Attachment and reflective feedback: how others treat you and why

Attachment and reflective feedback: how others treat you and why

Why do people treat you the way they do? Why do we attract bad people into our lives? Why does the same thing keep happening where I end up hurt and emotionally winded? Can this fatalism be changed? A lot of this is based on your 'Attachment Style' and YES, this can be changed. Your internal sense of security can change for the better and how others treat you will change as a result.

The theory of psychological 'Attachment' is a way of understanding how we have different levels of internal security based on how we were treated by our care givers when we were small and vulnerable. If a child does not get his or her needs met with some degree of consistency whilst they are developing, the cornerstones of their own development are not laid down in a stable and concrete way. They tend to turn out more or less 'insecure' as a result. This attachment pattern of security or insecurity predicts the kind of life a person will have and how they will relate to others. A person who has a poor/ insecure attachment type will attract unstable and even abusive partners and friends throughout their lives.

The two main attachment types are 'secure' and 'insecure'. You can then categorize the insecure into the following sub-types:

- anxious

- avoidant

- ambivalent

- disorganized

(I will refer to a child as 'he' or 'him' simply for convenience and not a sense of chauvinism; just as I have seen feminist authors refer solely to 'she' or 'her' when they discuss a person in general. I think the convention should be to discuss a general person in the sense of the writer's own gender and thus bypass any further debate, redundancy or waste of words in the writing process, this should be the case unless a specific gender is referred to - BB.)

An infant who hasn't had his needs met will either be clingy (anxious) when he is left alone, or will not particularly care one way or the other (this is where he has given up on trust). Alternatively he may be ambivalent: both clingy and avoidant, so that he frets but when he gets soothing from a care giver this doesn't make him feel better (when he has been soothed before it was coupled with abuse or taken away prematurely so he keeps crying and fretting in case the soothing does get withdrawn from him).Probably the worst type is the disorganised, where the child's fretting and response to being soothed is disorganised, chaotic and random. This reflects the disorganized care giving he has received and the chaotic nature of his general environment. One moment he will be clingy, then rejecting and punishing of the care giver, avoidant, and then clingy again but unable to be soothed. He may also go to random adults as proxy care givers, without even knowing them.This is a sign of a seriously distressed child who has no sense of norms, no sense of a secure place to be in the world.

Conversely a secure child will fret to a 'normal' degree (not too much, not too little) be a little bit clingy when left in new situations, but this clinginess will only occur with regular care givers (especially the primary attachment figure, like Mum or Dad). He won't cavort with strangers unless the regular care giver is around for a period of time giving the 'all clear and safe' signal to the infant. Then the infant will allow himself to be soothed by this proxy care giver (like a play group teacher). This receptiveness to soothing from a trusted source ensures that it will continue to be more or less adequate to meet the needs of the child. The overall aim of being soothed is to help the child feel safe. If a child hurts himself he has no sense of how far the hurt will go or what it means. For example, if he grazes his knee does this mean his leg will fall off or never work again? How is he supposed to know? We take it for granted that we have common sense but an infant/ small child does not have this sense due to a lack of experience in the world. He relies on the care giver or proxy care giver to reassure him and tell him things will be okay. This soothing can then be followed by practical concerns like dressing the wound with an elastoplast. Then off he goes again, bright and cheerful after this minor rupture that has been contained, wiser from the experience and ready to face the big wide world again.

Importantly this is not based on 'perfect parenting'. There is no such thing as perfect parenting. We all make mistakes and we can' t always be there for every need the child has all the time. It's about 'good enough parenting' where we are there for the child fairly consistently, most of the time, and don't take out our feelings or issues on the child to any significant degree. We are basically loving and help to meet the needs of the child. This includes basic needs like food, water, shelter, but also psychological needs (no less important!) such as safety, security, trust, respect, fairness, justice, dignity, integrity and respect. We do not put a child down in his spirit, yet whilst we do address his inappropriate behaviour we talk about the behaviour being inappropriate and not the child himself. We don't favour others unfairly. The same rules apply for all.

Feeling relatively happy and relatively safe:

It's important to look at this as a right and a responsibility to provide and maintain, and not a privilege. If a child is feeling relatively happy and safe he will confidently explore the world and this will help him to develop more as he goes. The cornerstone requirement for this to take place is safety and this gives a sense of inner security. The child unconsciously or semi-consciously reflects on the provision of safety and love and says ' I must therefore be worthy of safety, happiness and love' . It is important to note that  a child is fundamentally egocentric. That is, they think they are the centre of the world and everything happens because of them. So if you love them it means that they are lovable and worthy of love. If you abuse them it means they have done something wrong and are worthy of inconsistent safety, love and respect. They feel insecure internally as a result. They do not feel basically Okay.

