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A theory of relationships

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1 A theory of relationships
Attachment Theory A theory of relationships

2 What is Attachment? …the capacity to form and maintain healthy emotional relationships which generally begin to develop in early childhood – Enduring bond with “special” person – Security & safety within context of this relationship – Includes soothing, comfort, & pleasure – Loss or threat of loss of special person results in distress

3 Background John Bowlby Harry Harlow Mary Ainsworth Adult Attachment
Phillip Shaver Cindy Hazan

4 John Bowlby Attachment is the result of innate, interrelated human predispositions for infants to seek the attention of adults – The primary caregiver (PCG) – most often their mothers; part of biological basis of survival Attachment is an “anchor” that allows child to explore world Disturbance/disruption of initial attachment bond between child and PCG renders person insecure as an adult

5 Harry Harlow Raised monkeys with cloth-covered or wire “mothers”
Wire mother also provided milk to infants, but not cloth mother Infants monkeys spent more time clinging to cloth mothers – “contact comfort” compared to wire ones

6 Background Humans, especially infants, rely on “attachment figures” for protection, comfort, and emotional regulation The “attachment behavioral system” is an evolved, innate proximity regulator When threat abates, behavioral systems other than attachment (e.g., exploration, affiliation, care giving) can be activated There are systematic individual differences in attachment orientation: secure, anxious, avoidant The theory applies “from the cradle to the grave” - Bowlby

7 10 Central Tenets 1. Attachment is an innate motivating force
Seeking and maintaining contact with significant others is innate. This occurs throughout the life span.

8 10 Central Tenets 2. Secure dependency complements autonomy
No such thing as complete independence or overdependency There is only effective and ineffective dependence Secure dependence fosters autonomy and self-confidence The more secure attached we are the more separate and different we can be. Health means maintaining a felt sense of interdependency, rather than being self-sufficient and separate from others.

9 10 Central Tenets 3. Attachment offers a safe haven
The presence of attachment figures provides comfort and security while perceived inaccessibility creates distress. Proximity is the natural antidote to feelings of anxiety and vulnerability Positive attachments offers a safe haven that offer a buffer against effects of stress and uncertainty.

10 10 Central Tenets 4. Attachment offers a secure base
Gives base from which individuals can explore their world and most adaptively respond to their environment. Secure base encourages exploration and a cognitive openness to new information. When we have this felt security, we are better able to reach out and offer support for others.

11 10 Central Tenets 5. Accessibility and Responsiveness builds bonds
Building blocks for secure attachment are emotional accessibility and responsiveness One can be physically present but emotionally absent Emotional engagement and the trust that this engagement will be there when needed is most crucial. Any response, even anger, is better than none. Emotion is the key. If there is no engagement, no emotional responsiveness, then the message is “your signals do not matter to me and there is no connection between us.”

12 10 Central Tenets 6. Fear and uncertainty activate attachment needs
When an individual is threatened attachment needs for comfort and connection become salient and compelling, and attachment behaviors are activated. Attachment to key others is our primary protection against feelings of helplessness and meaningless.

13 10 Central Tenets 7. The process of separation distress is predictable
If attachment behaviors fail to evoke comforting responsiveness and contact from attachment figures, a predictable process of protest, clinging, depression and despair, ending eventually in detachment. Depression is a natural response to loss of connection Anger can be seen as an attempt to make contact with an inaccessible attachment figure.

14 10 Central Tenets 8. Finite number of insecure forms of engagement can be identified. There are a number of ways that we have to deal with the unresponsiveness of attachment figures. Only so many ways of coping from a negative response to the question “Can I depend on you when I need you?”

15 10 Central Tenets 9. Attachment involves working models of self and others Attachment strategies reflect ways of processing and dealing with emotion These models of self and others come from thousands of interactions, and become expectations and biases that are carried forward into new relationships.

16 10 Central Tenets 10. Isolation and loss are inherently traumatizing
Attachment theory describes and explores the trauma of deprivation, loss, rejection, and abandonment by those we need the most and the enormous impact it has on us. These events have a major impact on personality formation and on a person’s ability to deal with other stresses in life.

