Why do I feel like something is wrong with me? I had a perfect childhood!

Abstract image of changing emotions. The types of attachment styles can help you breath and understand yourself. Try understanding what attachment trauma and developmental trauma means for you. Begin attachment based therapy in Pennsylvania.

When I meet a new client for the first time and conduct an initial interview, one of the questions I ask is whether the person has experienced any trauma.  Sometimes clients can talk about experiences that they recognize as traumas. However, they often tell me something like “Me, no.  I had a great childhood.  My parents were always there for me.”  And, this may be true. But very often people have, in fact, experienced trauma and not thought about it as trauma. This is where looking at attachment trauma and early life experiences may help.

How Early Experiences Shape Who We Are

When we think of trauma, we usually imagine a dramatic event. Such as a plane crash, warfare, or physical or sexual abuse.  Trauma that comes from failed protection by our primary caregivers is more subtle but much more widespread.  This attachment trauma is very common and while many people overcome it, many others carry scars.

What is Attachment Trauma?

Trauma spelled out in blocks. Needing support is ok. If you are struggling to understand attachment trauma in Pennsylvania, let our therapists help. Attachment based therapy can help you understand the types of attachment styles. If you need more insight, begin online therapy in West Chester, Philadelphia, Kennett Square, and Pittsburg today!

Human babies come into the world helpless and need care and protection to survive.  There is some debate about why this is the case. One argument is that the skeletal adaptions making upright walking possible limited the size of the birth canal.  This means that infants need to leave the womb before their large brains are fully formed.  Another hypothesis is that the energy required to keep growing a fetus becomes more than a woman can sustain after about nine months.

Attachment is about our Biology and Survival

In either case, human babies are born long before they can fend for themselves leaving an extended period of dependence on parents for survival.  And survival is the key here when thinking about attachment.  John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory, suggested that biological survival is what drives attachment behaviors in both infants and caregivers.  Proximity, physical closeness, is the goal of attachment behavior since being close to the caregiver maximizes the likelihood of surviving attacks or dangerous events.

When an infant or child is afraid and sends attachment signals (crying, reaching, moving toward the caregiver) and the parent responds appropriately, the child’s attachment system is calmed, and they can move from high arousal and fear to relaxation and safety.  This does not have to be perfect every time, just “good enough” over the course of development.

Over time, this teaches the child how to regulate his or her moods, self-soothe when upset, and manage frustration.  They learn that it is ok to explore the world because the caregiver is keeping an eye on things.  Their curiosity develops and their spontaneous sense of self blossoms.

This is ideal with Attachment Trauma…

This is ideal, but there are lots of things that can interfere with a parent’s ability to be attentive without overwhelming the child.  Take a mother who must care for several young children all at once or a single father with a history of trauma.  These caregivers may be too overwhelmed themselves to be fully available to their children.

The key here is a balance between protecting and encouraging exploration and play.  If a caregiver is overly anxious and hovers over the infant, the infant fails to develop self-soothing capacities and learns that the world is unsafe.  If the caregiver is preoccupied with other things and misses the child’s attachment signals altogether, the child learns that care is not dependable and either learns to ignore it or becomes frantically preoccupied with the whereabouts of the parent.  Finally, if the caregiver, who should be a haven of safety, is frightening, the child again learns to turn away from support.

Trauma is much more common than we think

If a caregiver is repeatedly unavailable or responds with behaviors that are frightening, the child is forced to contend with overwhelming fear without the aid of the caregiver.  This is what attachment theorists call “failed protection” and is a common developmental trauma.  In fact, it may be so common that it is the root cause of diagnoses like ADHD and Depression.

What are the signs of Developmental Trauma?Abstract image of changing emotions. The types of attachment styles can help you breath and understand yourself. Try understanding what attachment trauma and developmental trauma means for you. Begin attachment based therapy in Pennsylvania soon!

Because this is experience is so common, an exhaustive list of signs is not possible, but here are some indications that I have found in my clinical work that suggest developmental trauma.  These signs of attachment measure these identifying signs of developmental trauma.

  • Irritable or unstable mood
  • Feeling “empty” or “dead” inside
  • Unstable relationships
  • Feeling like something is wrong with me
  • Reliance on substances to soothe
  • Feeling the need to care for others compulsively
  • Problems concentrating
  • Feeling the need to rely only on myself and never ask for help
  • Lacking true enjoyment and spontaneity
  • Racing thoughts
  • Nightmares or sleep problems

Essentially, these individuals learn to dampen their emotions so that they did not experience overwhelm.  But this comes at a severe cost in terms of emotional vitality and aliveness.  They create a protective shell that keeps them going but saps them of real emotional experience.  They often deny anger and are compulsively self-reliant leaving them feeling empty and lonely.

John Bowlby, put it this way: “The individual remains in a state of suspended growth in which he is held prisoner by the dilemma he cannot solve” (Bowlby, 1980).  The dilemma, in this case, is that the child is left with the impossible task of managing terror alone. Especially without the support of the attachment figure.  This causes rage that cannot be expressed because that would threaten what relationship does exist with the attachment figure.

“The individual remains in a state of suspended growth in which he is held prisoner by the dilemma he cannot solve” (Bowlby, 1980)

How can Attachment Informed Therapy Help?

Attachment-informed therapy, like we specialize in at Edward Jenny & Associates, recognizes the signs of attachment trauma and uses state-of-the-art assessment techniques to confirm the presence of defenses that imperfectly contain it.  Using assessment techniques like the Adult Attachment Projective developed by Carol George, we help clients see the defenses they are using and begin the process of mourning the loss of protection.  Once this morning process begins, the individual can begin to feel whole again.  They are freed from the “dilemma he can’t solve” and start to move forward.

Try Attachment Informed Therapy in Philadelphia, Pittsburg, West Chester, or Kennett Square, PA Today!Person attaching missing puzzle piece to head. Let's begin understanding your attachment trauma in Pennsylvania with attachment based therapy. Get support via online therapy in Pittsburg, Philadelphia, West Chester, and Kennett Square. Call now for support!

If any of this sounds like you, contact us, and let’s see if we can help you move forward! Attachment-based therapy with Edward Jenny & Associates can inform so many issues related to our childhood. Our therapist’s services can help you. Whether that is anxiety treatment, trauma therapy, collaborative assessment, or a group, we can help. Our caring online therapists specialize in psychotherapy, collaborative assessmentsupervision, and consultation.  To start your counseling journey, follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact Edward Jenny & Associates
  2. Meet with one of our expert online therapists
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  4. Start getting the support you need!

Other Counseling Services at Edward Jenny & Associates

Sometimes all we need is community and people to help us with our mental health. Group therapy and an anxiety support group can help. We do this in order to build helping coping tools for the future. However, if you’re looking for additional services at our Kennett Square counseling center, we can help you. Other mental health services Edward Jenny & Associates provides include psychotherapy for families, adolescents, college students, and adultsin-person and telehealth collaborative assessmentsupervision, and consultation, PTSD treatment, and trauma therapy. When you’re ready, reach out!

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