This is because the inner world is a reflection of the care giving world the child has been born into. The child then takes this reflected inner world of theirs out into the world when they have experiences, from going to school, having friends, all the way up to adulthood and going to work and having relationships. The person, like in a feedback loop, reflects out to the world the kind of internal security and sense of self that he himself has. This sets up a kind of 'confluence'; a sort of attraction and repulsion mechanism, where the person will attract what is congruent with the inner set of self-values and esteem. If he feels unworthy and unlovable he will get more of this, most of the time, from the people he associates and cavorts with.

Thank goodness, for a person who has insecure attachment, that there are other opportunities to attach and bond with other people in his life. If the primary care givers were insufficient in the provision of love and safety there may be a very loving and stable aunty, grandfather, friend, neighbour, friend's parent or school teacher who provides the attachment the child needs. Even if this is rather fleeting it provides a template that the child can draw upon in times of uncertainty, sadness and despair, when they feel unsafe and unworthy.

A person thinks about themselves based on how they were treated by others as they were growing up.

Thank goodness that there is another wildcard in this mix. There is something called the Temperament, where a child brings with him or her a natural tendency to be more or less confident and secure, and this combines with the environmental/ attachment experiences to render an overall sense of self. This explains individual differences, and even how siblings from the same dysfunctional or abusive family turn out to be different.

Personally speaking, I also think there is such a thing as the soul which brings with it its own legacy. People naturally have a brightness of spirit, and this brings its own set of gifts and strengths.

There is also a way to make up for insecure attachment, and this has been called 'Acquired Attachment'. This is when you go out and get what you need, on a wing and a prayer, with the hope that there is such a thing as respect, and love and safety out there in the world, even if you haven't really seen it before. This is often presented in therapy. And this is why the absolute foundation and cornerstone of any therapy must be trust, consistency, respect and care. The therapist therein becomes a proxy for an attachment figure, allowing the patient to feel and internalise a sense of security and self worth. Sometimes this will be tough love as well, where the therapist will have ground rules and boundaries and if a person crosses these boundaries they may receive an ultimatum such as 'if you continue to do this we will have to terminate therapy' (for example if the patient threatens the therapist). This will help the person, again, internalise boundaries that he can apply to himself in a form of self-regulation as well as to his own relationships. It also lets the therapist off the hook, where he or she does not have to tolerate abuse from the patient. What would we be modelling, indeed, if we did tolerate it?

Therefore, if there are abusive people in your life now, even though this is not your fault (a person is responsible for their own behaviour and not anyone else's) you are indeed still attracting it. Shock, horror and gasp!

The kind of person you attract into your life, for the most part, will reflect back what is within your own sense of self and within your soul. So if you want to change the kind of friendships and relationships you have, or indeed the kind of nature you bring out from the people already in your life, you will need to address issues that you have within yourself. This is due to the nature of attraction and repulsion, confluence and congruence. We all carry around with us a kind of film projector and assemble the features of our reality as we go. There are millions and billions of bits of information in the world around us at any particular time and we simply cannot attend to all of them. Thus we selectively abstract the features that are congruent with our own mood and mind states, that which is congruent with our sense of self.  Think of being a confident and happy and secure person and how you would respond to a person with abusive tendencies. The only way you would stay in that friendship or relationship, or tolerate the behaviour rather than curtail and contain such tendencies in the other person, is if you had an internal insecurity, a sense of unworthiness.

The 'shit sticks', so to speak.

This is very personal, and by nature usually very offensive, but I make no apologies for the truth. It is what it is and can be utilised to empower us to make better decisions, to make personal changes in order to change our lives and the world as a whole.The rest is up to you.

If you have noticed such a tendency within you to attract undesirable sorts, or to bring out the worst in the people already in your life, then there is something abrasive or something that feels unworthy and insecure within you. The abrasiveness, moreover, is probably a defense mechanism for the sense of insecurity beneath it. A person with an anger and aggression problem, for example is, is typically making up for a sense of insecurity. They may carry with them a deep hurt feeling of unlovable, powerless, unworthy and inadequate. So they take pre-emptive strikes at others in an attempt to stop the feeling from coming up within them ever again (a hostile attribution bias). They cannot tolerate the feeling state because they are psychologically insecure (in their sense of self) and more importantly lack the self-soothing emotional and behaviour regulation skills that many others take for granted (for those who are secure). This is because they did not receive adequate soothing when they felt bad as children. They may, instead, have been made to feel stupid and weak for feeling upset, hurt and vulnerable. Hence, they feel bad about feeling bad. Double Bad. This has happened to quite a lot of men as they grew up as boys in a 'hegemonic masculinity' framework - having to be strong and sensible at all times. Therefore, they have not had soothing modelled to them, and as a result they lack the ability to self-sooth. Because of this they avoid emotions, intimacy and vulnerability. They may not even take any kind of risk because they lack the confidence to hold themselves whilst they do this. Of course this applies to girls and women just as it does to boys and men.

