Disorganized Attachment or Why You Think You’re Crazy But Really Aren’t

People with insecure attachment: avoidant, anxious or disorganized, tend to have a much more interesting time in therapy than people who formed secure attachments in childhood. I want to talk about insecure attachment and its affect on therapy, with an emphasis on disorganized attachment since that was with what I struggled. Human beings are born unable to care for themselves in any way; they are totally dependent literally as a matter of life and death on their caregiver, usually their mother, but whomever it is that is responsible for caring for them as a child. (That’s so our heads are small enough so that a baby can be delivered. Can you imagine delivering a child with an adult sized head? Time out for all the readers who have delivered babies to wince and say “OUCH!” Okay, everyone back?) There is a biological imperative for the child to stay close and there is a corresponding biological imperative on the part of the caregiver to respond to the needs of the infant. Thus the two humans, infant and caregiver, form an attachment bond. Humans form attachments throughout their life, but none as profound or far-reaching as the one they experience with their parents. That bond, formed while we are developing, has the power to shape both how we see ourselves and the nature of the universe in which we live.

Human beings are born with a brain and nervous system that are still developing and growing and part of what is necessary for that growth is to be “attuned” with a caregiver so that the needed development growth can take place through an implicit learning system. Explicit learning is you sitting down and learning your times tables or studying history. Implicit learning is the learning we achieve by doing something over and over. There was a time that we might have been conscious of it, but we learn to do it without having to think about it. Think of the act of reading, as you are doing now. Are you thinking of each letter, and each sound it makes? Are you thinking about the meaning of each word, the grammatical structure of each sentence (let’s not look too closely at that, shall we?) or having to parse each syllable to recognize a word? There was a time when you had to do all that, but now you just read. You take in the information without having to “think” about the actual act of reading.

Current research posits two types of memory: implicit and explicit. There was a fascinating case study of a man whose brain was injured in an accident so that he could only retain memories for five minutes at a time; his only long term memories were those that he had at the time of the accident. He could neither form or store long term memories going forward from the accident. If all memory was explicit, stored in such a way that we had to “fetch” our memory to do a skill, then you would believe this man incapable of learning a new skill. But he was taught to braid every day (a skill he did not have before the accident). Through persistent repetition he learned the skill so that when asked if he could braid, he would answer no because he had formed no long term memory of learning to braid, but if three stands were placed in his hands, he could braid because he had the implicit memory created by the training. Such are many of the skills we learn as infants, they are learned by being in the presence of a wiser, stronger, other who repetitively models the behaviors and skills we need to learn until they become part of who we are. Explicit memories cannot be formed until our frontal lobes come “online” which usually happens somewhere around the age of two. Implicit memories, however, are theorized to be held in more primitive areas of the brain that are already operating at birth, so we start to form implicit memories from the get-go. Which is why much of this knowledge is out of our consciousness.

Among the many skills we need to learn are the ability to identify our feelings, use those feelings to understand our needs, act to get our needs met, and regulate our feelings. Even more important is our sense of what kind of place the universe is: do we matter, can we affect what is around us, is it good?

When you have a “good enough” parent, then your attachment figure (AF) is attuned to you. They pay close attention and mirror your responses, they identify your needs and meet them, when you cry out you are attended to, when you are upset they move close to soothe you, if you are in danger, they move to protect you. This teaches you on a fundamental level that the universe is a good place in which you matter, when you express yourself you can reasonably expect to be responded to and most of the time your needs are met in a timely matter. You also learn to understand yourself, your needs and how to go about making them known and getting them met as you move away from people who are attuned enough to not have to ask.

But what happens when your caregiver is not able to be attuned or attend to you as you deserve? It is a biological, life and death imperative to stay close to the caregiver, so a child learns to accommodate themselves to the caregiver in order to stay near them and survive. Which is where the insecure attachment styles come into play.

Some parents do not themselves have secure attachment so they lack the skills to bond properly with their children. If a caregiver is consistently unavailable, or not willing to meet a child’s needs, the child learns through being rebuffed time and again, to keep their needs to themselves because going towards the other leaves them unsatisfied or hurt. If you know the answer is always “no” you stop asking the question. They therefore exhibit no outward stress when an AF departs and do not seek reunion when they return. There is an air of “I’ll do it myself, I don’t need you” that protects them enough to stay close in order to get their physical needs met. In other words, they deny their own feelings and needs in order to be allowed to stay in proximity. (I should note that although outwardly an avoidant child exhibits no distress, physiological factors during attachment testing shows elevated levels of pulse and blood pressure, indicating distress that the child has learned to hide. The appearance of detachment is deceptive.)

Other parents are available at times but at others are not. So the child learns that what they need is only available sometimes, without being able to predict when those times will be. This leads them to an anxious attachment style in which they stay as close as possible to the AF, cutting off the natural exploration and differentiation of normal development, in order not to miss any care they can manage to get. This child exhibits a high amount of distress when separated and is not easily soothed during separation, unlike a secure baby, because they cannot trust the return of the “good” caregiver. They are also not soothed by the return of the caregiver because they can’t be sure what they’re going to get. So they live in a high state of hyper vigilance, ignoring their own needs because they are too busy trying to catch the moments when their caregiver is available.

The last style of disorganized attachment is most common in the event of childhood abuse. Your AF is supposed to be a source of comfort, a refuge of protection, the person who comes alongside you when faced with overwhelming circumstances. When a parent is abusive the same person is the source of being hurt and overwhelmed AND the source of comfort and protection. So do you move towards the person upon whom your life depends or stay away from this overwhelming source of pain? This leads to a child without a consistent attachment style. Sometimes they will use avoidant strategies and at other times behaviors associated with anxious attachment. In addition to both of those though, there is also a “freezing” or disassociation. Because sometimes they took care of you, and sometimes they hurt you, the child is unable to develop a consistent way of dealing with them. That’s what the freezing and/or disassociating is about, the child would literally be at such a loss as to how to handle it that they would just hold still and/or go away so as not to have to make a choice.

When a person with insecure attachment enters therapy, something very powerful can happen. The therapeutic relationship is “a strange duck but closest to a parental one” to quote BN. For the first time in their lives, for some people, we experience a relationship which is focused on our needs, with a person who is attuned to us and is working to understand us. One of the worst byproducts of insecure attachment is that a child “learns” the lie that they do not matter, that their feelings are not important enough to matter and their needs will not be met. The universe is perceived as a hostile place which wounds much more often than it rewards. But now we are faced with a person who is acting as if we DO matter, as if our needs are important. This can awaken our old unmet needs for attunement, for being able to see ourselves clearly reflected, of our unmet desires to be special, loved, admired, and cherished. And because these needs were at their strongest when we first experienced them and we were completely dependent, they are felt with the life and death intensity that was true when we were little.

So we enter therapy unsuspecting of the deep, intense reactions that can be invoked. And for people with disorganized attachment this can feel like you’re going crazy. 🙂 On an adult, cognitive level you can see no reason why this person should stir up such intense emotions, longings and yearnings. You get that you only see them one or two hours a week (and a 50 minute hour at that) so how could they possibly be so important to you? I believe because a therapist is acting as a caregiver and providing the kind of attention and attunement you didn’t get when you should have, these needs burst forth from where they have been suppressed for a life time, responding to the promise held out by the inherent structure of therapy.

So it is in interacting with out therapists that we can learn our unconscious ways of relating. I know with the Boundary Ninja I have exhibited both the avoidant behavior of not wanting him to matter and wanting to flee the relationship alternating with terror that he wouldn’t be there and needing to contact him, sometimes multiple times between appointments to make sure he was still there. These behaviors could flip flop back and forth at a really high rate, sometimes within minutes of each other.

When you are abused, you learn the very difficult painful lesson that to move towards the other brings pain and injury. But humans are built such that we need others, we are formed for attachment. We need others to meet our needs. So you have two imperatives screaming at you “move closer or die” and “move closer, you die.” You can understand why this would feel chaotic and terrifying. But where it really gets difficult is that in order to heal, to learn to move close enough to get your needs met, indeed to learn HOW to get your needs met, you need to move closer. But that is the very thing that the primitive part of your brain, the part responsible for keeping you safe, sees as the most dangerous thing in the world. You must walk into the heart of your terror, again and again, until you have enough good experiences of moving closer to form an implicit memory to counteract your memories of being injured in relationship. This can take a very long time and be very confusing while you’re doing it. BN calls this the “hellish bind” that makes healing such an uphill battle for people abused by a caregiver.

This is why my first rule of therapy when you’re not sure what to bring up in session is to pick the thing that scares you the most and talk about it first.

It is often important for a person with insecure attachment to find a therapist who allows in between session contact. You cannot predict when your need for your AF will arise nor when you will need reassurance to calm your (very reasonable and understandable) fears. I cannot begin to tell you how hard the Boundary Ninja worked to convince me that not only COULD I call but that it was therapeutic to do so, that I needed to learn to ask for what I needed and experience it being met and also experience that there really was a dependable other I could trust. I was so desperate to not be abandoned by BN but was absolutely amazed at my creative abilities in finding reasons I HAD to leave. Every time I moved closer it would rear it’s head and I would have to deal with it. I remember one time being really upset about the thought of leaving therapy but when I really stopped and looked at how I felt, I realized I was terrified to stay. I had never been so close to someone before with intact boundaries and it just didn’t feel right. Either he needed to abuse or abandon me so at least I could know that I was facing something familiar. The fact that he steadfastly calmly refused to do neither scared the socks off me. Part of what I’m trying to convey is that although now I can look back and explain what was happening so clearly, that’s only in retrospect. At the time and as I go through it, it’s painful, chaotic and really confusing.

So its important to talk to your therapist about all these intense feelings that are coming up so that they can help you understand the pattens and belief underlying your behavior towards them. I know how scary it can be to talk to your therapist about this stuff. I am VERY blessed to have BN. He stays utterly calm and accepting no matter what feelings I bring to him. But it’s still been scary EVERY time I’ve talked to him about my feelings for him. But over time, as I’ve experienced him NOT changing no matter what I’ve told him, I’ve really come to understand and believe on a “gut” level that I can talk to him about anything. That he really meant what he said about any and all of my feelings being welcome in his office. They will not be acted on, but all of them can be heard and understood. Another thing I have really appreciated is the fact that he doesn’t like the word transference. He’s always recognized that my feelings about him are real. But at the same time, we can also follow my feelings, and see the pattern in them that allows me to go back and see where and how I learned my beliefs and why I think the way I do. He holds both in place really well. One of the most healing things that he has done for me is to totally understand and accept just how central he is to who I am, how important he is to me, and how deeply I love him. He doesn’t shy away from it, even while he maintains crystal clear boundaries. And it is within this acceptance and understanding that I learned to believe that I do have worth and do matter, so that now I have an “earned” secure attachment. Because our brain is always capable of change and our attachment style is not set in stone. We can heal.

  1. April
    October 14, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    What does AF stand for?
    I’ve been in therapy for a year and a half and almost left twice–most recently a few weeks ago. At the same time, I know, and he knows, that the idea of ending it makes me feel scared. I hate feeling dependent on him and I get so frustrated with myself because, as you said, “On an adult, cognitive level you can see no reason why this person should stir up such intense emotions, longings and yearnings.” I feel really churned up inside, and I flip flop back and forth with it, and I have conversations in my head with him all the time, and again, I get so frustrated with myself and him. It’s very hard to talk about because I keep thinking that it makes no sense.
    I like the idea of starting a session by talking about the thing that scares you the most. I guess I’ll keep going and keep trying. Thanks again for the good information.


    • October 15, 2011 at 12:03 am

      Sorry April, bad habit from writing about the topic a lot on the forum. AF stands for attachment figure, which is usually your parents as a child. Our therapist can become an attachment figure for us if we still have unmet needs or development gone awry. What you are describing about your feelings for your T sounds like it may be true for you. I would really urge you to talk about these feelings with your T. And as far as it making no sense, I hope maybe this helped it make more sense. But I also want to leave you with another BN quote. I once told him that how I was feeling was so irrational. And he told me “so what? feelings often are, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be heard.” AG


  2. Raven
    October 15, 2011 at 2:55 am

    Intellectually understanding attachment has really helped me stick with therapy while the feelings I am experiencing have made me want to run away. It has been helpful to hear you describe how chaotic and painful it can be as these things are worked through – I struggle to understand how I can still find it hard to simply look at my therapist and take in that she is still there. And I did think I was completely mad in constantly asking for reassurance that she was there and asking to hear her voice in between sessions… But maybe I’m not. Thank you for making it all seem perfectly natural!


