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422 -Attachment and Impact on Adult Relationships

A direct link to the counseling CEU course based on this podcast can be found at

~ Briefly define attachment theory
~ Learn about the impact of attachment
~ Identify triggers for attachment behaviors
~ Explore the relationship between ACEs and attachment issues
~ Learn about adult attachment theory
~ Examine how attachment impacts emotional regulation and vice versa
~ Identify ways to help people become more securely attached.

What is Attachment Theory?
~ Attachment behaviors, such as crying and searching, were adaptive responses to separation from with a primary attachment figure someone who provides support, protection, and care.
~ Erikson postulated the periods of trust vs. mistrust, and autonomy vs. shame and doubt during this same time period
~ Maintaining proximity to an attachment figure via attachment behaviors increases the chance for survival
~ From this initial relationship we learn
~ How scary or safe the world is.
~ What it is like to be loved.

What is Attachment Theory?
~ The attachment system essentially “asks” the following fundamental question: Is the attachment figure nearby, accessible, and attentive?
~ If the answer is “yes,” the person feels loved, secure, and confident, and, behaviorally, is likely to explore his or her environment, interact with others.
~ If the answer is “no,” the person experiences anxiety and, is likely to exhibit attachment behaviors ranging from simple visual searching to active following and vocal signaling on the other
~ These behaviors continue until either
~ The person is able to reestablish a desirable level of physical or psychological proximity to the attachment figure
~ Until the person “wears down.”
Impact of Attachment
~ How loved or unloved we feel as children deeply affects the formation of our self-esteem and self-acceptance. It shapes how we seek love and whether we feel part of life or more like an outsider.
~ As we individuate we often again seek approval.
Does it Stop After Infancy
~ Maybe yes, maybe no.
~ Consider the child that regularly did not get needs met.
~ Persisted with attachment seeking behaviors
~ Those behaviors were eventually rewarded (so they will happen again) or not, so the child stops seeking comfort from others.
~ How does this impact
~ Self-esteem?
~ Trust in others?
~ Future relationships?
Does it Stop After Infancy
~ Maybe yes, maybe no.
~ Consider the adult who got needs met as a child, but in adult relationships regularly does not get needs met.
~ What role do significant others play in the survival of the adult human?
~ Think about Erikson’s stage of intimacy vs. isolation
~ How does not getting needs met impact
~ Self-esteem?
~ Trust in others?
~ Future relationships?
Adult Attachment Theory
~ (1987) Hazan and Shaver noted that the relationship between infants and caregivers and the relationship between adult romantic partners share the following features:
~ both feel safe when the other is nearby and responsive
~ both engage in close, intimate, bodily contact
~ both feel insecure when the other is inaccessible
~ both share discoveries with one another
~ both play with one another's facial features and exhibit a mutual fascination and preoccupation with one another
~ both engage in “baby talk”

Adult Attachment Theory
~ If adult romantic relationships are attachment relationships, then:
~ We should observe the same kinds of individual differences in adult relationships that Ainsworth observed in infant-caregiver relationships.
~ The way adult relationships “work” should be similar to the way infant-caregiver relationships work.
~ The same kinds of factors that facilitate exploration in children (i.e., Having a responsive caregiver) should facilitate exploration among adults (i.e., Having a responsive partner).
~ Whether an adult is secure or insecure in his or her adult relationships may be a partial reflection of his or her experiences with his or her primary caregivers. (During infancy or later in life)
Triggers for Attachment
~ Certain kinds of events trigger a desire of closeness and comfort from caregivers.
~ Three main sets of triggers:
~ Conditions of the person (fatigue, hunger, illness, pain, cold, etc.) (HALT)
~ Conditions involving the caregiver (absent, departing, discouraging of proximity, giving attention to another, etc.)
~ Conditions of the environment (alarming events, criticism or rejection by others)

Adverse Childhood Experiences Impacting Attachment
~ Physical, sexual and verbal abuse.
~ Physical and emotional neglect.
~ A family member who is:
~ Depressed or diagnosed with other mental illness
~ Addicted to alcohol or another substance
~ In prison
~ Witnessing a parent being abused.
~ Losing a parent to separation, divorce or other reason.

Attachment Styles
~ Avoidant infants avoid the parent—physically, visually.
~ Avoidant adults are somewhat uncomfortable being close to others. They find it difficult to trust others completely, to allow themselves to depend on others or to let anyone get too close. (What would cause this?)
~ Resistant / ambivalent infants either passively or actively show hostility toward the parent.
~ Anxious / ambivalent adults often worry that their partner doesn't really love them or won't want to stay with them and want to merge completely with another person, and this desire sometimes scares people away. (What would cause this?)

Attachment Styles
~ Secure infants often cry briefly when the parent leaves, but is consolable, greeting the parent warmly upon return.
~ Secure adults find it easy to get close to others and are comfortable depending on others and having others depend on them. They don't often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to them.
~ What would cause this?
~ Consistency (emotional and physical)
~ Unconditional positive regard
~ Comfort/support/encouragement (It is okay to have feelings and it is okay to fail)

Insecure Attachment– Emotional Regulation
Avoidant Attachment –Emotional Regulation
Secure Attachment– Emotional Regulation
~ Can people have different attachment styles to different people who are significant in their lives?
~ Children
~ Spouse
~ Best friend
~ Parent
Changing Your Attachment Style
~ Build self-esteem to begin seeing yourself as lovable
~ Practice acceptance of yourself and others to become less faultfinding — a tall order for codependents and distancers.
~ Take calculated risks to get outside of your comfort zone (including intimacy building) so you can learn how strong you are. (Gloria Gaynor “I Will Survive”)
~ Get healthy to nurture emotional stability and strength. (vulnerability prevention)
~ Develop emotional regulation and distress tolerance skills
~ Increase insight and understanding
~ Identify when and why you are using unhelpful relationship strategies

Changing Your Attachment Style
~ Increase mindfulness (awareness)
~ Learn to be assertive and authentic
~ Stop reacting, and learn to resolve conflict and compromise from a “we” perspective
~ Dialectics
~ Win/win
~ Challenging questions (next slide)

Changing Your Attachment Style
~ Challenging Questions
~ Attachment problems often arise out of past traumas
~ These traumas may have contributed to thinking errors
~ Questions
~ What is my belief
~ What are the facts for and against my belief in this context (i.e. this person, this situation)
~ Am I using emotional or factual reasoning (reacting from the past or the present)
~ What are other factors that may have contributed/other explanations
~ Are you using extreme words?

~ Attachment theory was first proposed by Bowlby as an adaptive survival function for helpless infants
~ Bowlby proposed that the infant-caregiver relationship was the relationship that all future relationships would be build from.
~ People’s self-esteem develops from and is impacted by how loved and secure they feel
~ Adults show similar attachment behaviors to their significant others (m/l age appropriate)
~ Attachment styles can be changed by developing self esteem, emotion regulation skills, self-awareness, interpersonal skills (boundaries, communication) and self confidence.