Description of attachment




“For other people, conflicts among different needs, mental models, and self-states may lead to internal distress or external difficulties that create dysfunction.  Such a conflict among self-states within an individual can create incoherenceIncoherence may develop from insecure or conflictual attachments, difficulties in meeting school or job expectations, or significant trouble with finding companions in friendships or peer groups.  Incoherence may be revealed in various (siegel/tdm/316) ways, such as impairments in affect regulation, insecurity, unresolved trauma or loss, and dysfunctional social relationships.  Whether with professions or in intimate relationships, an active approach to creating coherence may become necessary.  (siegel/tdm/317)”


“In insecure attachments, such contingent, resonant communication often does not occur.  Siegel/tdm/334)”

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 child is not so fortunate and 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)”


AMBIVALENCE child turns into a preoccupied adult


“…a fourteen-month-old boy who wants to climb onto a table with a lamp on it.  One possible parental response would be…for the parent to yell “No!” and reprimand the boy, hug him out of guilt, then distance herself from him because he has disappointed her.  (siegel/tdm/282)”


all one para

“In the third approach, parental facial expressions of continued disapproval, eye gaze aversion, and body language of disconnection or anger all all perceived by the child.

The child’s high-arousal states may be attuned to sometimes, but if they are not, disconnection and shame may be associated with humiliation and may thus become toxic, especially if disconnection is prolonged or associated with parental anger.

The child’s range of tolerable emotional arousal may (siegel/tdm/283) be broad, but uncontrollable swings beyond the window of tolerance may occur.

Inconsistent attunements and repair may lead to excessive arousal, so that the sympathetic system may often be unchecked because of a diminished parasympathetic system response.

Alternatively, prolonged despair may result if the parasympathetic system is excessively activated.

Anticipatory anxiety and fear of separation may be evident.  Separation in the ambivalently attached child means having to rely on the self for ineffective emotion regulation.

Repeated experiences of going beyond tolerable levels with excessive arousal or despair teaches these children that they themselves are unreliable affect modulators; this is the reason for their paradoxical excessive reliance on the inconsistent attachment figures.

Such experiences may produce an apparent increase in a child’s sensitivity, especially in relationship to interactions with others and to situations of loss and separation.

Overall, there is a maximizing of the expression of attachment-related emotions, which some authors suggest may serve to attempt to enhance the chances that the inconsistent parent will pay attention to the child.  (siegel/tdm/284)”


“In a dynamical sense, an ambivalent attachment can be seen as a system that cannot dyadically regulate itself in a way allowing for a healthy resonance between two individuals.  The state of the child is intruded upon by that of the parent.  There is often an inability to sense and respect the child’s oscillating need for internal versus external connection.  [Would this include extensive periods of time when the child is neglected and left alone – as a abuse toward internal constraints in a very negative way?]  In this way, maximal complexity cannot be achieved by the two as a dyadic system.  Instead, a lesser degree of complexity must be settled for, because the parent rigidly defines the nature of the interaction.  [This would mean that grandma did this to mom, as well]  There is no true collaborative communication.  The dance of attunement is severely constrained by the parent’s entangled preoccupations with the past and inability to align states with the child [or with herself].  (siegel/tdm/295)”


Fears of annihilation and of abandonment are the origins of the desperate withdrawal and anxious approach common in ambivalently attached individuals.  The excessive parcellation of the parasympathetic “brakes,” proposed to be one adaptation to inconsistent and intrusive parenting, may make these states especially vulnerable to dysregulation.  An adaptive, public self may emerge at these times to avoid the dreaded state [of shame and humiliation] by meeting the needs of others.  The adaptive defenses of such a public self vary greatly and can include primitive modes, such as denial and the projection of the sense of disconnection onto other people or life events.  In contrast, some individuals may utilize more mature approaches, such as seeking emotional connection with others or sublimating their painful experiences into efforts to help others through professional work….  (siegel/tdm/291)”

“From primitive, “nonproductive” defenses to mature, “socially helpful” ones, an ambivalently attached (preoccupied) individual may experience any of a wide range of adaptive modes within differing emotional and social contexts.  The relative distance of a work setting may permit sublimation to flourish; the close quarters of a romantic relationship or a parent-child relationship may periodically activate an intense sense of intrusion or other forms of misattunement, and yield a sudden emergence of the dreaded states of shame and humiliation.  In an effort to avoid these painful states, activation of more primitive modes of defense filled with fear, anger, and associated distortions of perceptions and misinterpretations of other’s behavior may occur.  These are moments of intense vulnerability and risk for dyadic dysregulation.  (siegel/tdm/292)”

[My mother, if she fit the preoccupied category, certainly suffered from “activation of more primitive modes of defense filled with fear, anger, and associated distortions of perceptions and misinterpretations of other’s behavior”]