    • October 15, 2011 at 11:37 am

      Raven said: And I did think I was completely mad in constantly asking for reassurance that she was there and asking to hear her voice in between sessions

      Raven, I find this completely understandable. 🙂 Part of normal development is going out to explore but returning to the “secure base” of our AF before venturing out again. But it doesn’t take much. When BN was first talking to me about contacting him I told I would feel stupid calling, having him call me back and when he’d say hi, I’d say “that’s all I need.” He told me “but I know you and I know why that would be true.” The bulk of my phone calls were very short (2 – 3 mins, sometimes even shorter). BN used to call them my “patented one minute phone calls” when assuring me it wasn’t too much and was a really good thing to reach out. It’s really important to experience reaching out to make a need known and having it met. It helps keep you more stable, which means you can put more of your energy towards the work in therapy. I am so happy to hear that this is helping you feel more normal about this. AG


      • Raven
        October 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm

        It’s starting to make sense to me why just hearing an answerphone message isn’t enough for me. It is about learning to express my need for connection and have that responded to. Every time I reach out, I am terrified that I will have exceeded some notional allocation of attention. My therapist assures me there’s no such quota, but it’s still a battle of wills between the little girl inside and my adult self. Will keep practising.
        Very grateful for encouragement.


  3. October 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I LOVE your writing AG, but you’ve got to use paragraphs.


    • October 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm

      Hi River! Awesome to have you here reading! I read your comment and thought what IS she talking about? Then I looked at the post. There were paragraphs in the original but I wrote it in another program. I am also still learning my way around the WordPress software, so evidently somewhere along the way I lost the formatting and didn’t realize it. Thanks so much for letting me know as that must have been incredibly annoying! Fixed now. 🙂 AG


  4. November 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    This was amazingly helpful, thank you! My therapist sounds a lot like BN…..now if only I could handle more like you!


    • December 8, 2011 at 11:10 pm

      Hi Normal,
      I’m so glad it helped! But I have no doubt you’re handling it as well as I did. One of the very real drawbacks in looking back now and talking about therapy and explaining what I NOW realized was going on, is that it does not manage to convey the confusion, chaos, fear, endless repetition and wandering in circles. I used to threaten to quit therapy at least once or twice a month to friends. And I lost count of how many times I told the BN I wanted to quit. Please know that it was not a pretty nor neat sight as I went through this. Many times I couldn’t even see my progress until a lot further down the road. And for a very long time I ran solely on the BN’s rock solid belief that I would heal and his willingness to tell me that 324,452 times. 🙂 Thanks for commenting, and sorry it has taken so long to reply.



  5. number9
    December 12, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    One of my biggest fears is reaching out to call someone when I’m in a bad place. I go thru the list- oh, that one doesn’t want to hear my crap, (people are very intolerant these days of someone “dumping” on them) I already called that one 2 weeks ago, that one is probably busy, those 2 are married and I don’t want to infringe on their boundaries, etc. Guess what? I don’t really have any friends because of this. So getting even a small message from my T can make my day. I also think that he is tired of me how lame I feel about it.

    So can attachment issues come from recent, adult experiences as well as the past? How everyone is so “busy” or has a family or spouse, and being single feels to me like I would just be a burden on anyone I reached out to?


    • December 13, 2011 at 12:15 am

      Hi Number9, Thanks for commenting. I don’t think it’s so much that attachment issues are being caused by your adult relationships as much as it is that you are carrying beliefs due to insecure attachment that are causing you problems in your here and now relationships. You have deep beliefs that to ask for anything from anyone is some kind of burden or infringement. It is common in people who suffered neglect or abuse in childhood, that we become deeply ashamed of our needs, because our needs drove us to move towards relationship and we got hurt. So when you feel needy, it becomes close to impossible to reach out to other people because of the deep belief that your needs are always and everywhere too much. I understand this because I felt that way for a VERY long time. You have to keep going into your sessions and talking about these feelings to learn about your underlying beliefs about relationships. It’s possible to work through them. AG


  6. Tessa
    December 13, 2011 at 3:52 am

    Wow, you answered some really difficult topics. Ones that we don’t want to ask, yet feel. It gives me a better understanding of what is going on and also that I can trust my feelings. It’s hard to admit abuse or abandonment or even that one is so scared of allowing an attachement to one’s therapist – to allow the trust.
    I still have a long way to go and everything in me shouts to leave – RUN! I’m really really scared and your blog has helped me to understand why I feel like a yo-yo.
    Thank you so much.


    • December 13, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      I understand both the terror of opening up and the deep desire to flee. I actually developed a deep respect for my creativity and inventiveness when I started tracking all of the reasons I came up with about why I NEEDED to leave. It’s a hellish bind, because the very thing you need to do to heal is also the thing that you find the most dangerous to do. As hard as it can be though, I do want to encourage you, that with enough good experiences of moving closer, you do heal and it does eventually stop being so terrifying. I was very happy to hear that it is helping you to trust yourself. An important part of healing for me was learning that my reactions were reasonable based on my experience, and that I could learn to react differently. So can you. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  7. freeonthursdays
    February 26, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I’m glad I read this blog again today because I’m struggling with this need to run away from therapy, to avoid dealing with the intense feelings. I recently tried to explain to my P some issues I’m dealing with because of these feelings and I wasn’t open enough with him so he wasn’t understanding. Then I found myself saying, (for the first time ever in therapy), it just doesn’t matter.

    Now, after reading this blog, I realize why I was saying that, because I grew up suppressing my feelings and telling myself that it didn’t matter. My feelings didn’t matter because they weren’t heard as a child and I became an expert at suppressing them. I realize I’m trying to push my P away and get him to respond in a way I’m accustomed to, which would be to agree with me…yes, your feelings really don’t matter. They’re not important, so we’ll talk about something else. Thank you AG for sharing your journey, which provides so much insight and hope for those of us still struggling.


    • February 28, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      I am very glad that it helped you to gain some insight into your situation. I have always been so impressed by how you very bravely continue to wrestle with your healing and and go back time and again, even when scared, to try and learn. Thanks for making me part of your journey.



  8. Noname
    April 24, 2012 at 12:48 am

    Wow! I just read this and realized why Iim freaked out towards my T most of the time. Holy shit.


    • April 25, 2012 at 11:33 am

      Hi Noname,
      Welcome to my blog! I’m really glad that this helped you to understand what is going on. Sometimes I think the most important stuff in healing from these injuries is realizing we’re NOT crazy. Our actions and feelings make complete sense when viewed in the right context. This is not pathology, but development gone awry.



    • Muff
      December 16, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      FWIW, I never said I was happy about this ‘ending.’ I’m FAR from it.

      “Our actions and feelings make complete sense when viewed in the right context.”


  9. George
    October 15, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Ugh, the more I read about attachment theory the more it seems to describe a lot of my issues. It’s a little confusing, what I read, because different writers seem to be vary in how the insecure attachments are described and named. Based on what you say above, I’d say I’m the anxious type, but as per other things I’ve read, there’s also some avoidant type behavior that I do (“I need you and you disappointed me, so I’m going to punish you and try not to need you so much.”). I just had a thing today with my T that relates to this, in part, because of my need for reassurance and his inadequate response to it. It seems to be beyond boundary maintenance with him and moving in to “withholding” territory, like he’s already done enough. I don’t get that reassurance and soothing kindness from him; in fact he seems to deliberately withhold it, possibly because he thinks it’s good for me or maybe just because he’s a bit cold. This is not the first time it’s happened, and I’ve confronted him with it in the past, but he never changes. It’s a sad feeling, being hung out to dry like that. He’s a good fit in many ways, but I don’t have the experience, in this regard, of asking for what I need and getting an answer, either affirmative or negative. It’s like we’re speaking a different language. 😦


  10. Marissa
    January 28, 2013 at 12:55 am

    Hi There,
    I am just starting to learn about attachment theory (something I have become interested in because I feel like the older I get the more I realize my boundaries are totally off) and I’m trying to determine what my style is. I have never been abused, at least not in the way I have formerly thought of abuse. But, my growing up my mom was always battling depression. She would be in her bed for days at a time. Meanwhile, my dad would not do anything to really address the problem. Could that make me disorganized?

    A couple of things that I have noticed I do that that make me think maybe I am disorganized:
    – I am completely open with people I just meet to the point that almost everyone I meet says that they feel really comfortable around me…I have always thought this was a good thing.

    – The above usually leads to a friendship where that same open behavior continues.

    -Then a number of different things can happen: If they want to spend a lot of time with me, I start to feel overwhelmed and push them away. If they hurt me in some way…lie to me, break my trust somehow…I cannot forgive them and often won’t talk to them again. With men, I have found myself recently in relationships where we are friends and then all of a sudden I have this overwhelming need to start dating them. I begin to do nutty things like tell them I love them. I know it is crossing a boundary, but I have this romantic part of me that thinks- well, maybe we are such good friends and we could be more.

    Anyway, I’m totally crazy. I can look at it logically and realize how completely immature my behavior is, but at the same time, in the moment it seems like that only choice.

    Also, for a bit more context. The last boyfriend I had I dated for 2 years. Around the 6th month of our relationship it occurred to me that I was going to have to depend on him for stuff. It struck me that that is what happens in relationships. I cannot ever remember feeling like I could do this before. Over time, I began to really depend on him and he on me. Then, he suddenly- out of nowhere- ended our relationship and I really don’t think I have been the same since. That was 4 years ago.

    All that said, do you think I have disorganized attachment based on all of that? And, do you have any tips for me so that moving forward?

    Thank you for your post. It is really eye-opening.


    • January 30, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      Hi Marissa,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I agree with what Greeneyes said. Having a depressed mother often means that your mother is neither available or attuned because of the depresion and that can lead to insecure attachment and missed developmental steps. You sound more anxious than disorganized to me (as if you had to be very focused in your mother so you could get whatever care she would sometimes offer. There is a great quiz on the internet at Attachment Style. It takes around five minutes to do but give you your results on a quadrant which I think s really helpful. I have tracked my progress from insecure to secure attachment by periodically going through this.

      My best tip, if you feel like this dynamic is really interfering in your life, would be to seek out a therapist who undertands the fallout of growing up with a depressed mother. Because we are injured in relationship, we are also healed in relationship. Therapy is a good place to bring our unconscious beliefs and patterns into consciousness so we can change them. If we have had to deal with an absent or neglecful parent (not saying that was deliberate on the part of your mother but that her depression may have interfered with her ability to take care of you) we adapt and learn behaviors that are effective as they allow us to stay close and to survive but as adults these same behaviors often become maladaptive and become the very thing holding us back. I hope that helps and I wish you the best in healing. ~ AG


      • Marissa
        February 3, 2013 at 6:07 pm

        Thank you so much for your response. I am going to take the test now and make an appointment with a therapist for next week. Cheers to making relationships work!



        • February 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm

          Glad to hear it Marissa, please let me know how you get on. 🙂


        • Linda
          January 28, 2016 at 10:33 pm

          I am curious as to what has happened in your life in the last two years. Living with a depressed parent can most certainly have an effect on you, especially if your other parent wasn’t available or responsive. While it helps to know that it wasn’t something your depressed mother had much control of, it still can have a profound effect on you and on your current relationships, even to the point where you subconsciously replicate the experience in some way (by seeking inappropriate relationships, or becoming attached to someone who is also dealing with depression, etc) That’s what we tend to do. It’s our way of working out childhood issues and hoping for a different outcome–sometimes at the expense of others, and sometimes at the expense of our own happiness. But sometimes things actually work out for the better as we learn that we aren’t helpless anymore, and that we are no longer the child we once were.

          If you could take a moment to respond I would appreciate it. Hopefully things are going much better for you–but it might help others to hear about your choices, your solutions and your experiences either way–“bad” or “good”. Hopefully all good!


