*Attachment Simplified – Organized Insecure Attachment – Avoidant-Dismissive

AVOIDANCE child turns into a dismissing adult


“…a fourteen-month-old boy who wants to climb onto a table with a lamp on it.  One possible parental response would …be not to notice the attempt to climb, to hear the lamp come crashing down, to pick it up, and either to tell the boy quietly not to do it again or just to ignore him the rest of the evening.  (siegel/tdm/282)”


all one para

“The avoidantly attached [unfortunate] child…learns little about the emotional state of the parent, with no warning about the parental response, which in fact may be quite uninvolved (neglectful) or severe and misattuned (rejecting).

In such a dyad, it is likely that the general level of shared emotion is quite low, possibly resulting in an underdevelopment of the child’s capacity for normal levels of interest/excitement and enjoyment/joy.

Prohibitions may be behaviorally severe and emotionally disconnected.

This, coupled with the generally low levels of attunement and sensitivity to the child’s signals, may produce an excess in overall parasympathetic tone.

The child’s early experience may have a significant impact on the expression of affect and access to conscious awareness of emotion.  The child learns to minimize the expression of attachment-related emotion, which may serve to reduce the disabling effects of overwhelming frustration in the face of continuing interactions with the caregiver.  (siegel/tdm/283)”


Avoidantly attached child’s and dismissing adult’s experience can be understood in part as dominated by a primarily left-hemisphere form of communication.  These interactions may stem from the parent’s tendency to access primarily the nonmentalizing representations of a dominant left-hemisphere interpreter…studies of the correspondence between affective expression (right hemisphere) and verbal communication (left hemisphere) reveal such a dis-association in these dyads.  The capacity to blend the nonverbal/prosodic elements of dialogue with those of semantic/linguistic meaning requires the harmonious collaboration between the hemispheres….Thus avoidant attachment reveals an emotional impairment in the ability of two minds to communicate fully.  Resonance and the capacity to integrate experience in a complex and interhemispheric way are significantly restricted.  This absence of emotion produces a severe restriction in the level of interpersonal connection that parent and child are able to achieve.  Such a condition reflects the central role emotion plays as an integrating process, both within the mind and between minds.  (siegel/tdm/334)”


“In an avoidant [dismissing] attachment, maximal complexity is also not attained because the states of the two individuals are so independent of each other.  The parent’s dismissing approach leads to an emotionally disconnected form of communication which minimizes the resonance between the parent and child.  In this sense, the two systems act independently of each other, and the dyad remains in a segmented and noncomplex mode of existence.  (siegel/tdm/295)”

“…isolation and emotional distance take their toll – within this person’s [dismissing states of mind] romantic relationship; within relationships with others, including children; and within the self.  His intense emotions and enjoyment in life may be severely muted.  Part of this neutral emotionality may be attributable to the proposed parcellation of the sympathetic (accelerator) branch of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for heightened states of arousal.  His mindsight – the ability to sense the subjective mental life of others, or of himself – may also be severely restricted.  The result is that his basic emotional needs are not met by anyone.  However, the avoidantly attached individual does not believe this, (siegel/tdm/287) because it appears to his adaptive self that his approach to survival has been successful thus far.  His private self remains highly underdeveloped and consciously unaware.  (siegel/tdm/288)”

“The avoidantly attached (dismissing) adult often comes to therapy at the insistence of his securely or ambivalently attached romantic partner.  The partner feels that the relationship is too distant, too emotionally barren, to tolerate. Ironically, the partner may have been initially attracted to the patient because of his “independence and autonomy – he didn’t have to rely on anyone.”  This autonomy gives the ambivalently attached mate a feeling at first that intrusion (the dreaded experience of the mate’s own childhood) need not be feared.  As adult development progresses, however, the ambivalently attached partner may change and come to feel the need for more emotional intimacy.  The avoidantly attached partner is less likely to develop as quickly toward models of security, because he often lacks awareness of internal pain or dissatisfaction with the relationship, which might otherwise serve to motivate change. (siegel/tdm/288)”



++  “The mother of an insecure-avoidant infant exhibits very low levels of affect expression, and presents a maternal pattern of interaction manifested in withdrawal, hesitancy, and reluctance to organize the infant’s attention or behavior.  This caregiver typically experiences contact and interaction with her baby to be aversive and actively blocks access to proximity-seeking (attachment) behavior.  (Schore/ad/27)”