John Lennon was kind of right when he said 'all we need is love'. Essentially if a person feels loved and has had this modelled to them from care givers and care giver proxies, consistently or even semi-consistently, they have a sense of how to look after themselves. The can open the blinds and curtains to let the sun in when its safe and sunny, and they can lock the doors and ask people to leave when it feels unsafe. When they themselves are besieged by heavy heart feelings they can make themselves feel better by being loving, kind and compassionate to themselves. And whaddayaknow? They feel better because of it.

If we take responsibility for our own internal security and attachment we can essentially stop the inter-generational nature of abuse and insecurity that perpetuates itself, unto itself, in an abysmally never-ending cycle.

Also, as we start to heal in this way, we get a sense of momentum and this rocks! We start to attract loving, nurturing, respectful and self-respecting, compassionate people into our lives. And when we have randomness show up in the form of unloving and disrespectful people, we can pretty much tell them how to treat us properly (by having and asserting personal boundaries due to our sense of self awareness that we bother to assert due to self compassion) or otherwise we can tell the person where to go if they don't love and respect us.

Most importantly, when this is all sorted out, when we have the cornerstone laid down for inner security, we can then go out into the world and universe and boldly go where no man or woman has ever gone before. We can start living on a different level, based on fun, curiosity, health, exploration, creativity and we can blossom into the essence of who we really are. We can live like its the best day of our lives every day, where our senses are all open and enriched, where our lives are meaningful and our relationships are supportive and fulfilling. We can do what we were destined to do in our lives. We can do anything. We can evolve into our full potential, using our former selves as stepping stones upon the way. We transform.

This is the journey into healing for the insecurely attached person. The insecure man or woman can develop a sense of inner security and they themselves can model to others how to treat them and even how to treat themselves. You start to lead by example. This is a wonderful thing as you start to get a chain reaction and critical mass in the world. We go from insecure, hurting and hateful, to secure, self-respecting, responsible and loving.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? So let's start now. YOU - start to do what you need to do to heal and gain personal security. It all starts here.