    • healing16
      April 18, 2014 at 10:41 am

      OMG…I have fearful avoidance disorder! My husband left me without warning 1-14 and very cruelly…Same week I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and went off the deep end. The BP2 may or may not be true??? But my core issue is FA disorder. I have an amazing therapist…


  11. GreenEyes
    January 28, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Marisa, there are lots of questionnaire’s on the internet that can help you determine your attachment style. You’re not crazy, growing up with a depressed mother who was emotionally unavailable possibly means you have a lot of unfulfilled needs from the past that are cropping up in your romantic relationships. From the information you’ve provided it sounds there is some defensive splitting going on when things get heated in your relationships. Some individuals classified as “preoccupied” can have a push/pull interpersonal dynamic. Regardless, cumulative relational trauma (chronic misattunements, failure to repair ruptures in relationships) can be just as devastating as physical/sexual abuse etc and could lead to a disorganised style.


    • Marissa
      February 3, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Thank you GreenEyes for your empathetic and insightful response. I am going to get googling all of the things you mentioned.

      All the best!


  12. February 13, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    I hear you sister! This blog post was really helpful to read. The most painful feelings in the world are surely the horrible turmoils of disorganised attachment and the daily struggle in relation to the therapist. I would gladly suffer all the physical pain I have ever endured added together and loaded onto me all at once than endure this emotional torture. ‘Chaotic’, ‘terrifying’ and ‘Hellish bind’ are perfect words for it and the “move closer or die” and “move closer, you die” scenario is too real. At best there is a small hope that my therapist is right in saying that if the work is done, the end won’t also be the end of me. I cling to that hope because there is nothing else. Loving your name for your therapist; he definitely sounds like he is doing a good job. Good luck with your healing. I hope to read more posts soon. Thanks for sharing this one.


    • February 13, 2013 at 11:01 pm

      Hi Candy,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I’m sorry you understand what I am talking about so well. I will tell you that I took a four month break about a year and a half ago, then returned on a very irregular basis, which went to weekly, then I decided to take another break. Through all this my sense of security and trust has deepened with BN to a point where although I can miss him very much when not going (trying to work through that part now) I no longer worry about the relationship. I had to learn to let go of what he symbolized but not the actual here and now relationship. That part I get to keep and its very precious to me. So it will not be the end of you! Glad you liked the nickname, trust me he earns it. 🙂 Looking forward to hearing more from you. ~AG


      • December 20, 2013 at 8:56 am

        Hi AG, I’ve come back to refer to your post again because have been having difficulty recently in therapy because of this and needed reminding that it’s not just me that is like this. I have been reminded clearly that my feelings about her are all one way and that she isn’t there for me if I need her outside of the sessions and this is really painful. I don’t think she really gets why it is so hard.
        Anyway, thanks again for your post.


        • December 20, 2013 at 11:48 am

          Hi Candy,
          I am sorry that things are so difficult right now; I know how painful it can be to feel like even your therapist doesn’t get it. Part of the problem is that although there are clear patterns and similarities among people with disorganized attachment (which makes sense as these are normal reactions to unusual circumstances), people with disorganized attachment only make up about 2-3% of the population. Add this to the fact that if a therapist does not understand or is not receptive, this kind of patient will just move on, and some therapists can go a long time, if ever, without encountering a client with these struggles. If you think it would help, please feel free to print out the post, or give your therapist the link, if you think her reading this would help. I would also highly recommend David Wallin’s book “Attachment in Psychotherapy” to your therapist. I think it does an excellent job discussing the issues and it is written for professionals. (I actually found it to be a bit heavy going in places, but a wonderful resource for the parts I could understand). Please let me know how you get on. ~ AG


  13. DM
    March 4, 2013 at 12:52 am

    Thank you for writing this. I am glad for your positive experience in healing and hope to find my own one day. My T was just like your BN for a couple years, until one day she changed her mind without any warning. I felt like I shattered. She responded to my vulnerability/need with unsympathetic, rigid sternness (which translated as anger) instead of her normal comfort/supportive/kind/understanding type of response, I started to cry, and she “gave me a moment to get myself together” while she went to the bathroom. I walked out on her (ran, really), totally confused, angry, hurt, unsure what just happened. It felt so familiar to what I grew up dealing with, but yet I paid her to be different. She was supposed to be different than all those others. I kicked myself for ever trusting her, and felt humiliated that it was such a big deal to me. Didn’t go back for a couple weeks, and when I did, we talked about it, and she never could see what my problem was. All I got was “I’ve been thinking about it for a while and decided to change how I treat you”, never even an acknowledgement that she heard my hurt. Things were never the same. From then on I was guarded and she would get frustrated that I wasn’t moving very far. I tried many times to explain what happened that day, but she never got it. I finally fired her a few months ago after sticking it out for another sporadic year or so. My brain knows it wasn’t about me and that she wasn’t being malicious, but my heart feels just as broken and damaged/disorganized as it was before I ever stepped into T and I’m starting to realize that my other relationships are suffering because I still can’t seem to let anyone close, even though I ache mightily for it. How do you recover from that? When the trained, professional helper heaps on more hurt?


  14. March 6, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Hi DM,
    Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. I am sorry it has taken so long to respond to you, I got a head cold on top of working a lot of OT, both of which have sidelined me.

    I am very sorry for what happened to you. It’s why a therapist has to take their responsibility to their clients so seriously and even more importantly, recognize their tremendous symbolic power, they are not the same as your dentist or accountant, even if the relationship is also a professional one as well as personal. It sounds like your therapist did not place her boundaries in a place with which she was really comfortable or which she could continue to maintain while practicing good self care, then when the strain started to tell, instead of seeing this as her responsibility, she instead got angry with you for not getting well “fast” enough. I know it can be difficult working with clients with deep trust issues (I think it took me three years until I truly started to trust BN for long lengths of time and I can still get scared in times of stress about him disappearing) but that means a therapist has to work at knowing its not about them or what they are doing, its about the clients history. Even under the best of circumstances, if your therapist had her own feelings and needs under control, and decided a different course of treatment was important, she totally blew it by not being able to empathize with how difficult and painful it would be for you to make that shift. Your (quite reasonable IMO) hurt and feelings of abandonment should have been heard and accepted (not in the sense that she had to say she did something wrong, but that she could recognize why it would feel that way for you. This is actually the part that makes me suspect it was about her. She felt guilty on some level, so she got so defensive she was unable to hear you.) So I first wanted to acknowledge that you did nothing wrong by expressing your feelings and expecting your T to handle hers.

    I understand your struggle with how you go on. You actually risked opening up and got hurt again and in a way that felt very similar to your early experiences, which has strongly reinforced your sense that opening up is a really dangerous thing to do and should be avoided at all costs. But this leaves you in the same terrible place, unable to get your needs met because you can’t let anyone in enough to meet them. I have seen other people go through this kind of abandonment by their therapist and the only thing that has seemed to help is to find another therapist, but one they can trust. It can take a very long time to heal from this kind of injury, so it is helpful if you look for another therapist who specializes in helping people who have been injured in therapy; they’ll know what they’re up against. If you can’t find that, look for someone with a lot of experience (20+ years) and then question them about these situations in the initial session. If you see any defensiveness on their part, run! My strongest litmus test for a good therapist is their openness and comfort level with any and all of your feelings, even if its about them, without getting defensive. You may want to check out the forums at Psychcafe. There are a number of people working through bad abandonments by therapists and reading about their journey might be helpful for you. I wish you all the best in your healing. AG


    • DM
      July 21, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      AG, been seeing your responses to this article’s comments and just wanted to reply again. It has been about a year and four months since i posted on here with my connundrum. Wanted to spread some hope that I did finally start back with a new T that focuses on attachment issues back in september and i have grown so much in the last 10 months in my ability to form, trust, and hold onto (without clinging to) relationships in a healthy way. Still have work to do, but just wanted to tell whoever else is watching this thread that there is hope and healing for those of us who have attachment issues. Life is better now that i am starting to experience secure attachments more and more. I can now recognize when i am reacting out of my disorganized pattern and it is freeing that i can see it and then go deal with the attachment issue before worring about the actual issue that caused me to leap back into my old ways. Its also caused the shame to lessen now that i understand why i need what i need. It is possible. I never used to believe it was possible and then one day i realized so much had changed in me and i was healing and getting better. So have hope. Unfortunately the only way for us disorganized folks to believe those kinds of statements is to live it. So thankful our brains were made to recover what they lost.


      • July 21, 2014 at 10:04 pm

        Thank you so much for the update!! It was very courageous of you to enter therapy again after your experience and it speaks of a deep drive for life. I am so glad to hear that you have found an experienced therapist who could walk alongside you to the places you needed to go to heal. I think that you will provide hope to so many people who read this. It really sounds like you have done an incredible amount of healing, and I really am very happy for you. And I couldn’t agree more about our brains having the capacity to change. 🙂 This made for really awesome reading, DM, thank you again for taking the time to say this. xx AG


  15. David of Royston Vasey
    April 14, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Good article about an important issue which ruins peoples lives and sets them up for failure. I was child to two soul murdered schizoid/failed narcissist parents who were both industrially toxic “caregivers”. My Smother’s favourite trick was to ask “Have you got any worries?”. When I told them my true fears (foolish I) they were dismissed as insignificant and I was being “a pest”. In short, they feared love and caused me to do the same. Any love towards them would have Hardcore Scorn poured on it.
    My Soul went into exile to avoid them killing the real me.
    As an adult I started pouring scorn on my parents’ rantings. I got croc tears from my smother and my smelly father had never been so insulted in his life. Anyway he tried to cut his wrists one day and I bollocked him saying he was a F*** Up King and he couldn’t even do that right. He got the humph and I have never spoken to him since.
    My Philophobic Erotophobic Smother has had the boundaries drawn and hopefully is more amenable to the parenting I tried to give her (and she resisted as these “parents” do) when I was being Parentified as a child.
    Society blames survivors like us: Scorn the Survivor: Excuse the Abuser. Sounds so familiar it’s boring.


    • May 4, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      Hi David,
      Forgive me for my appallingly terrible response time, I somehow managed to miss this while I was away. Welcome to my blog. I can see this really resonated with you and for good reason. I am sorry for what you went through with your parents, you did not deserve that, but glad you have achieved clarity about how wrong it was. No small achievement.



      • Linda
        January 28, 2016 at 10:53 pm

        I respectfully disagree with your response here–and am suspicious of the writer’s motivations (among other things). While it sounds as if the writer’s parents had “issues”, the response to a parent who apparently attempted suicide was completely inappropriate (no matter what they may have done), cold and cruel. Frankly the whole post was odd and didn’t feel genuine. Your response to blankly and uncritically accept the post as written struck me as very inappropriately unresponsive in terms of the content. There are people out there who glom onto diagnoses like this to excuse their own sociopathic or inappropriate behaviors–regardless of what is true, and this feels like one of those. Your other replies to comments are so well-considered and thoughtful, I was very surprised at how you answered this one.


        • MG
          February 4, 2016 at 4:09 pm

          Frankly, I find David’s post difficult to understand, much less formulate a response to (if only in my own mind). Sounds very disorganized to me…Sounds like someone who has been through a lot of very deep pain and needs help working through it.

          Liked by 1 person

        • February 4, 2016 at 4:18 pm

          It’s not my job to determine the validity of or judge someone who posts here. I use the model I learned on the crisis line, which is unconditional acceptance. What I heard was a man in a great deal of pain. I also know that our emotional response to abusive parents is a very complicated. difficult thing and I am not going to judge someone for having hostile feelings towards their abusive caregivers. It may well have been that the suicide attempt was manipulative on the part of David’s father; I am in on position to judge. I am wondering if being in a position where you feel like your daughter may judge you more harshly than you think you deserve may have found this triggering to read. I know that happens sometimes for me. ~ AG


  16. May 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Great blog! Thanks for posting.


    • May 18, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Hi Cindy,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for taking the time to say thanks! 🙂 AG


  17. Mallard
    July 6, 2013 at 6:07 am

    This has got to be one of the best descriptions I have seen of how the fallout from having developed a disorganised attachment style is experienced in the here and now with the therapist.