“This caregiver, when she rebuffs her infant, represents an assault from his haven of safety, and further, due to her aversion to physical contact, will not permit access to help him modulate environmentally induced stress, nor the painful emotions aroused by her behavior.  Infant-initiated contacts thus elicit not empathic care but parental aversion….(Schore/ad/27)”

“With respect to the other member of the dyad, the insecure-avoidant toddler shows no interest in an adult who is attempting to attract his attention, and exhibits little motivation to maintain contact.  This infant characteristically does not appear distressed by the mother’s departure nor happy at her return; at reunion the child does not express distress or anger openly.  However, there is evidence that it does experience anger during reunion episodes.  The insecure avoidant infant, unlike the securely attached infant, does not stop experiencing anger once reunited with the mother, but unlike the insecure-resistant child, does stop expressing it.  This suppressed anger may represent a muffled protest response accompanying the infant’s frustrated proximity need as he/she encounters the irritation, resentment, and sometimes outright anger and subsequent active blockade of the contact-aversive mother.  In return, he actively avoids the mother, or in her presence ignores her by extensive use of gaze aversion, rather than seeking comfort from the interaction.  That this avoidance reflects an expectation of an unsatisfying and rejecting dyadic contact.  Reunited with the mother he actively turns away, looks away, and seems deaf and blind to her efforts to establish communication….(Schore/ad/27)”

gaze aversion is a big part of these dynamics

“…Stadtman interpreted avoidance as a mechanism to “modulate the painful and vacillating emotion aroused by the historically rejecting mother” (1981, p.293).  (Schore/ad/28)”

Infant experiences “a state of conservation-withdrawal (Bowlby’s despair), a primary regulatory process for organismic homeostasis (Powles, 1992).  The infant thus develops a bias toward this parasympathetic-dominant state, one characterized by heart rate deceleration, helplessness, and low levels of activity….the right frontal region is specifically activated during withdrawal-related negative affective states….(Schore/ad/28)”

This temperamental disposition could become permanent via a critical period of selective pruning of sympathetic ventral tegmental, and expansion of parasympathetic lateral tegmental innervation of orbitofrontal systems…..the insecure-avoidant infant has a relatively high level of parasympathetic tone.  Its autonomic balance is parasympathetically dominated and geared to respond maximally to low levels of socioemotional stimulation.  Psychophysiologically, the overcontrolled and restrained nature of insecure-avoidant typologies reflects a vagotonic pattern…and a parasympathetically biased, inhibitory, orbitofrontal affective core that has a problem shiting [sic] out of parasympathetic trophotropic, low arousal states and in modulating sympathetic, ergotropic high-arousal states.  This personality organization shows a pattern of “minimizing emotion expression”, a limited capacity to experience intense negative or possible affect, and is susceptible to overregulation disturbances and to overcontrolled…, internalizing…developmental psychopathologies.  (Schore/ad/28)”


8 thoughts on “*Attachment Simplified – Organized Insecure Attachment – Avoidant-Dismissive

  1. this is awesome. thanks for explaining it. took a few reads on the wiki of the nervous system lol but now, i want to read about me 😉

    • Love your name — Dancer! Welcome, and thanks for your words! Always very happy to hear people puzzle the tough stuff out in these articles, but it’s WORTH IT!!!! 🙂

  2. Please pardon me while I vent. To the many blog commenters who write to me: “Can you simplify this information for me?” — I need to say: THINK PEOPLE! THINK! THINK FOR YOURSELF! Nobody can sleep for you or pee for you or eat for you or walk for you — and nobody can THINK FOR YOU! Wake UP people! THINK! What has happened to people that they never learned that they have the power to THINK? What if they had never learned they had the power to roll over, to sit up, to crawl, to walk, to run, to skip, to dance? ARE YOU DEAD? Because I KNOW you are not STUPID!

  3. Also, check out Dr. Glasser’s ‘The nurtured heart approach to parenting’ – great stuff and solves these problems before they ever happen

  4. Oops, I guess this post is on Siegel’s book I mention! Maybe I will live long enough to get to this layer of ‘the work’ to make this info easier to understand – hum….

    • Hi! Not right now I can’t, too much going on

      recommend book by Dr. Daniel Siegel

      Parenting from the Inside Out for best lay descriptions

      available from amazon.com

      hope it helps, important stuff but has to be THOUGHT THROUGH – no simple answers, but great question!!

    • post specific questions to me from the material in this post if you want in comments here and I will fly you off responses. This material is as simple as ANYONE has made it thus far

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