There is often so much emphasis in trauma recovery to focus on what did happen that was hurtful, that often one can be clueless to be aware of what didn’t happen for you as a child that should have. Attachment trauma(wounds, breaches) can be experienced in many ways. Being ignored emotionally, physically or relationally for a child can be traumatic.
It’s important to assess what didn’t happen. What are you really grieving that was not available in your developmental years. We might be grieving “non-interactions” like being ignored, or seeing quality connection available for your sibling or one of your parents and not for you. Here is where a sense of unworthiness can develop.
Our mind, body and nervous system might not realize this until years later when we are hyper-activated with distress in our adult relationships. We might not even realize we choose partners that are similar and we are still in deficit of what we need most.
For so many years we may face being triggered and projecting this unmet need onto others. Intimacy and vulnerability in our adult relationships become the attachment trauma triggers. Some triggers could be: lack of quick response from others read as being ignored, cancelling of plans, or someone being too busy and not having time for you can be read as rejection and the list goes on.
When you are triggered by early attachment trauma you can get flooded with emotions and energy. These emotions can range from fear, to shame, to unworthiness or even to anger. It’s can be very confusing if you have no insight or self-awareness. Sometimes you can even have younger parts of yourself that get activated.
On the opposite side you could also be triggered by too much connection. If your nervous system was used to very little connection, then quality connection might leave you fearful, overwhelmed and flooded. We may unconsciously sabotage these type of intimate or close connections. You may also choose partners that are unavailable in some area and don’t have the capacity to show up or meet you fully. You might be settling for far less than you need, want or deserve and not even be consciously aware of it. You have normalized the deficit and convinced yourself this is all that is available in relationships.
You may have developed many self-protective barriers or maladaptive reaching patterns to achieve more or less connection. There is ambivalence, fear and unworthiness all layered together when it comes to desiring and experiencing deep connection.
The only way to heal attachment trauma is to have your eyes open to what the relational dynamics were and were not and how that impacted you. You will have to grieve the lack of connection and the fact that what you needed wasn’t available. The grief work can be a grueling and challenging process…be kind and gentle with yourself. Then the deeper work starts. You will be called to develop compassion for that younger part of you. That younger part needs love, comfort, time, to be seen, to be heard, to have needs met, to be held and for you to acknowledge how difficult that those experience were. He/She definitely deserves corrective experiences. You will be challenged to choose the opposite of what you have been choosing in relationships so you can work through your history and your fears. You will be called to finally receive and let in richer, consistent and deeper forms of connection in order to heal. Choosing available people that can show up consistently.
Lastly, working with an Somatic attachment specialist is an important step in your healing process.
You absolutely deserve to heal your early attachment wounds and have quality consistent connections.
A good resource is Healing Your Attachment Wounds Diane Poole Heller.
Kelli Leader Cook
Hopeful Insights Consulting