    I am a trainee couples counsellor. At the end of my first year of training I decided to go and get some therapy for some issues that were getting stirred up. In my head it was the counselling equivalent of doing a bit of spring cleaning. I figured I was well acquainted with my stuff, I knew about my attachment strategies…

    I was almost totally unprepared for the mass upwelling of woken up unmet need that emerged. And the shame. I honestly thought I was coming unhinged. I questioned whether I should even be training as a therapist at all. My rational self got that it was transference but every other part of me felt like I was drowning in it – I swung between wonderment that I could feel that intense longing to be taken care of and horror that it was directed at my 50-something, female therapist!

    Then there was the bind. The very thing you need to do; let your therapist know what’s going on, work through it in safety is the thing that all your protective stuff is screaming at you NOT to do. Because why would you hand over power in that manner when historically people knowing you were vulnerable meant very real danger? Having grown up in an environment where I couldn’t predict with any reliability what would happen, there was a real reluctance to take the risk.

    So reading your post really struck a chord with me. It’s great that you’ve put this out there – there are so few helpful descriptions out there aimed at clients, normalising what they’re going through.


    • July 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Mallard,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. Thank you so much for the affirmation. I am truly happy to hear that you are a counselor in training and have experienced this. It is difficult, if not impossible, to convey just how powerful and overwhelming these feelings can be if you have not experienced it and the more therapists out there who get this, the better. Only around 2-3% of the population present with disorganized attachment, so while the pattern can be quite clear and similar for people with disorganized attachment, a therapist can go a long time and not see it. And as you have experienced the feelings are so intense and you feel so driven, that I can truly understand why it might be difficult from the therapist’s standpoint to work with a patient going through this. I am unspeakably grateful for BN and his understanding that allowed him to hold so steady through working through this with me. So I think its awesome that you are becoming a therapist and have done your own work and can bring that understanding to your future clients. BN and I have had a lot of discussions about the wounded healer. None of us are perfect and will bring our “stuff” into the room. You will be aware of yours and can bring to bear a depth of understanding other people might not have. I hope to hear more from you. ~ AG


  18. Heartbroken
    July 14, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Dear AG,

    Is cheating a characteristic of a person with DA? And lying about it?
    And when the partner finally has enough and leaves, even though they had been committed to stay the course and attend therapy, is it still seen as abandonment by the DA?

    I am the poor partner who finally left, after repeated dumps and repairs, and found out about the cheating after the latest dumping, and decided that I had had enough.

    My ex, the DA, receives regular therapy.


    • July 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      Hi Heartbroken,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. First, I want to say I am sorry, it sounds like you have been through an incredibly painful, difficult time in this relationship. Second, I want to say that I am basing what I am saying on what I have read here and not knowing you or your partner, so it may or may not apply.

      I would noy say that cheating is a characteristic of someone with DA, but I think that DA can play a big role in cheating if that makes sense. I think cheating is one way a person would choose to cope with DA. Someone with DA is torn between two imperatives: needing to move closer to satisfy their needs for love and intimacy, but needing to stay far enough away to feel safe. In my experience, there was NO magic distance that allowed you to do both. But having an affair can really meet the bill for awhile. My husband and I experienced a dynamic that when we got “too” close, one or both of us would act in such a way as to cause us to move apart (usually pick a fight). Because it was unconscious, after a while (for us it was about 20 years into our marriage) you just think the relationship is the wrong one and start looking outside it for someone who will meet your needs because you are not aware that you are part of the problem in getting your needs met. My husband and I both became emotionally involved with other people outside our marriage (neither of us ever crossed the line into an actual affair) which is what drove us to couples counseling. The appealing thing about an affair is that it gives you all the trappings of intimacy without the hard work. In a sense, someone with DA keeps thinking they have finally found the “right” person, the one who will love them enough, only to be disappointed (because in actuality what they are looking for, to fulfill unmet childhood needs, is impossible) and move on in their search.

      All that said, even if you do understand your partner’s behavior that does not mean that you have no right to be hurt or angry about it. And it is not supportive or loving to stay and let someone treat you horribly. And both of you should be held to the same standard. I fail to see how dumping you and then cheating on you is staying the course. Your partner probably does feel abandoned, but s/he needs to see their own responsibility in what happened. Loving someone does not mean allowing them to abuse us. If faithfulness is important to you in a relationship, then you have every right to not stay in one in which you do not have that.

      Are you doing couples counseling also? Trust, which is incredibly difficult for people with emotional injuries, is at the heart of any good relationship and an affair is really damaging to trust. When you add relationship issues such as your partner has into the mix, then I really believe that help is necessary. But you are not under an obligation to stay because your partner is hurt by your leaving. You were being hurt by staying. We are each responsible for our own needs. If your partner does not want to feel the pain of you leaving, they need to change their behavior so that you are happy to stay. ~ AG


  19. Heartbroken
    July 15, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Thank you. Your response made perfect sense.
    Yes, my partner and I met online three years ago. She works in a remote community and the long-distance suited both of us just fine.
    She would take her vacations here and we went on trips together. Both of us declared the other to be the love of our lives.
    She lived here in my house for a few months last summer, and it was wonderful. But she had her own apartment in town, which was rented out.
    At Christmas, she moved her stuff in, and we were supposed to be married in May.
    She had gone up north after Christmas again, and was supposed to come back for a vacation to get married.
    I knew a little about her childhood, but certainly not the extent of it. She had been very close to her mother and had an abusive father.
    In March, she told me as part of her brother’s therapy, the siblings had been asked to write their own memories of the events, and that undid her.
    She dumped me, but I didn’t go away. I learned about her situation, SAS, complexPTSD, sought a trauma counsellor to try and understand my partner.
    After about two months, she contacted me, and apologized and asked me to take her back, which I was delighted to do, because I love her. She really is a remarkable person, but very messed up emotionally.
    She came for a short stay, we reconnected, and all was hunky dory. She said she was going to arrange her work to get 6 weeks here and 6 weeks up north, which frankly, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work.
    We agreed we would see a couples’ therapist, before she had to go back, twice, and I moved heaven and earth to make it happen.
    Then, shortly before she was due back for a couple of weeks, something happened with one of her siblings and she was triggered again. She told me she could not be a stable force in my life, and I said we could make it work with therapy, she didn’t have to move here, she could stay there and we’d do skype-therapy or something, anything.
    It was at this point she told me her therapist had diagnosed her with DA.
    She, pretended to agree with my plan, but now I see that she came back just to tie the loose ends, and when I came home one day expecting to go to dinner, I was faced with a note that she’s not returning.
    Prior to that, when visiting one of my old emails when we had first met, I clicked on the link of the dating site, out of nostalgia and to see our old pictures, and I saw that she had been active for the past three weeks (this is when she was purporting to be in a relationship with me).
    I confronted her with it, and she said she was checking out a friend’s situation and I believed her.

    After she left for the last time, I checked the site, and saw that she was active. I wrote her an email and said that I could put up with most things, but not mistrust.
    After I said that, activity on that account stopped. On a hunch, I checked the first dating site that came up on Google, and lo and behold! She was there! In her photo, she had the wedding band that I had given her, and the picture that I had taken.
    I threw up in pain.
    At that moment, I received an email from her, in response to my previous one the week before, where she claimed that the account activity to which I was referring, did not mean she was logged in, she said infidelity was NOT her struggle, and that I was the only person she wanted.
    While I was reading this, the “online” button on the website I had found her, was going on!

    I have never hurt like this in my life, and everything you say, describes her behaviour to a T. I love her so much that a part of me wants the old person that I trusted, but I know I can never go back.
    I wrote her and told her that I was letting her go. And she needed to let me go too.

    I left, because I can’t impose this instability on my child or myself. I wanted to go to therapy, but she didn’t even stay long enough for that.

    The thing is, like you say, she had told everyone and me that “I was the one”, and I believed that she was the one for me.

    It just hurts.

    Thank you so much for writing, and sorry for the length of the post.


  20. james
    August 5, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    This really helped! I need to find a good therapist. 🙂


    • August 5, 2013 at 8:46 pm

      Hi James,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! I’m glad that the article helped and I wish you the best in finding a therapist. Do let me know how you get on. 🙂 ~ AG


  21. TB
    August 22, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Hi Attachment Girl –

    I have a problem. Maybe rather than commenting on this topic you can simply respond through email. I have a loved one, my wife actually, who faced a severely difficult childhood from about 3 months of age, through high school. I have been reading for weeks about attachment theory and I believe that my wife’s relationship issues extend from this. Don’t get me wrong – I am seeing my own “junk” too but she is blind to hers right now.

    I can’t just come out and say to her, “hey, your most important relationships are screwed up because of your past.” I approached that topic once and caused some major backlash.

    I almost thought about having her read this particular blog post of yours that I stumbled on, but I am still afraid to do that.

    How did you come to begin to realize your attachment challenge? How would you suggest broaching the subject with a spouse?



  22. EmCoop
    August 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    My T has been struggling with me. My mom is bipolar and my dad struggled to understand her… he would take my brothers hunting but left me to watch her… My childhood was tough. When I was young the girls who wanted to be friends with me were ever good enough for my Mom. I struggle socially as an adult. I fear when good things happen because I wait for the bad thing that is going to come after. If I make a new friend now then I expect them to disappoint me. I try to only socialize when I’m with my husband. I feel like a cripple.


    • September 2, 2013 at 11:04 pm

      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I am sorry it has taken so long to respond. All of your feelings sound very familiar to me, especially waiting for the bad thing to happen (BN and I have connected that back very clearly to the dynamic of the abuse with my dad and done a lot of work around it. I have worked with him for over five years and just went through a major disruption part of which was feeling like the blow had finally fallen). You had responsibilities thrust upon you that were so far beyond your resources, your father should never have left a child to care for a mentally ill adult not to mention the damage done by favoring your brothers, I do not think you are a cripple. I think you are having normal, human reactions to unusual circumstances. Your early experiences of relationship taught you that your needs were not important, you were worth less than other people, that your mother came first before your relationships (I suspect she drove your friends away because she wanted you there to take care of her, the opposite of what a parent should be doing) and that you got left. Is there any wonder that you still expect people to behave that way?

      How experienced is your T? These kinds of issues, especially when trust is so difficult (understandably so, there are good reasons its a struggle) that can be taxing on a therapist, not because the patient is being difficult but because the wounding was deep and takes a lot of time and effort to heal. Often, a more seasoned therapist, especially one who has experience with long term trauma, handles this kind of thing better. If you have not already done so, I would urge you to tell your T that you are worried that she is struggling with you, an open conversation would be really helpful for you to either hear that is not the case or if she thinks she is not the best T for you.



  23. Sas
    September 10, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Thank you so much for sharing. Incredibly helpful to read another’s account moving through to a secure attachment style.


    • September 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Hi SAS,
      Welcome to my blog, and thanks for commenting. I’m so glad it was helpful to read this. ~ AG


  24. September 17, 2013 at 9:56 am

    AG, thank you so, so much. I’m a new reader but this post resonated with me so much.. I’m right in the midst of all this chaos right now; really, really wanting to run away from T ’cause I opened up and moved closer and trusted her enough to share something really big but at the same time so, so, so scared of losing her or her making me leave and being abandoned. My head’s all over the place with all these conflicting instincts but your post helped provide me with some clarity with what’s going on for me so thank you so, so much.

    Going to take a deep breath and face my fear; going to keep at it and not skip Thursday’s appointment as planned. I know that I need to just keep going and building up those good experiences to heal.

    Thank you, Lily x


    • September 20, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      Hi Lily,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for commenting. I am sorry to have taken so long to reply, I am presently working OT and a late shift to boot. I am so glad that the post resonated so strongly for you, especially as it provided clarity. Therapy is often so confusing. And you made my day telling me that it helped you face your next session. Good for you for being so courageous! Thanks for taking the time to tell me, it’s a real encouragement to me to keep writing. I hope it went well! Peace, AG


  25. October 18, 2013 at 6:50 am

    This is the most BRILLIANT post EVER! I mean, not its content (because, hey, it sucks to be like this), but that fact that as soon as I read it I felt like I was in a cartoon and a giant lightbulb had been turned on above my head. I spend half my time in therapy tearfully asking, “So I’m not going crazy then?” Which is always met by a compassionate and affirmative “no”, but still, it’s nice to read about from the perspective of a client.

