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TheEffectsOfTraumaOnAttachment - 1 DrGrahamABarker...

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1 The effects of Trauma on Attachment Dr Graham A Barker Secure and stable relationships are the foundation for healthy emotional development and subsequent secure and stable relationships. Trauma­related experiences (particularly in childhood), undermine attachments, thereby creating a cycle of further trauma, intra psychic distress and alienation from sources of support. But first we need to outline our Foundational Concepts. Attachment Attachment is the emotional bond that is formed between objects in order to establish a sense of security and safety. The prototype of attachment is the mother­infant emotional bond. Attachment relationships provide: A safe haven that promotes a feeling of security even in times of distress. A secure base that fosters confidence in one’s ability to actively explore the wider world. A structured schema that promotes the ability to make sense of mental states such as desires, feelings, and beliefs in oneself and others. Although attachment begins in infancy, the need for “attachment relationships” continues throughout all life. Attachment theory began to take shape in the 50’s with the work of English psychiatrist, John Bowlby, and American psychologist, Mary Ainsworth. Attachment theory is based on the belief that the mother­child (or caretaker) bond is the primary force in infant development. Bowlby’s premise was that the relationship between infant and the primary caretaker is responsible for: shaping all future relationships shaping our ability to focus, an awareness of our feelings an ability to calm ourselves and the ability to rebound from misfortune Bowlby distinguished four patterns of attachment: Secure attachment Secure attachment, like Erikson’s basic trust, entails a sense of confidence that an attachment object will be responsive when needed in times of distress. The form of attachment will establish the template with which a child will construct: his future relationships with others; her sense of security about exploring the world; his resilience to stress; her ability to balance her emotions, make sense of her life, and create meaningful
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2 interpersonal relationships. A secure attachment will provide the best foundation for these developments. Avoidant attachment Avoidant attachment describes that form of relationship where the child decides it is fruitless to rely upon others to meet his attachment needs and attempts to meet them himself. If the parent is unavailable or rejecting, the child can get lost in her own inner world and avoid emotional connection. As an adult she may appear physically and emotionally distant in relationships. She is used to, and more comfortable with, distance and separateness and may therefore appear self­centered and unresponsive to other people’s needs.
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