibition. (Children who try to exert too much
control often experience disapproval,
resulting in a sense of guilt.)
Stage 4: Junior School Age (about age 6 to 11 years)
Basic Conflict: Coping vs. Inferiority (Competence vs. Inertia)
Important Events: School and meetings with friends
Outcome: Children learn to cope with school and academic
demands. Success at this stage leads to an ongoing sense of competence, while failure
can result in lasting feelings of inferiority and inertia.
Stage 5: Adolescence (about age 12 to 18 years)
Basic Conflict: Identity vs. Confusion (Fidelity vs.
Important Events: Friendship and Teamwork (Leadership?)
Outcome: Teenagers strive to develop a sense of personal
identity within peer groups. Success at this stage leads to an ability to stay true to themselves,
while failure can lead to lasting role confusion, a weak sense of self and feelings of
Stage 6: Young Adulthood (about age 19 to 40 years)
Basic Conflict: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Deep vs. Shallow
Important Events: Teamwork, Partnership and Parenthood
Outcome: Young adults want to explore intimate
relationships with potential partners. Success in this stage leads to
companionship and enriching
relationships, while failure can lead to long-term loneliness, isolation and shallow relationships.
Stage 7: Middle Age (about age 40 to 65 years)
Basic Conflict: Creativity vs. Stagnation
Important Events: Parenting Teenagers and Extended Families
Outcome: Middle aged adults need to create and nurture
children, and support things that will
outlast them, often by mentoring children or creating benefits for other people. Success leads to feelings of
creativity, usefulness and
accomplishment, while failure can result in feelings of disconnection from one's family,
community and the world.
Stage 8: Old Age (about age 65 years and older)
Basic Conflict: Fulfillment vs. Despair
Important Events: Reflection on life
Outcome: Older adults often review and evaluate their lives and
their contributions to their families, their communities and to humanity. Success leads
to feelings of wisdom and fulfillment, while failure may result in preoccupation
with their trauma, bitterness,
blame, despair, alcoholism or even suicide.
People who did not fulfill these developmental stages may
achieve physical or financial success, but likely show their lack of attachment and security in their relationships.
(4) Systemic Coaching & Training
The most common blocks to secure relationships seem to be unresolved
trauma and insecure attachments. These attachments can usually be dissolved by motivated adults, if
mature guidance is available.
Throughout our trainings we teach and demonstrate the skills needed for emotional
development and relationship guidance. Some specific skills we use to resolve the adult
consequences of childhood neglect, abuse and insecure attachments include:
Goal Definition, Non-verbal Communication, Family Maps, Interactive
Isomorphic Metaphors, Clarification, Integrity, Trauma Resolution,
Regression, Conflict Resolution, Split-off Ego States,
Changing Beliefs and Resolving
We offer training in our methodology, private
counseling and Internet sessions to help people resolve a wide variety of
emotional and relationship issues.
Help for Adults with Insecure
Secure (healthy) attachments are normally made by
children to people who those children saw as reliable, dependable and
trustworthy. Children seem to form insecure attachments during a series of relationship disappointments with their
mothers or caretakers. The consequences
of insecure childhood attachments include:
- Inhibited behavior
- Does not trust people
- Feels shame and doubt
- Feels lonely and isolated
- Prefers shallow relationships
- Feels disconnected from most people
- Feels inferior, may not complete tasks
These consequences can be manifested as very many different symptoms and
behaviors. Similarly, our systemic
solutions have many subtle choice points.
We help people integrate their
trauma into their lives and change how they react to those and
similar stimuli. As these people accept and dissolve their trauma, they can better accept
themselves and understand why they had trouble making healthy decisions. We can then help those people change their unwanted emotions,
beliefs, conflicts, values and habits; fulfill relationship
deficiencies and develop any missing relationship skills.
Note that people with attachment disorders may also suffer consequences of
abuse, parental alienation
(a parent was alienated in the mind of a child) or
emotional incest (a parent used a child as a substitute for a
Online Help, Relationship Counseling & Systemic Therapy
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Martyn Carruthers 2015-2016