    Thank you. For getting it, and for writing so eloquently about it, and being able to pass on hope to others (me!).



    • November 22, 2013 at 10:23 pm

      Hi Blithely,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! My apologies for taking so long to respond, personal issues have kept me away for a bit. You’re off to a good start with me calling a post brilliant. 😀 But seriously, glad it helped. I seriously relate to feeling like you’re going crazy. It was such a relief to understand that there were good reasons behind my behavior and feelings. Nice to know I’m not the only one! ~ AG


  26. Debbie
    November 28, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Thank you sooo much for this post – just amazing for me. I starting (re)searching the affects/outcomes of a depressed, adolescent mother on her infant/child and I ended up here. Your post has directed me in my next steps and level of understanding of my own emotions and weird reactions to life… I’ve passed on your blog site to 6 others already… Again, thanks and I await reading your next post 🙂


    • December 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      Hi Debbie,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting, sorry for how long it has taken to respond. I am very glad to know that reading this helped you gain more insight and understanding of yourself, as that is what healing is ultimately about. I very much appreciate the kind words and your sending more people here. 😀 I am hoping to get back to regularly posting soon. ~ AG


  27. Muff
    December 16, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Muff :
    FWIW, I never said I was happy about this ‘ending.’ I’m FAR from it.
    “Our actions and feelings make complete sense when viewed in the right context.”

    Therefore, there is NO guilt!


    • December 20, 2013 at 11:43 am

      Exactly Muff! The guilt is not ours to own, we just often feel like it is!


  28. Natasha
    December 30, 2013 at 12:56 am

    I had an epiphany of sorts reading your blog – I realized I have not been searching for a partner but a replacement for my abusive mother (depressed, narcissistic, OCD – she would get angry and scream if I was hungry, bullied me endlessly about my appearance, filled me with guilt for existing). Like one of the other commenters, I find it almost impossible to reach out to anyone when I feel bad – I seem to be getting worse, I find it difficult to attach to anybody, though I have worked to become socially adept (when I have spoken at all about my upbringing, people are always shocked and say I SEEM well-adjusted, considering). But I feel so alone and depressed most of the time, and then I feel angry that I continue to suffer for the misfortune of getting the mother I had – we have not spoken for 15 years. I feel so isolated and yet other people exhaust me. My first psychiatrist was useless, second told me I’d be on medication for the rest of my life – I guess I need another therapist although I am living in Asia right now where good therapists are not easy to find. I have a problem with men too – apart from anger I have trouble believing they have any other emotions, certainly not caring (my father was violent and of the opinion that children that will just grow up and leave, so why bother about them).
    Attachment styles is new to me, but it explains a lot. Disorganized, avoidant, anxious – I think I am all of those. Thank you for this post. I want to heal and leave the past behind as I am worn out by dragging it around with me. I need a different way of relating to myself, to others, to stop feeling disappointed by them and always looking for the escape hatch. Do you have any suggestions for work I can do alone? All the best with your ongoing healing also.


    • January 3, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      Hi Natasha
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. Sorry to take so long to reply, rough week. I am glad that reading here gave you insight into your own behavior. I know when I learned about attachment theory, I started making a lot more sense to myself. I am sorry for what you suffered at the hand of your parents, you did not deserve to be treated that way. The problems you are having in relationships make a lot of sense in light of what you went through. We learn to hide ourselves, to not acknowledge our needs and have no way to become aware of who we are without the reflection of an attuned adult. So we may behave correctly (and I have experienced that same shock about my background) but often at the cost of hiding our true selves, especially all the unprocessed feelings. Disorganized attachment will exhibit behaviors of both anxious and avoidant attachment sometimes within minutes. Not knowing what to expect from our caregivers, care or abuse, made it impossible to come up with a consistent strategy. So we tried everything.
      In terms of healing, I am not really sure what to tell you. I have found the therapeutic relationship to be essential as it has provided a safe place to grieve my losses and an attuned other focused on my needs to finish my development. But I understand your difficultly in finding a therapist right now. My best suggestion would be to do some reading to learn more about attachment and gain more insight. I would recommend General Theory of Love, Parenting from the Inside Out and Attachment in Psychotherapy (there are descriptions and links to all three in my post Helpful Books. Do let me know if there is another way I can help. ~ AG


  29. Natasha
    January 4, 2014 at 2:45 am

    Thanks so much for your reply. It helps to know there’s a reason I feel like this, and am like this. And it helps that someone understands. I had two psychiatrists, and one was awful, the other one put me on Prozac (which made me suicidal) and told me to join a dating agency. My sister has had a lot of therapy, maybe she found better therapists. I learnt about EFT, which I found helpful, and saw a woman who was quite good with that, but I didn’t do enough, or deal with relationship stuff – it was almost like I identified with it so much that I didn’t see it was a problem. Or the foundations of it were all beliefs that need to be dismantled. It was just me, someone who does all the right things and looks OK but is kind of hollow. I do so much hiding. I will go to war zones and not be afraid but to ask people for anything is terrifying – I am realizing how much this has held me back in so many ways. I have learnt a lot here, so thanks again and I will look at the book list.


  30. January 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Attachment Girl :
    Hi Candy,
    I am sorry that things are so difficult right now; I know how painful it can be to feel like even your therapist doesn’t get it. Part of the problem is that although there are clear patterns and similarities among people with disorganized attachment (which makes sense as these are normal reactions to unusual circumstances), people with disorganized attachment only make up about 2-3% of the population. Add this to the fact that if a therapist does not understand or is not receptive, this kind of patient will just move on, and some therapists can go a long time, if ever, without encountering a client with these struggles. If you think it would help, please feel free to print out the post, or give your therapist the link, if you think her reading this would help. I would also highly recommend David Wallin’s book “Attachment in Psychotherapy” to your therapist. I think it does an excellent job discussing the issues and it is written for professionals. (I actually found it to be a bit heavy going in places, but a wonderful resource for the parts I could understand). Please let me know how you get on. ~ AG

    Hi AG, thank you for your suggestions. I did share your post with my therapist and she said she is going to read the book you recommended. It’s still a nightmare; I don’t know how it’s going to work out. I would like to read other posts you might have that would reflect this theme of attachment. Can you recommend any specifically to me?
    Thanks a lot


    • January 9, 2014 at 12:07 am

      I am so glad that your therapist is going to read David Wallin’s book; he does an excellent job explaining the issues. I see it as very positive sign that not only is your therapist open to learning, she’s open to getting the sources from you. It shows a real humility about her role.

      As far as other stuff about attachment, it’s a big theme with me, because learning about attachment gave me so much insight into myself. The username probably gave you a hint. 😀 So almost any of my more substantial posts will address the topic, but here’s few suggestions to get you going: How do I fill the void?, Helpful Books, Therapy isn’t enough, Sorting the Past, But therapy can take us a long way: Learning Developmental Skills Part 1. That should give you a good start. You might also want to check out the forum at Psych Cafe, there are a lot of members that deal with these issues and a lot of discussions I think you might benefit from. ~ AG


  31. Kelso
    February 23, 2014 at 5:08 am

    Just found this and I wanted to thank you! I have been going to therapy for about three years (3 different therapists) and I found one that I really like. She is amazing but I find that I am constantly angry at her. Like irrationally mad, I can take a lot of what she says and turn it around and make it come off like she doesn’t care or that I am being too much. She just recently told me about insecure attachment and now she is on vacation and I am struggling a lot with it. I know she is coming back, why wouldn’t she? But I fear she’ll come back and not tell me or miss our next session. She said I could email and really encourages it but I always feel bad because they are always super long. And I don’t want to bother her on her vacation but cheese and rice I feel like I am losing my mind and I have 5 more days!


    • Michelle
      February 24, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      I just found this also. Very helpful. It might be helpful to write the email and just save in drafts. You can bring it with you to the next session or send when she gets back but you may feel some relief getting it on paper. I do the same thing and feel I overwhelm people with too long of emails.


      • February 25, 2014 at 9:24 pm

        Hi Michelle,
        Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I especially appreciate you responding to Kelso as I am playing catchup on emails and comments due to surgery and vacation. I think you gave Kelso excellent advice. I journaled a lot during my work with BN and I was amazed at what I could connect up by just pouring my thoughts out. I’m glad to hear you found this helpful also! ~ AG


    • February 25, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Hi Kelso,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I’m sorry for what you’re going through. Been there, done that and know how crazy making and painful it can be. It used to take me two sessions to process BN’s vacations, one to deal with feelings of abandonment and the other to deal with being angry and hurt he went away. I literally emailed him one vacation to tell him I hated his familly (!) (not proud of that one, and am very grateful for his patience!). But the truth was that so many of the feelings, at least their incredible intensity, were being driven by events from my childhood. But it was only through talking about the feelings I was having about BN that I was able to understand. The other factor is that when we were kids it should have been safe to express our feelings and be met with understanding; that treatment would have taught us we weren’t too much and we were cared for. I think so much of it surfaced in therapy for me because I was finally safe enough to actually talk about how I felt without being punished for it or losing the relationship. Try to have compassion on yourself, there are good reasons you feel this way. And if you can possibly bring yourself to do it, take up your therapist’s offer to email. If you email, it takes her only minutes to answer and can save you hours of anguish and you’ll be in better shape when she returns. It actually helps both of you. Looking back, I wish I wouldn’t have fought the outside contact so hard. Hang in there! No matter how impossible it feels, the time will pass. ~ AG


  32. Erica
    March 12, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    I’m so glad to see this experience put into words – something I can’t do. Especially right now, as I’m going through the process right now.

    My therapist is superb, and it’s taken me a lifetime to find someone who can help me through this hellish bind you are describing.

    The hardest thing for me is that other people in my life do not understand why a therapist would be so important to me, or why I would need to continue seeing them so often for so long.

    Perhaps if I could get anyone to read this blog, they might begin to comprehend…


    • March 13, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      Hi Erica,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. I’m really glad that this was able to express what you felt. I know how frustrating it can feel to know something inside but not be able to explain it. I am very happy for you that you have such a great therapist. This is difficult work and not all therapists handle it well.

      I know it’s hard not having people understand. I get it, I thought I was crazy when I started having these feelings, they just do not make sense out of context. I am eternally grateful to BN for pointing me towards attachment theory. I was finally able to see this as development gone awry instead of some terrible pathology on my part. But for people with secure attachment, I think it’s impossible to understand just how hard these needs can drive you. They don’t remember because those needs did not go unfulfilled. It’s like the difference between someone in the US saying their hungry versus someone in the Sudan. We don’t get terrified by hunger because we know we can walk over to the frig, while someone from a really poor country may not know where their next meal is coming from, so hunger is terrifying. When we feel these needs, they’re terrifying because absolutely nothing inside us says they can be met. Please feel free to print this out and give it to the people closest to you if you think it will help. I wish you well in your healing. ~ AG


  33. March 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Thanks AG. You have once again put into words a perfect description of attachment issues: ‘It’s the difference between someone in the US saying their hungry versus someone in the Sudan…..’
    Simply brilliant, and it helps me be a little more gentler on my crazy self!