SECURE / autonomous


“…the way adults can flexibly access information about childhood and reflect upon such information in a coherent manner determines their likelihood of raising securely attached children.  The abilities to reflect upon one’s own childhood history, to conceptualize the mental states of one’s parents, and to describe the impact of these experiences on personal development are the essential elements of coherent adult attachment narratives.  [It can only be helpful, then, to better educate people about what can go wrong also because that can add to their own understanding of the mental state of their parents…I had no possible idea as to what could have been so wrong with my mother.  Not a clue!  It has taken a year’s worth of work just to get this far!] Moreover, the capacity to reflect on the role of mental states in determining human behavior is associated with the capacity to provide sensitive and nurturing parenting….this reflective function is more than the ability to introspect; it directly influences a self-organizational process within the individual…..the reflective function also enables the parent to facilitate the self-organizational development of the child….the coherent organization of the mind depends upon an integrative process that enables such reflective processes to occur….integrative coherence within the individual may early in life depend upon, and later facilitate, interpersonal connections that foster the development of emotional well-being.  (siegle/tdm/312)”  [last half of this paragraph is copied over to dissociation notes 6]


“Some people, then, can spend the vast majority of their time in cohesive, albeit relatively independent, self-states.  If these states are not conflictual with one another – if the desires, beliefs, goals, and behaviors of one state are not in destructive competition with another – then what is the problem?  Perhaps there is none.  For these individuals, a coherent mind may be a natural developmental outcome of authentic nurturing relationships, supportive experiences with teachers in school, meaningful friendships, and identification with peer groups, which have all contributed to the development of a capacity for self-organization in a wide variety of contexts.  Integration establishes a sense of congruity and unity of the mind as it emerges within the flexible patterns in the flow of information and energy processes of the brain, both within itself and in interaction with others.  This is coherence.  (siegel/tdm/316)”


“…a fourteen-month-old boy who wants to climb onto a table with a lamp on it.  One possible parental response would be to yell “No!” and then take the boy outside, where his drive to climb can be “attuned to.”  (siegel/tdm/282)


All one para

“The first year of life is filled with the attunement of infant and attachment figure, which often centers around the upbeat, high-vitality affects of interest/excitement and enjoyment/joy.

The sympathetic system is being activated and developed at a high level during this period.

Children who become securely attached to their parents are likely to have a good baseline autonomic tone.

They are capable (siegle/tdm/282) of tolerating high-intensity emotional states.

Specifically, if a pattern of attunement…is chronically repeated, the securely attached child will experience an aroused state (excited about climbing) that is responded to by the parent with a prohibition (inducing parasympathetic activation and a sense of shame), rapidly followed by a repair (attuning to the gist of the initial aroused state and redirecting it in socially acceptable ways).

This child’s orbitofrontal cortex “learns” that even high-arousal states (in need of connection) can be modified, and then connection will be reestablished.

We can propose that such connection-disconnection-repair transactions are one means by which patterns of parent-child communication promote the prefrontally mediated capacity for response flexibility.  (siegel/tdm/283)”

“As parents reflect with their securely attached children on the mental states that create their shared subjective experience, they are joining with them in an important co-constructive process of understanding how the mind functions.  The inherent features of secure attachment – contingent, collaborative communication – is also a fundamental component in how interpersonal relationships facilitate internal integration in a child.  We can propose that a parent’s engaging in what we have called reflective dialogue (focusing on the central importance of mental states in human behavior and their manifestations as feelings, perceptions, intentions, goals, beliefs, and desires) is also central to both secure attachment and the integrative process of co-construction of narrativesSocial competence and a sense of autonomy, mastery, and self-determination are aspects of resilience that secure attachment fosters.  We can propose that integration also becomes a developmental capacity within the foundation of nurturing and reflective early relationships.  (siegel/tdm/333)”

“Secure attachment facilitates integration in the developing child (siegel/tdm/333) by allowing for different forms of interpersonal resonance to occur.

“Left-hemisphere-to-left-hemisphere resonance takes the form of verbal communication within a linear, logical mode of discourse.

“Right-hemisphere-to-right-hemisphere resonance involves the nonverbal components of communication, such as tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions.

“In the co-construction of stories, parent and child enter into a dyadic form of bilateral resonance:  Each person enters a state of interhemispheric integration, which is facilitated b interpersonal communicationIn this manner, secure attachment involves an intimate dance of resonant processes involving left-to-left, right-to-right, and bilateral-to-bilateral communication.  This highly complex form of collaborative communication allows the dyad to move into highly resonant states, and also enables the child’s mind to develop its own capacity for integration.  Such a capacity may be at the heart of self-regulation.  (siegel/tdm/334)”


“For some adults [SECURE], their developmental path has led to a coherent set of interactions with the world —  interactions that have enabled the emergence of various self-states, which perform their functions with relatively minimal conflict among themselves.  Such individuals may live a comparatively carefree existence, without internal tumult or impairment in functioning.  (siegel/tdm/309)”


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