Ben Bruce

April 17th 2010


20 Responses

  1. Excellent article!
  2. fredericia
    If we take responsibility for our own internal security and attachment we can essentially stop the inter-generational nature of abuse and insecurity that perpetuates itself, unto itself, in an abysmally never-ending cycle. I'm curious about your thoughts on those of us who have taken responsibility for our own internal security and attachment, have taken the leap and trusted someone who presented as kind, understanding and empathetic and in fact were merely driven by their own needs to appear this way i.e. untrustworthy and deceitful.
  3. Legolas
    Hi Mr Bruce, I feel uplifted after readind this! However, I think we should let go of the need to get love from other people in order to be truly secure and self-fulfilled.
  4. Ben
    Hi - I think we can let go of the need to get love from other people when we already have a stable enough foundation in place. This means that we have received an adequate amount of love fairly consistently in our lives. This becomes internalized as our self esteem; the esteem with which we hold ourselves and determines how we self-regulate our emotions, behaviour and this in turn affects our life choices in general. We are more able to take risks toward greater development, for example. We take that course, that holiday, that journey, that practice in self-development. We ask that friend to go out with us. We have the confidence to suffer rejection because we have an awareness that we can deal with rejection if it occurs - so the fear does not rule us and hold us back. Now to your point per se - letting go of the need to get love from other people is going to make us more independent, stable, self-determined, self actuallized and fulfilled - and this will be possible if we have been 'love-fulfilled' already, so to speak. Then love becomes a bonus, a choice, a want, a preference, an appreciation a celebration. So, yes, we can live without the need for love in a relatively happy way. This is possible because we already have self-love and we are in touch with a sense of love in the universe. We don't always need to have other people demonstrating love to us because we already know it. This is clearly a higher level of wisdom. We again need to be careful here, though. A person who is insecure and under-fulfilled in love can push others away, push the risk and vulnerability of love away due to fear. He can say 'I don't need love - I am above it'. This can be a defense mechanism where he self-isolates. If he risks being open to love, all his vulnerabilities can come up, which threaten his self concept of being invulnerable. Avoidance rules the day. Yes he can develop highly but he will always have this shaky foundation, or something missing from his heart. Further development or 'acquired attachment' here may be about being more honest with himself in order to meet his own needs. This might mean that he chooses to express love more and be open to receiving it more, and loving him self more with greater self awareness and self reassurance in the way he deals with him self in times of difficulty and distress. He may confront his fears in order to heal and transcend his vulnerabilities. He is not 'closed off' to intimacy, he just doesn't 'need it' to get by. Ben.
  5. Ben
    Hi Fredericia If we go out in life and take risks, if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable by loving someone else and expecting it in return, we do run the risk of being hurt in someway, or at least not having our expectations met. We even run a risk by associating with others in general, that we may get mixed up in the wrong crowd, for example. So if we get duped and taken advantage of, I guess this is a learning experience. There is some randomness and chaos here, basically 'shit happens' from time to time. But I've always found that there is something to learn from this 'shit' which makes me wonder if it was chaotic randomness, or just something I couldn't understand at the time. However, at the time, it can help to sometimes say 'shit happens' so that we don't take it too personally and over-analyse the situation. If we come across a creep, for example, or someone destructive and a con-artist, we will just tell them to get lost and leave us alone. Conversely, it can also help, after a tragedy or something like that to say 'there must be some meaning to this, something in the grand scheme of things to makes sense of this -I'm just not sure what that is right now' and this can help us come to terms with tragic events. I suppose our take on things, our interpretation, can be more or less helpful and constructive, or unhelpful and unfruitful. Another point here is - what do you think it was about the other person, yourself, the situation that caused or contributed to you being taken advantage of? Why do you think you got taken in by someone who was untrustworthy and deceitful? How might your interpretation of the events be clear, or perhaps unclear and biased? Is there something deeper here, where you may have ignored signs that the other person was actually not genuine and not caring and respectful and if so how come you ignored them? Was there a vulnerability here that was being ignored? With regard to the points in my particular article, the argument I was trying to make was that we can attract people into our lives that treat us in the way we think we deserve to be treated (deep down). Our insecurities can also be used against us in a conscious or semi-conscious way by those who use manipulative tactics to get their way. For example, if a person knows you feel so loved when you receive lovely gifts, he may spoil you to help you feel secure so that you open up to him - he then goes in 'for the kill' so to speak and gets what he wants, and then leaves because that's all he wanted. Or if you fear abandonment he may directly or indirectly threaten this to manipulate you. This, for example shows that you have an issue to do with abandonment that is unresolved, an insecurity of sorts that you have learned by your experiences. Awareness, then, is the first step, and it can be resolved with the right practice and effort. Lots of questions - but this is a big subject and could go in many directions. I suppose there is also that adage 'you have to kiss a lot of frogs before....' Ben Bruce.
  6. Ben
    Thanks Rob! Any comments you'd like to raise about it? Ben.
  7. Nela