    • March 14, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      Hi Normal,
      Good to hear from you! So glad you liked the analogy and I am totally in favor of anything that allows you to be gentler with yourself. 🙂 I must confess the analogy is one I stole from BN. Most of my reputation is actually based on an ability to accurately quote that man. 😉


  34. Jen
    March 23, 2014 at 4:45 am

    wow. well, this is why my dog is the best relationship i’ve ever had. are we humans, “the most sophisticated species to exist” really so vulnerable, so predictable? i consider myself aware, reflective, inherently knowing that there are subconscious “instinctual” reactions at play in evening my reasoning of what’s right or wrong, safe or unsafe. i know the reason why I’ve never been broken up with — i would never put myself in that situation, and instead leave first. And I even know that to make it easier on myself to leave first, I allow myself to pinpoint their flaws, whether real or imagined, perhaps, even making them believe in the flaws I see in them, maybe making myself the victim, subtly allowing them to believe they are the weak and co-dependent one. Which usually established my position of always having the upper hand, where they are all of a sudden MORE attached to me falling prey to this imposed power dynamic, which then allows me to see them as “weak”, allowing them to become that which I would never be, and then the more they crave me, the more I pull away, and if ever they were to muster the courage to be the one to leave me … which frighteningly no one has ever followed through with … but if even they are able to convince me for one day or three weeks, however long they can hold out, an almost child-like, desperate, dark, all-consuming fear overtakes me…that I MUST have them…and even in the grip of this feeling, I question whether it’s truly THEM, and who they are as a person, that I want to stay. I know that just before they made that decision, I was ready to leave, convinced that I didn’t need them — however, only on the condition that they must be destroyed by this decision. It always amazed me that they never realized that they could essentially make a total SHIFT of the established power dynamic by being the one to walk away first — that act alone would flare up that instinctual, deep seated fear that I am not worthy–that they saw the “true” me, finally. And when an ex has been able to do this, I have been able almost with complete accuracy to get them back again — with varying tactics that played on their own personal weaknesses — how I knew how to do this, without a malicious and conscious plotting, I do not know. For some, I was able to convince them that they never truly loved me…that everything they did was a lie (deep down wondering if I had done the same to them)…and because they did love me, they couldn’t bare walking away from me with me believing that. For others, once they made their decision, which typically was hard for them to do and keep up, I would react in turn by upping the ante, and cut them off from life COMPLETELY. This complete disappearance/silence on my end, which of course took all my will power to follow through with, would inevitably prey on their “doubt” of whether they made the right decision — they would then try and open a door they had shut, and realize I had changed the locks. I again had the upper hand — which for me, would be safe no matter what the outcome, either it made them come back to me, or it made me feel that I had, in fact, made the decision. Most of my exes end up never being able to speak to me — which in some senses is flattering — because I meant THAT much, but it also reconfirms and plays with my fear that no one can every truly “love” you, that “real” love is a mirage. And as time moves on, all these exes, in one way or another, have contacted me again–and no matter if it’s a phone call, or just a link to an article that made me think of me. The point is…they STILL think about me. And a calming, almost egotistical, wave of relief and satisfaction washes over me… but even then, I cannot take complete pleasure in this, for I know that even that link, that phone call — even their silence — or their desire to get back together with me — I cannot fully trust. And then I realize that no matter the person, no matter the outcome, whether they stay with me, whether they leave me, I will never be truly convinced. There’s nothing they can do. And now, at 30, I look back at the carnage I’ve created. And all of sudden you feel like Christian Bale in American Psycho. It’d be different, if I wasn’t even aware of my own agency in this — you are at once outside of yourself watching it happen, yet unable to stop it from happening — you become two people, maybe three. The one that hates you for setting them up to fail — the one that sees the lost and lonely little girl who just wants someone to love them, and there’s the one that is able to overlook the cyclical, parasitic game that’s being played, justifying it as something that everyone does in one way or another. But then there’s the fourth person, the one that scarily seems the most rational of all, who says either way, whether you’re partly the little girl who never learned what love looked like, or you’e the circus carnie who lures them into a rigged game, what you really are–what EVERYONE is–is a mere mortal. And even though we know that everything in this world will pass away, us, the sun, life as we know it — we are the only species that is AWARE of this fact. Logic and reason, qualities that self-define us as the “most sophisticated species to ever exist”, has ultimately equipped us with the most deadly quality to ever exist in a species. The knowledge of Good and Evil. Life, our Existence, is now seen battle that we must win, underpinned with the subtle awareness that we will always lose. “Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain” — a quote from the Wizard of Oz that has always baffled me — I don’t know which is better: Do I want this awareness if I will always fall victim to it? Often times, I wish I was a dog. A bird. A star. To just Be that which I am. To play my role in life. To be an element, a fragment, just one thin thread that makes up the fabric of existence. Believe me, I see the beauty in humanity’s evolution — music, dance, art, inspiration, human connection, but I also am all too aware of that all those things pale in comparison to what we are now capable of doing to ourselves. I would sacrifice all of that — every great piece of music that seemed to transport me to other worlds, states of being, every time someone made me laugh, and I made THEM laugh, the first time I fell in love and all of sudden my eyes could see tints and colors I never knew existed — I would take it all away to just be a bird in the sky, a fish in the sea, a tree in the wind. Inherently imbued with Peace. But I am fated to be of the species that has the ability to define Peace for themselves. For others. And even me saying all this, doesn’t matter. Doesn’t make me “better” than the average human, and doesn’t make me any closer to Peace. In fact, not only will I never be just a bird or a tree, I can’t even be that human that just plays his role — like Mr.Potter in the “It’s a Wonderful Life” — seemingly unaware that all his happiness and bitterness was his own doing, or even the faithful Christian who has found a way to squash their fears of immortality by believing in a man-made, unprovable, magical place called Heaven, where all your loved ones will come together and live out eternity in pure joy. Many have been able to find the ability to believe in this — in some ways, it takes the logic and reason devolving our species out of the picture, and sweetly surrenders you to the possibility of the unknown. Religion in itself, however, is at once something the plays on our greatest strengths and weaknesses as a species. It has the ability to make us the best and worst of our kind. But that still leaves me, and “my” kind, as people who see this whole scheme playing out, but in no way are exempt from participating. The only way I can see to obtain Peace, nothingness and oneness, is to detach yourself from this world. To not need it’s devices. To not compromise yourself by giving into to what They have continue to create. But how can I leave my species? How can I be so selfish to go live “off the grid” in a lush mountain forrest, subsisting off the land, when there is so much suffering and unfair advantages that are killing off my very kind? But then, I think, “Geeze, does it even matter? We are a blip in a Universe that defies all logic and reason. And if you really see how insignificant the human species is — even in terms of Time, how long we’ve existed — you can surmise that instead of being the most sophisticated Species to ever exist, we may be the most sophisticated Disease to ever exist. We have morphed into an organism that breaks natural laws that ever other thing that exists has to follow. And we’re spreading at a rapid pace — defying gravity, building machines that take from the earth’s contents to other machines that cause destruction our own species, very rare to find in nature mind you, but also, kills that which gives us life — water, trees, land. We have evolved into the Earth’s worst Auto-Immune disease — and we’d like to think the awareness of this fact will be what saves us, but how can it, when this “awareness” is the very thing which defines us.

    Some would call this Crazy. But don’t worry, I may think all this, but there is something in me that can’t just let go, throw in the towel, … something that contradicts all these reasons with NO proof, something we define as Hope. A magical trait that is unique to our species and necessary for our survival. Belief in what we can’t see or prove. Just like when we set sail toward an unknown blue horizon convinced we’d fall off, for the world was thought as Square, there was hope, that little feeling that makes you go “But what if ….??” The ability to question everything that you think you know, what everyone tells you exists or doesn’t exist, to go against your very nature as a mere mortal, risking your life, on the feeling of Hope: your Belief in the unprovable. It’s scientifically proven that this intangible element we call “Hope” or “Belief” — has the ability to alter the tangible elements within our body. The Placebo Effect. So, if there’s one thing I’m thankful consciousness gave me, is the ability to understand that this world is not limited to our definitions and perceptions of it. To simply allow for the Mystical and the Unexplainable to exist — to surrender to my limitations as a species — the this Earth, this Universe has a way and a order to it, that might be beyond our perceptions. That humility, that Time didn’t begin with us, it didn’t begin with the Big Bang, that perhaps, Time perhaps never began, that maybe there never was a Never. And then, all else begins to fade away…. and then everything simultaneously becomes meaningless and meaningful. The fact that we are even here becomes Magic. That I’m typing to you, everyone, and no one at the same time. And then all of sudden I Believe. Believe in what? Does it have to have a name? I think I just Believe. That this all is special — it’s all kind of Magic. Did you know that, AZT, the anti-viral HIV drug and anticancer agent Ara-C were both developed from extracts of sponges found in the Caribbean reef? Magic both ways. That the earth supplied it and that we were able to FIND it, produce it. We do have a belief and understanding of our Earth that convinces us, gives us the Hope, that all the things we need as a Species, all the cures, all the answers, are found within our own planet. But we must be weary of our weakness — our consciousness of our mortality and our ability to do whatever necessary to regain the upper hand on whatever poses a threat. The same part of us that justified our need to use Caribbean coral to cure a disease killing millions, is the same thing that justifies our oil extraction, risking irreversible environment contamination and leading to wars and rifts between our species, the same with Uranium extraction, to make Nuclear Bombs. Our fear of mortality– the need ensure our survival, has obscured us from the obvious, what have we Become. What other species is able to create weapons that can wipe out whole countries, whole populations of people, with the damage of radiation rippling through multiple generations of people decades later? What other species can think of that type of invention and have the ability to justify their murder of innocents? And then when they see the damage done … What radiation can do to the environment and humans generations down the line–what type of species continues to build them? And then is surprised and threatens war and death to other countries that decide to build their own? And that’s just nuclear weapons and massive environmental contamination.

    But don’t worry. Remember that the same person that angrily flicks someone off in traffic for getting in their way, making them miss the light, is the same person that bombs another country. Comes from the exact same place and weakness inherent all our species. Each one is using whatever they have access to, to gain the upper hand. A middle finger or a bomb. Whether you’re the person that thinks angrily flicking someone off teaches people a lesson, maybe even going out of your way to pull up beside him just in case he’s purposely not looking in his rear view mirror. You pull up, honk, and shake your middle finge back and forth, looking into his eyes with so much hate — What an idiot! He needs to learn to drive! I should report HIM – get his license revoked – that’s teach him! He’s probably not even from here! I bet you he’s not ……maybe he’s not even legal. And a weird, slightly good, slightly bad, feeling washes over: you realize that you have the power to potentially to deport him — you feel Good, that would be giving him the Ultimate Finger. And part of you feels justified. He could kill someone and he’s not even supposed to be here. Slightly even thinking that you’d be considered a hero. You’re saving lives. All of a sudden this man who was driving slow, making you miss the light, is a murderer. And all those feelings can happen in an instant — and action can take place even quicker. And as your sitting at the red light toying with the idea, the feeling of power it gives you, your phone dings, a text message from your girlfriend. She sent you a pic of your puppy eating your leftover pancakes from this morning, meanwhile the light turns green, you look up, step on the gas, and accidentally slam into the bumper of the guy in front of you. Whoopsiessss. You quickly put your phone in your pocket, knowing it’s illegal to drive and text. But I mean, everyone does it.

    Once you realize that you’re not fighting against evil people, but against a multi-layered context of perception and definition of fear of mortality, coupled with the ranges and types of power people have access to — you can look at something simple within you with the understanding that you, yourself, are capable of the very worst in our species.

    And it just starts there. And then there’s Hope.

    I am so sorry I wrote so much. I don’t have a blog. I don’t write things! I try to make films.


    • April 22, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I am so very sorry it has taken me so long to reply! I thought I already had, then noticed when I came to reply to Healing16 that I had not. Really didn’t mean to ignore you. I really appreciated all that you shared. It is obvious that you think deeply about the issues you are working through and strive to find meaning and I appreciate you sharing so much of your process. No apologies for writing so much. 1) I am the last person to criticize someone for being verbose 😀 and 2) I really love when other people also speak here, we can all learn from one another. My best wishes for your continued healing. ~ AG


  35. healing16
    April 18, 2014 at 10:43 am

    BN: can fear avoidance disorder mimic bipolar 2? I may have both..if I work at healing FA disorder, will my BP symptoms go way or be minimized??


    • April 22, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      Welcome to my blog, I am afraid that while I speak of BN often, and he has occasionally read an article here when I have asked him to, he has never commented here. I am not very familiar with dealing with being bipolar and this is the first time I have ever heard of Fear Avoidance disorder so I am afraid I don’t have any insight to offer about your question aside from the general one that I do believe that talk therapy can help with a lot of diagnoses by allowing us to gain insight into our behavioral patterns and motivations. Sorry to not be of more help. ~ AG


  36. Rarrku
    May 9, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Hi AG,
    I feel really great (or more like relieved) that I am not the only one who feels all this “mushy” stuff between my T and I. I just found out about your site this morning and trying to get caught up lol.

    A quick note though: For me personally, I have been struggling with the effectiveness of therapy. What I mean is, clearly, there are many patients (as you can see from the many people who comment on your blog as well as other sites) who are confused, lost, and even angry when certain things happen behind closed doors with their therapist. A quick personal example: Something like transference – holy crap! I read about it, I knew about it, but I still wasn’t prepared for it. It was tough and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I wanted to quit therapy because of it.