17 Attachment Figures Those who will serve as attachment figures for children are: The ones who are most responsive to crying and to interact socially. Those who will serve as attachment figures for adults are: The ones who are most responsive to anxiety/fear and to social interaction

18 Adult Attachment From our childhood experiences we develop schemas that are concerned with dependability of others and the worth or lovableness of self. These schemes are easily maintained across time into adulthood as they are reinforced over and over again. In the literature these schemas are referred to as attachment styles.

19 4 types of adult attachment styles (Hazen & Shaver, 1994)
Questions Can you count on this person to be there for you if you needed them? Are others trustworthy and responsive? Am I lovable and able to elicit caring?

20 Answer: NO Avoidant Fearful- Tend to recognize their need for others but avoid others and frame them as untrustworthy. Dismissing- Tend to deny their need for attachment and frame others as untrustworthy.

21 Answer: MAYBE Anxious/preoccupied
Tend to cling to attachment figures or aggressively demand reassurance, often fearing that they are somehow deficient or unlovable.

22 Answer: YES Secure Tend to believe that others are reliable and see themselves as lovable and worthy of care.

23 Adapted from Fraley & Shaver (RGP, 2000)
Attachment Patterns in Adulthood: Not Types, But Regions in a Two-Dimensional Space HIGH ANXIETY HIGH AVOIDANCE SECURE PREOCCUPIED FEARFUL- AVOIDANT DISMISSING- LOW ANXIETY LOW AVOIDANCE Adapted from Fraley & Shaver (RGP, 2000)

24 Attachment system in adults
(Shaver & Mikulincer, A&HD, 2002) Signs of threat? + Activation of other behavioral systems No - Yes Attachment-system activation Attachment security, distress alleviation Security-based strategies + Is attachment figure available? Yes - No Insecurity, compounding distress Is proximity seeking a viable option? Deactivating strategies No Yes Hyperactivating strategies

25 “Felt Security” 1. Better Affect Regulation - less reactivity
- less hyperarousal - less underarousal - more acknowledgement of support seeking

26 “Felt Security” 2. Better Information Processing
- more flexibility, curiosity, openness - tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty 3. Better communication - more ability to collaborate, to metacommunicate, to disclose, more assertive and emphatic

27 “Felt Security” 4. Sense of Self is more: - coherent - elaborated
- articulated - positive

28 Attachment Highlights
Bowlby: There is only effective & ineffective dependency Autonomy & secure attachment are parts of the same coin. Attachment needs become most compelling in times of uncertainty & change

29 Highlights 1. Seeking and maintaining contact is viewed as the primary motivating principle from childhood into adult relationships. 2. A secure connection offers a safe haven and a secure base. - Needs for connection, comfort and caring are key.

30 Highlights 3. Accessibility and Responsiveness builds bonds.
4. Separation Distress – A predictable process. - Protect - Cling & Seek - Depression & Despair - Detachment

31 Highlights 5. Emotion is the music of the attachment dance.
6. Therapy must be a safe haven, and a secure base. 7. Predictable set of attachment strategies in response to distress. 8. Attachment strategies define sense of Self and Others – Working Models 9. Defines pivotal moments of healing/injury.

32 Highlights Attachment styles are working models of self and others.
The way we see ourselves The way we see others The way we see relationships Predict the way we will respond

33 Role of Emotion Emotion is the music of the attachment dance.
Affect will automatically arise when an attachment figure is perceived as inaccessible or unresponsive. Men and women seem to respond differently to their affect if attachment is threatened. Women tend to regulate their affect, which usually puts them in a complaining position (criticism). Men on the other hand seem to withdraw in order to contain their affect. (stonewalling) Both responses tend to evoke anger from the other partner, leading to a predictable sequence of responses. (Bowlby, 1988).

34 Attachment Injuries An attachment injury occurs when one partner violates the expectation that the other will offer comfort and caring in times of danger and distress. It is characterized by an abandonment or betrayal of trust during a critical moment of need.

35 Attachment Injuries When a partner cries out for help and there is no response, the sense of basic trust that is the bedrock upon which the welfare of their bond depends is shattered.

36 Therapy based on Attachment Theory
Focus on attachment needs & forms of engagement & disengagement Privileges emotion – the music of the attachment dance. Creates the therapy session as a secure base. Shapes new bonding responses – events. Addresses impasses – attachment injuries.

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