    have been also in this kind of a relationship (with feigned love and than "go for a kill" steps), and there were the signs- all the time. At the beginning I thought I was bad for having been suspicious, than I thought that due my insecurity I have been paranoid. But my issue from that period in my life was discovering my intuition and discerning voice of intuition from the ego, wishful thinking, etc. and that person was obviously just what I needed to learn how much I can trust my inner voice. There was also a point in which this lesson was easy to learn (without much emotional pain), but I have past that point by my own decision and voila- suffering, emotional hurt and all kind of unconscious debris coming to the surface. But, on the other hand, due to this state I have started some practices and more advanced spiritual work and changed all priorities in my there must be a reason for all that is happening.
  8. Finding good information from blogs is not always easy, but you have done a great job here, interesting title ( Attachment and reflective feedback: how others treat you and why | Bruce Psychology ) too, cool.
  9. Ben
    Well done Nela - I think we can see that relationships exist beyond the needs for the typical stuff we hear about: procreation, social conditioning of boy meets girl (or significant other), or even companionship.... We can see that people grow an awful lot from their relationships. They really test us. We can have so much fun and joy and connection. We can be heart broken, manipulated and exploited. We can see the best and worst side of others as well as ourselves. I think the growth we can experience from relationships is the major reason for them - but we are often unaware of this, and wonder why they hurt so much. They hurt even more when we resist what we have to learn (which might include leaving the relationship). But we can go either way. We can become bitter, resentful and fractured. We can learn from the experience - the mirror of the relationship, and take responsibility for what we see. We can resist the urge to take out our issues on the other person, or we can luxuriate in scape-goating everything on the other. It can go either way. And this is a very real test for our integrity and for how much we live in accordance with our so-called values and beliefs. Who we are, really, is revealed in relationships. Also the question of whether to stay or to go. Again, we are challenged to take responsibility. Are we prepared to see what is really there, or do we continue in denial?
  10. Ben
    I'm also wondering what gets in the way of trusting our intuition? Intuition is always a pretty slippery thing because it is often doing battle with our reasoning and what is evidently apparent. Intuition is not always concrete because we can also have self-defeating thoughts and we can make assumptions based on our conditioning. We can presume failure in order to protect ourselves if it does happen. To be able to separate all of this 'unconscious debris' as you rightly posit, we need to have a very mindful perspective. This is probably where mindfulnes practice and meditation comes in. To separate the wheat from the chaff of our machinations and see the intuition amongst that. If we are able to get beyond all of that and we still don't listen to our intuition there must be a reson for this. It sounds like not listening to intuition is related to not looking after yourself, not trusting yourself, or not wanting to make sacrifices - seeing what is really going on can sometimes be inconvenient, to say the least.
  11. Mike
    "However, at the time, it can help to sometimes say ’shit happens’ so that we don’t take it too personally and over-analyse the situation." Ben I agree with this, sometimes we are getting to caught up on small things and losing perspective, over anaylysing things that have happened. I think there is a time for "shit happens" type thinking that can be rather healthy . Obviously contemplating and reflection is a good thing but i feel there are times when you just have to "let go" and adopt a lighter perspective. Something might of turned pear shaped, it happens now and again, time to move on. Enjoyed the article Ben :)
  12. Ben
    Totally agree Mike. We can really head-screw ourselves asking 'why?' all the time. Even with the article regarding how our attachment style affects the way people treat us, there are of course a large number of variables and simple random chaos that also determine how people treat us. The point I was trying to make was that our attachment style sets an unconscious or semi-conscious programming for <em>how we think we ought to be treated</em>. The more defensive a person gets about this, the more emotion that comes up, typically the more this applies to them. With all the popular and occult courses and paths on manifesting our own reality: from 'The Secret', to Don Juan/ Castanedian Iroquois Sorcery and Shamanism, even cognitive behavioural therapy (to name a few methods of changing our reality) the main focus is that we change the way we respond to what happens to us, as it happens, before it happens and after it happens in our retrospective perspective taking. How we orient ourselves to a problem. Bear in mind we always reserve the right and the prerogative to 'change our mind' on things and this can set us free. Now, if we don't know exactly why or how things have come to pass, we benefit by acknowledging that we don't know everything (at least yet!) and we can't control everything. And it can be such a relief to just take a deep breath and a deep sigh and say 'shit happens!'. I like the Al-Anon saying: 'Let Go. Let God'. Surrendering uncontrollable aspects of a situation to a higher power just seems to make one feel better (at least until you are able to regain a positive form of control to constructively apply yourself to a problem situation and find solutions). And where is the harm in that? - Ben.
  13. Rina