    (Honestly, if it wasn’t for the internet and the fact we can share these things, I might have given it up on therapy completely. Think if this was in the 80s and information didn’t flow so freely!)

    I guess what I am getting at is, I think some therapists don’t really tell a patient what they are really get into when they first start to get into therapy. And when something confusing happens, the patient feels completely confused, angry, sad, etc. I do get that some of it has to do with our past, but that still doesn’t dismiss the fact that in the present MOMENT, we feel pretty crappy.

    From a logical stand point, I think a skeptic (*cough* me at times) just blatantly asks. “OK, therapy has some pros and cons, but man I feel like crap! Yes, I get all this stuff that the therapist is supposed to help me, but I am not the only one feeling like this. A lot of people feel like this. Maybe there has got to be ANOTHER way – therapy is good, but still has some things to work on.”

    What do you think about this? Have you thought if therapy is good, but maybe it isn’t good enough?

    Thanks again and keep up the great work 🙂


    • May 12, 2014 at 11:54 am

      I definitely see where you’re coming from, therapy is painful, and confusing even when it is going right and I think it would be inhuman to not occasionally question whether it was worth what you are putting yourself through. And to answer your question, therapy isn’t enough. 🙂 (and there’s a sequel Therapy isn’t enough redux).

      Here’s the thing though, and I want to be clear this is my personal opinion and hence subject to being very wrong, I do not think that the pain in therapy is inherent in the setup or caused by it. I think we bring our pain with us. I deeply believe that the boundaries are set up the way they are not because of someone’s arbitrary decisions but based on the need to create a safe, containing environment in which to do the work (see How do I fill the Void? and and Why your therapist SEEMS cruel, but really isn’t). And I also get that it’s frustrating that a therapist isn’t always up front about what to expect but I also believe there are good reasons for that: Why won’t my therapist just tell me how this works?

      But we bring the pain into therapy, and whether we go to therapy and become aware of it or remain unconscious of it, it drives us in ways which limit our life. I don’t think therapy is the only answer, it just happens to be the answer that worked for me. I truly think that everyone has a right to choose whether what they need to put themselves through to heal is worth it, and I totally respect both someone saying “no” and not continuing or someone saying “this isn’t going to work for me.” Therapy is not easy stuff and, especially if you have long term deep injuries to deal with, often makes things worse before they get better (for starters you’re allowing yourself to become conscious of that which you have stuffed away for a long time, and we don’t tend to cut off the stuff about puppies and rainbows and next, you’re dismantling unhealthy defense mechanisms and have not yet had a chance to build up healthy responses which leaves you exposed in a way you haven’t been for a long time). I’ve lost track of how many times I have threatened to quit. 🙂 I will say this, if you can look back over a long period of time, say six months, and have seen no improvement or are not feeling any sense of comfort, I would at least question whether are working with the right therapist. While therapy can involve a lot of pain, that’s not all it should involve. Thanks again for taking the time to say this. ~ AG


      • Rarrku
        May 13, 2014 at 12:17 pm

        Thanks AG for taking the time to respond to my questions!! 🙂


  37. May 15, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    adding my thanks to you for this blog & posts about attachment issues ~
    I’m someone who went through decades & $$$ worth of therapy & never was attachment brought up, it was something I discovered while reading about agoraphobia since that is my main presenting issue. once I read up on it everything began to make sense to me, I even ran a support forum for ‘attachment disorder’ adults for a couple of years where we all tried to help each other with our similar issues. I had wanted my t to be able to help me & so I hung in there for years hoping until it just was way too painful & damaging to me. in order to save my life I left therapy & my family of origin many miles away & have lived a rather isolated life since. I don’t think I could go through therapy again, although I don’t know any alternatives to try to heal these issues. I’ve tried on my own for years but still struggle daily with the feeling of nothing ever mattering that others here have mentioned. I’m married & have a grown son & several vital therapy cats that keep me going these days. I guess I will check out the cafepress link you mentioned next.. good luck to you ~


    • michelle
      May 16, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      What is cafepress?


      • May 16, 2014 at 10:40 pm

        sorry I meant psychcafe..


    • May 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Hi Bren,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. You know, I had been in therapy on and off for over 20 years when I started working with BN and he taught me about attachment theory (and started me on a reading frenzy for several years :)). The truth is that although attachment theory started back with Bowlby’s research in the 60s, its only recently that its really starting to permeate into clinical practice. It is not the only lens through which you can see human development or healing in therapy but I know for myself, it was a particularly effective one. It provided me with a lot of insight into my behavior and helped me see myself as developmentally arrested instead of pathologically damaged. It provided the way to heal and hope that I could.

      There probably are other ways to heal (I would never want to claim that the path I walked is the only way to do it!) but therapy has been so effective for me that I haven’t attempted to look for another way. But I was also blessed in that I found BN who very much understood attachment issues. It’s not the only tool in his tool box mind you, he depends a lot on his experience. If you would ever consider returning to therapy, I would look for an experienced T with a lot of experience (20+ years) with extensive experience with long term trauma. They don’t get surprised or overwhelmed by the attachment issues. I am hoping you might also find psychcafe helpful, as at least it is a community of people who get how this feels. I wish you all the best in whatever path you choose to walk. ~ AG


      • May 21, 2014 at 5:40 pm

        thank you for your response, ag ~

        I also have been in & out of therapy for over 20 years & only the last therapist I saw really seemed to be potentially able to help me.. unfortunately it was only after this therapy had ended & I was living far away that I learned about the importance of attachment issues, in fact in corresponding with my old t afterward I found she was learning much about attachment at that point (of course after I was gone.. lol) & she was getting also into the area of contemporary psychoanalysis, in which the therapist is also regarded as the other person in the room in interactions with the client, not the ‘blank slate’ concept of old.. this all seems right on target as far as my reading goes..

        I am reading some of the posts over at psychcafe & perhaps it is my avoidant side looming up, although my isolation is a serious challenge for me emotionally, I also fear getting embroiled into the whole attachment issue with anyone else & fear that taking over my head, you know? as I mentioned for a couple of years I hosted a support forum for anyone who considered themselves as having attachment issues where we hoped to be a support for each other ~ I called it psychconnection http://www.brensgumbyland.com/psychconnection.htm

        although it is only an archive now, there may be material there that others commenting here may take comfort or information from? although many members posts were removed at the time of closing the site. I still think support from others in our situation can be a healing factor in itself, especially for those of us without the help of a good therapist..

        at our board we called the pain from our insecure attachment ‘the ache’.. i feel like it will always be there, & i don’t even need to be ‘fixed’ per se, just understood & accepted & hopefully not lonely for life.. at this point with myself it’s a matter of choosing which kind of pain i can live with, rather than expecting a cure (or a pill to bandaid over it.)
        thank you for your kind wishes ~ & good thoughts for all of us ad types out there struggling 😉


  38. Alan
    June 9, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Is there anyway to carry you all around with me everyday?!!? I have been in therapy a few times, spent thousands of dollars, tried meds, tried every book and video and web site and etc etc etc….and this thread and blog post just reflected back to me what almost seems like a daily way of thinking and functioning for me!!! THANK ALL OF YOU!!!!!!!!!!! Holy cow I am so glad to not be alone, and totally screwed up beyond reproach. Now for a common question: can a disorganized person safely have a meaningful relationship with someone else, and be healthy and get both persons needs met?


    • June 12, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      Hi Alan,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. My apologies for the slowness of approving your comment and replying I have been on a hiatus from the blog. I am so glad that reading here and finding other people who understand is helping you to feel less alone and less crazy. I remember how very crazy I felt for so very many years. It’s amazing how seeing something in a better perspective can help you to understand and accept your own reactions isn’t it? I think one of the greatest gifts BN gave me was to allow me to see myself from a standpoint of development gone awry, which could be corrected, rather than an intrinsic pathology. I am glad you are seeing the same thing.

      My short answer to your question is yes. 🙂 Working with BN and forming a secure attachment with him has made me conscious of how afraid I was of intimacy and how hard I (unconsciously) worked to avoid it. Moving closer to him has taught me that it is safe to move closer to people and even that wonderful things can come of it. I have gone from believing that pain is integral to love to believing that pain is a part of life, but love is the answer to how we deal with pain. My relationship with my husband is the best it has ever been (and we just celebrated our 28th anniversary) as the result of the work I have done with BN (and his own work). I don’t want to lie, it has been a difficult, painful, chaotic, confusing process to work through this, but I believe for me that it has been worth it. I feel like most of my relationships are now more meaningful because I can catch my unconscious beliefs and work through them allowing me to be more open and vulnerable which leads to more closer relationships. I also have a stronger sense of my own worth (reflective rather than reflexive, but much better than self-loathing 🙂 ) which helps me to be able to meet another person’s needs as well as get mine met. There is hope. 🙂 Looking forward to getting to know you better. ~ AG


      • Alan
        July 28, 2014 at 9:37 pm

        Hey AG,

        Thanks for the replies and more info. I am really happy to hear of your anniversary!! That is awesome news. Has your husband ever thought of having his own blog describing his experiences with the relationship and his own attachment type? Just curious.

        I really liked the statement you made, “I also have a stronger sense of my own worth (reflective rather than reflexive, but much better than self-loathing 🙂 ) which helps me to be able to meet another person’s needs as well as get mine met.” This is something that I am most interested in, nearly above all other things. I really miss and want a successful relationship and to have a partner that works, but I am learning that when I am in a relationship I tend to feel amazing, and also like I “finally made it”, or am ok, stable, safe, viable, “someone”. When I am not in one, I have some really bad thought patterns and very depressive beliefs. So of course, makes finding the right person to be in a relationship a lot harder, if I can even attract one to begin with. And if history is any guide, you can guess what type of person I do end up attracting!? YUP! The opposite of what I am…and the cycle continues.

        Thanks again for the very well done blog and your time and extra work to respond to comments. It’s very gracious of you, and it is also very helpful.


  39. DaringGreatly
    July 8, 2014 at 5:16 am

    Hey AG hope you are well… My attachment issues are really playing up… There is two people in my life right now my T and a friend That I am terrified of losing. I am beginning to see a pattern. When I feel insecure about my attachment my behaviour as in defects (fear, jealousy, control you get the drift) are running the show.. My T is able to deal with this but my friend is really unsure what to do. I feel like I want to pull away from people so I don’t hurt them. But then again I am terrified of being on my own… I feel out of control in my head. Not sure if this makes sense.. If you have experienced this What do you do or have done when your unsecured attachment issues are being played out to minimise hurt caused… Thank you.


    • July 21, 2014 at 11:12 am

      I am so sorry this has taken so long to respond to. I’m not good at tracking comments on older posts at the best of times and I didn’t manage to get back her in anything close to a timely manner. When I went to reply to Ambivalence’s post below, I saw I had never replied!

      DG, your behavior makes a lot of sense when viewed in the context of your upbringing. That desperate longing to not be alone, but the fear of moving closer and getting hurt leaves us in a terrible bind. I have definitely experienced those kinds of feelings. The most effective way of dealing with it has been to work through it with BN. Because he understands the origins of these feelings, he does not take my doubts and fears personally and is exceedingly patient with my need to cling to him and be endlessly reassured. I can ask things out of him that just would not be reasonable in any other adult to adult relationship. Being able to express my feelings and work through my fears have taught me that it is safer to move closer in relationship. The experience of moving closer to BN and having it be safe, has taught me that it really is safe despite all my experience to the contrary. It has also taught me that my needs are not as outsized as I thought they were, and how to check in with someone instead of acting on what I had decided they were feeling. All of this has translated into being healthier in my outside relationships (my marriage is in the best shape it has ever been in). As far as your friend is concerned, I find it helpful to be open that you struggle with some relationship issues and you know it be confusing, but you want them to know it has to do with your past and not with them. It can also help if you can check in and have them be honest with how they are feeling (I know that can be scary but you have a safe place in your therapist to return to and deal with any difficulties that come up). You don’t have to share anything this is uncomfortable but I think letting the other person know you are aware that things can get difficult because of your issues goes a long way. If you’re close enough to your friend, I would consider asking her to read this post to gain some understanding into what drives your behavior. It’s much easier for anyone to be patient when they understand another’s struggle. ~ AG


      • DaringGreatly
        July 21, 2014 at 3:05 pm

        Hey AG thank you for your reply… I know you were unwell and a busy bee with writing new material so no worries about timing ok….

