As children, we all seek a secure base. The harbor we know we can return to and rely on, no matter how upset or distressed or emotionally messy we get.
As children, it’s not our job to be a secure base for our parents. Human brain development simply doesn’t work that way.
Not all of us were fortunate enough as children to have that sense of safety on a consistent basis. For many of us, the echoes of trauma our parents faced, and their parents faced, vibrate into the moment-to-moment experiences we have with them. These unhealed wounds come out in the frequencies and signals they send to us over the years.
Fortunately, we have the ability as a species to activate new circuits. We also have the ability to share wisdom from those who have learned how to heal.
We have the opportunity - as adults - to become a secure base, both for ourselves and for others. Our brain architecture and ability to learn and adapt make this possible. But it does take a conscious commitment - otherwise we simply reenact not only our unhealed wounds, but those of our parents and previous generations.
These concepts are reflected in the videos posted below and in this podcast episode: Season 2 Ep 11, The neuroscience of attachment and emotion regulation:
Because of how brains mature over time, as children, we need to outsource our self-regulating abilities to our caregivers. This is especially important when we are distressed.
If, during childhood, we experience a lack of responsiveness, emotional availability or attunement to our emotions, this can lead to insecure attachment patterns in our adult relationships.
When you overreact, or respond in ways where your emotions may be disproportionate to the event, there is a chance that your reaction is tied to some attachment wounds and injuries you experienced when you were young.
When it comes to attachment behaviors and emotion regulation, a key component emerges from the research as a key to overall health and postive outcomes: FLEXIBILITY
The ability and willingness to activate new circuits and experiment with new strategies is one of the most important pillars of emotion regulation and overall mental health.
This flexibility of detection and response is called feedback responsiveness.
Feedback responsiveness (Kato, 2012) is tied to the ability AND willingness to:
- evaluate the efficacy of your current strategy
- acknowledge when a strategy is not giving you the outcomes you want, and
- cease an ineffective strategy and implement an alternative
- continue to monitor and readjust as needed
In order to be able to implement a new strategy, you must increase your range and repertoire
Range and repertoire can become more flexible by adding both emotion enhancing (up-regulation) or suppression (down-regulation)mechanisms. Having a wide variety of choices is key to adaptive responses to stress. For example:
- If you always express and communicate, it could be helpful to sometimes quiet down, distract and zone out.
- If you always zone out and distract, It could be helpful to express and communicate.
- Is your tendency towards a short fuse and anger? There may be something you’re grieving or sad about.
- Are you usually more melancholic, sorrowful and feeling like a victim? You may be suppressing anger or rage.
None of these suppressions or expressions are good or bad necessarily. They all serve a purpose. It’s just that a wider range and repertoire of strategies to up-regulate or down-regulate emotions is generally associated with resilience, adjustment and overall health.
In this first video, I cover:
- a range of 9 various attachment behaviors and responses we may notice in ourselves and in others - all of these play with either up-regulating or down-regulating emotions.
- How our emotional reactions may be tied to attachment wounds
- Different types of attachment behaviors that can help us create the connections we want in our adult relationships, as well as which ones take us further away from connection
- How to regulate our attachment system by increasing our range and repertoire of attachment behaviors
Attachment wounds are tied to two key dimensions: INTIMACY and INDEPENDENCE
Because we are mammals, we are biologically dependent on others for co-regulating our nervous systems and complexifying our neural circuits for optimized functioning via collective intelligence. Because we are self-regulating systems, we ALSO require independence and autonomy in order to exercise the our self-regulating mechanisms.
On the one hand, the pain we attempt to avoid with many of our behaviors, costumes, words and over-thinking is a pain we believe we will not be able to bear. The pain of being alone. Truly alone… abandoned. At the same time, we also fear losing our freedom. We fear being completely enmeshed… trapped by another.
Some of us have the fear of being trapped or consumed by another. That another person will take over their life. Because of that, our nervous system activates any time closeness occurs. This leads us to want space and can lead us to find negative features about the people around us. This helps soothe the fear of entrapment that occurs within us.
Some of us feel that we can never get enough of a person. That we are shut out and kept at arm's length. When this happens, we attempt to reconnect however we can. Sometimes it’s by threatening to leave or by over-sharing and over-communicating.
Some of us are a mix of both.
In all of these cases, the behaviors are generally coming from a state of distress (which I explain in the video). Generally speaking, our distress-based behaviors are not the ones that lead to our desired long-term outcomes.
By not understanding the deeper roots of our wounds, we can get stuck in behaviors that prevent us from feeling the sense of connection we ache for.
The more we understand these roots, the more we can find ways to disentangle from them.
In this second video, I cover:
- How attachment wounds relate to our power to have independence when we want it and intimacy when we want it
- How feeling trapped or abandoned affects your negativity bias towards yourself and others
- How to activate new circuits to balance out attachment-wound behavior