    I read all about attachment theory awhile ago when I wanted to find out why I was bullied so merclessy as a child. What I discovered was that a child with an insecure attachment has a far greater likelihood of being bullied because they have little self confidence. I believe there are a lot of children out there like me who were bullied by their "nice respectable parents". Don't get me wrong I 'm not talking about physical or sexual abuse. I talking about parents who are angry, frustrated and depressed with their life and are nice to everyone except for their poor defenceless children who they blame for and take out their unhappiness on. Why is there so little literature on why these children are unable to stand up to bullies? I was bullied by my attachment figure, so I had no idea how to stand up for myself when I was bullied at school. But everything seems to be focusing on the bully. I think this article is great as far highlighting how we as helping people making the most of their life and overcoming the obstacles they faced growing up, but I guess I am frustrated and angry at how society doesn't seem to get that there is more to bullying than just the bully. I think it's great that as an adult I can realise that I am only partly a product of my childhood and that I have an inner world that predisposes me to seeing the world certains ways and that if I can get past this and try to look at the world how it really is rather than how I think it should be, then I can really live my life and that's great. I am happy that I have learnt how to take responsibility for my life so I don't repeat the mistakes of my parents but I really think their should be so much more work on prevention and helping the bullied victim to learn resilience. Also even recognising that the bullied victims attachment figures probably have had a sginificant role in why the person was bullied in the first place.
  14. Ben
    This is an excellent comment, Rina. Yes - we do need to focus on helping people who are bullied to become more resilient. In my clinic one of the things I do is interpersonal therapy which looks at interaction styles and patterns in a person's life. This awareness can help them change their own response in the pattern, and thus change the pattern from the inside out. Self awareness is the key to genuine power; you can change what you know about. I also agree that for bullied children we should look at the parenting style they are receiving. Family systems therapy is typically a good adjunct, as simply put, an individual always exists in a context so therapy and support is empowered when we focus on the system as well as the individual within that system. Not doing this is a vestige of the bio medical history of doctor patient relations, and focussing on the patients as someone with a disorder to have fixed. Looking at the bigger picture is like environmental medicine and a smarter and more effetive way to treat people and their issues.
  15. Missy
    Great blog. My question is: if you are insecurely attached, how do you begin to heal? I understand the theory, have a therapist, but still cannot seem to find the steps to take toward becoming a securely attached adult. I feel like I am now in touch with my emotions, I'm able to express them, I'm emotionally available and like intimacy. However, if I go to my husband with an emotional need, and he's not able to fulfill it, I disconnect and the abandonment of childhood comes flooding back! How do I fix it???
  16. Ben
    Hi Missy Sorry this took a while (I was in Bali for a few weeks). Firstly it sounds like you are doing a lot to help yourself already. You have learned about the psyche and about attachment in early childhood and you have also empowered and nurtured yourself by seeking therapy. What I'm hearing you say here is that you still have this like 'inner demon' pop up from time to time, like an inner core hurt that surfaces when a particular trigger occurs. For you this trigger - hurt - behaviour complex starts with feeling needy, going to your partner for support, then not having that need met or that fear soothed, and then you feel abandoned. So we have an external trigger which is your partner being distracted or simply not having the time, energy or capacity to help you with that need, which is soothing, in some way, shape or form. Then you have this internal trigger as a ricochet from that, and this is the feeling of abandonment which is a global generalization outside of your adult, rational awareness. This has all the hallmarks of childhood as it is not rational. I'm sure there is an adult awareness within you which tells you that your partner does not have the capacity, this is not his fault right now or even if he is being unhelpful in some purposefully rude way, then taking it personally is not going to help you. OF course, the feeling of abandonment goes beyond rational because it is from the inner child that has the unresolved abandonment within you. Okay - so what do we do now? The solution is for you to internalise the sense of self control and self soothing in response to the internal trigger of abandonment. So you have an internal solution to an internal trigger/ core hurt emotion. In summary you learn to self-sooth rather than needing to rely on external soothing. This is called developing an internal locus of control. Phase 1: To achieve this you need to start meditating regularly. Start by taking a few breaths and track these breaths with your attention for a sustained period of time. When you become distracted keep coming back to the breath. Over time your concentration will develop and this will give you the 'presence of mind' and inner discipline to do more of the inner work that you need to do to resolve the core hurt complex and grow beyond it. When you meditate for a while, say 10min of settling and relaxing and focusing, then we go to phase 2. Phase 2: Here you expose yourself to the triggers that are bothering you, with mindful awareness. In principio, exposure leads to healing over time. Healing and experience leads to resilience in time. So think about a time that you have felt rejected lately; choose something easier and recent to start with. Allow yourself to recreate the scene in your mind. Then allow yourself to feel the internal trigger of abandonment. Tell yourself you feel abandoned and feel it. Then project this sense of feeling into the child that you were. Imagine the child in front of you feeling all of these hurt feelings. Allow your 'inner adult/ parent/ nurturer and friend' to come out and sooth her. Tell her she is going to be okay; that this will pass and it's not her fault. Tell her to be strong. Tell her you love her. Embrace her (imagine yourself hugging her). Then (literally) hug yourself as you allow the soothed child 'back in' to your inner self again. Tell yourself 'you're going to be okay' 'I'm going to be okay'. Tell yourself 'I love you'; 'this too is passing'. Tell yourself: 'Well done for facing up to this inner demon with courage!' How does this work? Simply by doing it. You