We have this idea as adults that our patterns and behaviours are personal failings—things we should just be able to correct. As a result, we end up feeling ashamed. Some people go Jekyll & Hyde once they’re in a relationship, while others struggle with low self-esteem even when they’re rock stars at work. Attachment theory approaches these behaviours from a different perspective without excusing them. What if these aren’t irrational behaviours? What if they’re self-defence mechanisms and survival skills that have outlived their usefulness?
In today’s blog post, we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of attachment trauma. In particular, we’re going to look at how it occurs and how to recognize signs of it in adults.
The Origin of Attachment Trauma
Allan Schore, one of my favourite psychologists, posited that we develop in conversation with the world around us. Our relationships with our caretakers inform how we interact with people throughout our lives. When we grow up in an unsafe or unstable environment, that instability and lack of safety form the foundation of our future adult selves. Common sense when you think about it. Growing up around big tempers, we learn to lie and hide. Maybe we blow up right back at them because escalating the situation is the only way to defuse it.
Attachment trauma occurs in response to a few different things:
- Emotional or Physical Abuse
Keep in mind, it’s not always clear when an environment isn’t safe. Sometimes, the parent is a loving force in the child’s life—but they aren’t always there. There’s a struggle with drug addiction, alcohol abuse, or they’re busy with work. It’s important to acknowledge that our relationships with our parents can be difficult; oftentimes, the good coexists with the bad. That doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons being learned about how to trust, love, and manage our emotions. Our bodies remember those lessons. Those critical moments in childhood change the course of how our brains develop and how they function even as adults.
Signs of Attachment Trauma in Adults
Fear of Abandonment
Our bodies remember what it felt like when we were abandoned as children, and they stay on high alert throughout our lives. It isn’t always that someone left—it could be divorce, drug addiction, or anything else. What matters is that the fear stays with us and influences our romantic relationships.
When you grow up around big tempers and unpredictable adults, it leads to a kind of hypervigilance that persists through adulthood. Your body is always looking for signs of danger. As a result, your fight-or-flight response is on high alert: a river of stress you can’t shut down.
If you weren’t taught to love yourself as a child, it’s going to be difficult to love yourself as an adult. You may hold back the same compassion and empathy you’d give others, even though you deserve it. You may feel like you’re broken, damaged goods, or bad without really knowing why.
People Pleasing Behaviors
You may go above and beyond in relationships—at work or at home—to unconsciously prove that you’re worthy of love. Sometimes this means you get tangled up in codependent relationships. Other times it means that you simply stop setting boundaries and taking care of yourself.
Vulnerability & Transparency
Adults with attachment trauma may struggle to be vulnerable with others. It never went well as a child, so why would it go well as an adult?
Your brain’s elasticity persists well into adulthood. You can heal past trauma with healthy connections and safe spaces to unpack your experiences. We are firm believers in the idea that people grow and heal in conversation with one another, and we would love to share that journey with you. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation at boomerangcc.ca or call our admin, Jenika, at 778 639 0955.