have to do this, regularly and repeatedly for it to work. It is based on experiential exposure and then changing the response to that trigger as you are exposed to it. Then after this 'internal training regimen' you can start to practice it opportunistically when the trigger emerges for real. If you partner does not give you the reassurance you need, give it to yourself. That is, you are changing the mechanism, where the trigger of abandonment would previously make you become obstinate, and avoidant of the inner feeling, now you are sitting with the feeling, going to the source of that feeling and reassuring the inner child that is feeling it still. So the new response is self-nurturing rather than self abandonment which is what being obstinate and avoidant really is. By giving yourself the intentional love you are thereby resolving the unresolved issue. In time your unconscious will work with you and the deeper healing will take place on multiple levels of yourself. Additionally, on the social level, being self assured and resilient will make you more attractive to other people and they will be more able to give you the compliments you are looking for. And that is what relationships and love from others is really about: it is complementary to your own self love rather than filling a hole due to a lack of inner love. Basically it becomes: easy come, easy go. You're not overly attached to reassurance and affection from others so you aren't suffocating it anymore, or making it such an issue. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief! Then once the inner hurt is dealt with, you may want to speak more assertively and in an adult way to your partner about what your needs are and how he could help you to meet these needs. You could even ask him what he would like to be different. All the best Ben Bruce.
  17. Melanie
    Hi Ben, Your last message to Missy was so helpful for me. I too have had 3.5 years of therapy and have tried affirmations etc. to achieve a sense of peace. However, the information you just gave Missy on the method for soothing the self rather than trying to extract it from others is exactly the information I needed to move forward. Now I understand why I am the way I am and do what I do in relation to insecurity and jealousy. I am excited to know that change is possible, that now I have a tool to use to make the change rather than just the head knowledge of where I have come from. Thank you again. Best wishes, Melanie
  18. Ben
    Excellent summary melanie: one needs to soothe the self rather than extract it from others. In a nutshell this is developing an internal locus of control, where soothing and love from others becomes a bonus (i know I take it when I can get it, if its appropriate!). So this is being human, and we either get on with it or we don't. Good on ya! Ben bruce.
  19. Joanna
    A helpful article, thanks Ben. I have 2 daughters, 4.5 and 2.5. They are totally different in nature, the younger is affectionate, happy, sympathetic, easy going and calm. She is far more dependent on me as her mother for confidence in new situations, but warms up quickly. The elder is another story. She is over confident and loud, anxious, insensitive, attention seeking and in everyone's faces, demanding and rough, talking without any let up. I love both of my daughters dearly, but I find one easy to work with and the other very difficult. The elder one has begun to find confidence with her peers that she never had before and I love to see her becoming more socially competent. I find it very hard to guide her without becoming angry, and to reject her challenging behavior without feeling negatively towards her (I read your article on anger too thanks). Any tips on this difficult parenting situation? I want to give her the security she needs to form healthy relationships through her life, and I do not want to appear to have favorites.
  20. Ben
    Hi Joanna My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. Here is a reply I have put a lot in to in order to make up for the wait ! ;-) You are an astute parent, which is half the battle, so well done. Parenting with mindful awareness will become 'the next big thing' and I think you are on to it. This is about making quiet observations and reflecting on the most helpful response rather than just being reactive - we do what works and what is constructive rather than just 'what you're supposed to do / have always done/ what was done to me....and it didn't do me any harm' as people say (often totally overlooking the problems that resulted for them!). Also mindful parenting is about looking at those reactions that automatically pop up within yourself, observing them, noticing them, feeling how they radiate across your body, and noticing any links that may be there. Sometimes it's enough to just notice these reactions, sometimes we need to explore them, talk about them, analyse them and express them differently. Also with children, an initial expression of temperament (as you've described with daughter number 1) can sometimes be raw and harsh as they are finding their feet, and it will even out with appropriate growth and life experience and reflective feedback over the course of their life. My little brother in law, for example, is a great guy, very intelligent and socially resilient, sensitive and helpful, yet strong, courageous and robust with boundaries. When he was a child, I am told he was quite a terror, very demanding and aggressive. I think that with the sensitive and mindful parenting (extreme patience!) that he received, this demanding and loud part of him became appropriate extraversion and courageous strength and was evened out by social and emotional intelligence in his life experience. So to give you some tips as requested I would say this: for your older daughter, understand and celebrate that she is a trail blazer/pioneer, as it is with first born children in families. Your second daughter is more relaxed, which is the typical pattern, because she can rest assured that someone has gone before her and 'reality tested' the situation...very reassuring. Imagine driving cross country on a trackless terrain, wondering if you may fall into a ravine! Now imagine finding a trail that someone else has used before. That's the difference. This anxiety can be expressed as anger or obnoxiousness as a preemptive defense mechanism. However, with your daughter, we don't really want to celebrate obnoxious behaviour that is loud and insensitive. So she will need reflective feedback and modeling (subtle, usually indirect ongoing behavioural demonstration from everyone in the family) that shows polite behaviour. Everything I am about to say of course is prefaced 'as per your discretion' - your parental discretion must be honoured, so trust the connection between your head, your heart and your gut. With your daughter's attention seeking, she probably wants reassurance that she is loved and good enough, and may feel competitive pressure with her younger sister and other people too. So she does need to be given attention, but for the right things. You do this through praise when ever she does the right thing, or acts toward a more appropriate social behaviour, even slightly, like sharing, turn taking, self/emotional regulation, polite manners, looking after others, being assertive and courageous, trying new things, etc. It is good to connect to the individual essence of the child and celebrate them for who they are at that level. Your first daughter would make a good leader, an investigator, a question asker, a whistle blower - people we need desperately in the world, so you can still encourage her confidence whilst also demonstrating/ praising social sensitivity <strong>as well</strong>. It is important not to give feedback that is criticism and personally directed at her or this will reduce her self esteem over time. Feedback needs to be about the behaviour or about people generally speaking. So if she's being loud you may say 'I like the way you are trying to get your point across, but we all need to be kind to people's ears and take turns when speaking'. This is constructive, playful, fun, informative, wise and general. Stories like Aesop's fables are also really good for demonstrating such life truisms generally without personally criticizing a child. You can also tell stories of your own to demonstrate the point. It is a good idea to give further information if it is requested by the child; so if she asked 'why should I let that silly boy have a turn?!' then you may reply 'how would you feel if you were that boy and you were left out? Not very good I guess' etc. If the child's requests for further information are frivolous and unwarranted (and they are trying your patience) then you can make a call on that behaviour too, so you might say "it's important to ask questions once we've thought them through a little, and then we can be a bit more clear". When the child responds well, after all of this, it is very important to celebrate this - tell them "well done, I'm so proud of you for doing x" (the behaviour you were trying to model/teach/reflectively fed back on prior). Specifically address what is good (positive reinforcement) in your praise. Do not praise pointlessly or else you run the risk of praise being pointlessly received, and essentially modeling mediocrity. Praise must be about real effort, achievements and results. A major problem with recent efforts in this domain is that children have been given praise for half-baked effort and sloppy work. Additionally they haven't been given realistic feedback or appropriate consequences. As a result they lack resilience, and crumble at the slightest reproach. Therefore it is important to feed this back and say something like "Okay - it's good that you've done something here, but I know you can do better - is there any reason why this was difficult for you? Why don't you try again and do x to make it even better" (so you are being specific), etc. Then if the child continues being 'work-shy' you can tell them straight 'Look, I don't think you've put much effort at all in to this, I don't think it's acceptable' (again you're addressing the behaviour but doing so in a direct no-fussing around way). You can see the graduated reinforcement here becoming firmer and more specific with repeated attempts, but still avoiding personal attack on the child's sense of self. For giving negative reinforcement: where you need to tell a child off, eg. for doing something dangerous like hurting another child or running onto the road or playing with matches, then you simply must tell them off. This cannot be avoided. In firm and stern voice you would say 'this is not acceptable, doing x is dangerous!' etc. If appropriate within your discretion, and you are working with a reward system for good behaviour - where an allowance or activities/ treats are given for good behaviour, then the reward is withdrawn and you explain the connection between the behaviour and the removal of the reward to the child. This must be time limited to a few days, and it is then explained to the child how to earn it back within realistic and achievable expectations - but only give back the reward if the behaviour is achieved. As you said in your comment - if you are feeling angry/ negative toward her it may simply be because she is grating on your nerves, as loud people can do. Her temperament may just be difficult to handle for anyone. If it is more than this - it may be because you feel uncomfortable parenting her, because you are trying to do the right thing and be sensitive, yet she may require more firmness, and if you are suppressing your urges here they may be building up as resentment. If this is the case, it is okay to be firm at times if needed. Accept that she is upsetting you and learn to reassure your self. If you are getting angry/ potentially aggressive with a child it is always better to walk away and calm down, which takes 10 - 15 minutes. You simply are not going to 'feel the love' all the time with a challenging kid. So please do yourself a favour and accept this, and let it settle in. It is important to add that in such situations where we are irrationally 'peeved' by someone's behaviour, it may be triggering something deeper within us. For example, you may have grown up in the shadow of an obnoxious / loud child, and so you are transferring/projecting your own dismay on to the situation. Or you may have been like her, yourself, in which case you see your own limitations. I encourage you to think about this and get to the bottom of any 'intra-psychic connections'. Awareness of such connections and talking about them or journalling them is often enough to extinguish the link. As I have said before, <strong>self awareness is the key to genuine power </strong>(and in this case, freedom from being peeved). Thanks for your question - I hope it has generated some helpful answers. Ben.

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