        My friend and I are on good terms again but to be honest I am a tad cagey. I am working on trying to be really aware when I am in a child state and not reacting from that place.. I am trying to pause….then call the adult part of me to take care of the child… I have rebelled against this for years but after the last few weeks I have had to surrender to this and the possibility that there is an adult in me who is well able to take care of herself and the child. I am trying to re-parent myself.. Not easy and I know it will be slow but there will be gradual change. I will ask my friend to have a read of this as well I’m sure it will explain why I go a little ‘needy’ well a lot needy sometimes…

        I feel very cagey towards my T as well, I know it will be ok though. I feel very angry towards him at the moment (he doesn’t know 😉 say nothing). Have you heard of Transactional Analysis? My T is working with me in trying to get me from a constant child state to a more balanced Adult state (see above) I find it so difficult but I am sure it will be worth it in the long run..

        Thank you again AG take care..


    • July 21, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      DaringGreat, I am in a similar situation with basically one friend and I actually shared this blog post with her to explain what I’m dealing with. If you feel like you can share this with your friend it might help. I recently send my friend a stupid email that came from my insecurity, and after some apology and damage control, she forgave me and we are ok now. I think her knowing what I’m dealing with helps. Also, does your name come from Brene Brown’s book?


      • July 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm

        Hey Judy75, thank you for your post…

        yes my name comes from Brene Brown’s book.. I love her work.. I went to see her in London and she was just brilliant… When I am experiencing fear I try and dare greatly… I dare greatly in counselling as well I have been very honest about my Transference feelings best work I have done in years….

        My friend and I are on good terms again… Trying to practice pausing before I acting… Thanks again…

        Liked by 1 person

  40. July 20, 2014 at 11:26 am

    I think I read through more than half of your posts yesterday… This one in particular makes me want to cry. Mostly because of my own attachment issues and the thought (actually the reality) that I will never interact in a healthy way with anyone. I open up every now and then only to push everyone away. Ughh, not much more I can say.


    • DaringGreatly
      July 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      Hey A, thats how I feel a lot of the time scared to interact with people as I don’t want to hurt them with my incessant need to have them. All or nothing sometimes hard to find to middle ground. I have to say I hate being consumed with constant thoughts and chatter about my T and my friend in my head. It is definitely an obsession at the moment, crazy I know…


      • July 20, 2014 at 6:04 pm

        Actually not do crazy LoL, I can relate all too well


        • DaringGreatly
          July 20, 2014 at 6:10 pm

          Good to hear it’s not ‘to’ crazy 🙂 lol


    • July 21, 2014 at 11:34 am

      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting (I also appreciate you bringing to my attention the fact that DG’s comment above had not been answered. 🙂 ) You are a strong and persistent woman if you managed to read that much of my blog in one day as I have never been known for being taciturn. 🙂

      I hate to start our relationship off with a disagreement, but I beg to differ. 🙂 It is not a reality that you will never interact in a healthy way with anyone. (I do understand how and why you feel this way; I believed the same about myself at one time.) The point of what I wrote here, which is what I believe to be the truth, is that we are not fundamentally flawed, but that we experienced development gone awry. Our behaviors were created by trying to survive not getting what we needed from our caretakers (and at a time when it was a matter of life and death). Survival strategies are just that, in order to survive. You live first, then worry about happy and healthy later. There are very good, valid reasons for why we learned to behave the way we did. Those behaviors no longer serve us well because we have left those situations. The point of therapy is to have a safe place, where your unconscious beliefs and behaviors can be brought into the light so you can understand what you are doing and why you are doing it and make the changes you wish to. Being in therapy is also a chance to complete the developmental steps we were unable to because we were not given what we needed. Our brains always maintain their plasticity, so you are not doomed to live out your life using the bad relationship skills you learned early in life. We can, and do, heal and change. While it is painful, difficult work, it IS possible work. Don’t give up hope. ~ AG


      • July 21, 2014 at 4:19 pm

        I agree, healing and change are very possible. Thank you so much for reminding me that I’m not doomed to a life of insecurity. It’s confusing for me that I’m just starting out on this journey. That I’ve journeyed with others without ever disclosing what was really wrong. It was safer then. Indeed a difficult task paved with hope. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  41. July 21, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    I hate to be a debby-downer (no offense to all the wonderful debbies in the world) but with my T having just left on a 3 week vacation, I too feel like I’ll never get past my attachment issues. It’s still so hard, and it’s still so frustrating. I’ve been with my current T for over 4 years now and I’ll still struggle with trust, and obsessive thoughts, and missing her. I suppose there’s more we have to discover, but I get so discouraged sometimes……sorry for the rant


    • July 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      Hi normal,
      No need to apologize for your feelings! Nothing like a therapist’s vacation to make you do a face plant right into the boundaries. They can be a painful reminder of the limitations on the relationship and if you are in the middle of learning to securely attach, can leave you feeling scared and abandoned. I’ve been with BN for seven years and I really think it’s only within the last year that I have truly settled into trusting him, but can still get triggered. I’m a little over halfway through a five week break, and am having a harder time with this vacation then I have for awhile due to the intense work we’ve been doing. I so understand your frustration and your discouragement. It is slow, painstaking work and we spend a lot of it fighting shame. It can be exhausting. I am glad that you felt free to speak about it here. It will get better. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the posts, but I just put up a two-part series on coping with your T’s absence, you can find part I here: ‘Tis the Season: Strategies for coping with a therapist’s absence – Part I. I hope you might find something in there that helps you get through. And feel free to come here and vent all you like! 🙂


  42. Craving
    July 22, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Hi Attachment Girl

    I came across your blog (this post) while googling fearful-avoidant attachment in adults – I was reading a book about friendship which in passing described this attachment style and I just felt the shock of recognition – “that’s me!!!” For a long time I’ve struggled with loneliness, sadness and an inability to form close friendships without really understanding why. Just reading a bit of information on attachment styles has made me realise how fearful I am of being rejected, and how often I play it cool (independent, busy, never admitting my desperate need for connection) because I’d rather preemptively reject than be rejected.

    Your post really made me think about the roots of this, especially my mother, and about my own parenting style which unfortunately to a large extent is going down the same path. I have not suffered the abuse you did – I can only admire your strength, courage, bravery etc in tackling and trying to heal from that!!! – so my issues are nowhere near as deep and intense, but nonetheless I can still see the connection from my present difficulties back to childhood (feelings, trust, unmet needs and so on). I think my mother suffered intermittent depression and also terrible PMS (irritability, anger, moodiness, withdrawal) and being a very sensitive child her unpredictability frightened me a lot. Even to this day, although she is way calmer and happier (having long since gone through menopause and no longer having 3 kids to look after!), I am still wary and reserved with her. However to my great guilt and shame I’m now behaving in a very similar way with my own kids, though I try so hard not to (and am currently trying to help the PMS through diet).

    I have thought on and off for a long time about seeing a therapist but have always felt I shouldn’t – “too expensive”, “I should be able to work this out on my own”, “selfish”, “too hard to find the right person who I can trust” and so on. However reading your post about how the therapeutic relationship can help you learn a more secure type of attachment which you can then carry through to other relationships has really changed my mind. Above all I need to do it for my kids!!! I’m off to hunt for someone right now!! (though I might look for a woman – I can totally see myself falling in love with a male therapist!)


    • July 22, 2014 at 10:35 pm

      Hi Craving,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. Your comment made my day! I am very happy my writing has inspired you to go to therapy. And I think you will do well as you are already seeking to understand your behavior and gaining insight into your experience. From what you are describing about your mother, it makes sense that you are struggling with insecure attachment. You do not need to experience abuse. Its the lack of attunement and being attended to that creates the insecurity and cautiousness about relationships. And a parent’s attachment style is often passed on to the children. I know that i was not as present as I wished to be when my children were small because I was just beginning to heal. The good news is though that by going to therapy and getting help, I have at least provided them with a good model of how to handle the fall out. So i salute your decision to go to therapy! My ability to have close, authentic relationships has been a direct result of my work in therapy. I wish you the best in your healing journey, please let us know how it goes. ~ AG


    • Alan
      July 28, 2014 at 9:04 pm


      I was reading your comment, and t startled me when I came across your statements about your mother and her PMS, and it’s effect on your having fear and trepidation with approaching/interacting with her. I have discovered and been diagnosed with adult attachment disorder, with my leaning towards ‘anxious’ attachment, and had a girlfriend recently that is the obvious other flip-side attachment style: avoidant/preoccupied, (to be fair she is just now discovering this on her own).

      We had a final blow up fight July 4th when we were to be saying farewell to each other as she is moving away. It was a very bizarre two, nearly three days of the worst passive-aggressive attacking and manipulating, cold callous attacks, no-emotions, no sympathy, no empathy, no real ‘loving and gentle exchange and behavior’ that I was expecting and actually needing to contend with the split, and her leaving here.

      By the end of the third day of fighting, and my own final utter complete and nearly debilitating emotional breakdown, she figured out that what was happening was that she was going into/through PMS. She looked back at as many fights like this one that we had, and she noticed a pattern that nearly every single one was around her getting her period. It scared the hell out of me. I nearly can’t believe it, as it isn’t as obvious or blatant as it is with other woman friends I have, or relationships. My ex is a very overt gentle and loving woman and is a caregiver to nearly anyone she meets. However, in moments of deep intimacy and vulnerability she displays fairly strong avoidant behavior. When she is having her period, it is even stronger still coupled with all out passive-aggressive combative snide back stabbing and very hurtful behavior, with the over arching air of ‘what the hell is wrong with YOU, I am totally fine, you’re just too sensitive’. It had been maddening, and it wasn’t always the same every month, so there was no predictability to it at all.

      My own mother was a lot like this in ways, so at this point I have to say thank you to her for figuring this out about herself, and telling me about it. It makes a lot of sense, and it’s easy to understand the cause of the action or behavior when those moments come up. The rest of the stuff is a nightmare, but at the very least for my own attachment style and disorder, hearing and seeing the other person recognize things like this is life altering. I can only encourage you to do the same with your family and friends so they understand how to counter act their own feelings and hurts if you accidentally attack, and maybe they can help you get a head up that it is occurring, and maybe help you find a way to contend with it all so they can still feel like you WANT them to attach to you, and can.

      Thanks for letting me comment, and thanks for sharing your experience and story!
      Good luck!!


  43. Hope
    July 26, 2014 at 9:34 pm


    I’m so glad I found this!! I’ve read through the whole thing, and all of the posts, and it’s really comforting to see so many people who are going through the same thing! I’ve been going through this whole cycle lately where I think there’s something wrong with me, to becoming indifferent to it, to thinking I was abused when I was a kid, to thinking that it’s all just hokey-pokey. And I so badly want to reach out to someone about this, but like you did, I validate every reason not to go. It’s really hard to make sense of it all! And I actually think I pushed away the only person whom I know would’ve understood me, and accepted me, but I’m so embarrassed to reach out to that person again.

    But I know now that I REALLY need to see someone about this, even through all of my depression, fears, and insecurities! It know it’s going to be hard, but as long as there are people like you, who are growing, and getting better, there’s hope for the rest of us! In the mean time, I’ll keep reading and researching, in an attempt to understand more of this…

    Thank You for sharing your experience, and wish me luck!! Oh, and if you, or anyone else happens to reply, do you have any advice as I’m just starting out on my journey? I could use as much I can right now!


  44. talktoj8
    August 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Found your blog (and this archived post) while researching attachment as it relates to dissociation. Good read. I am not very good at giving an overview on topics – I am better at giving my piece of it. But in the interest of being a good blogger an overview is usually warranted. So thanks. I may link to this post and maybe it will send some traffic your way. Cheers. 🙂


    • August 10, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      Hi Talk,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. Sorry for the delay replying, my work schedule is out of control. I’m glad you liked the post, it’s one of the more popular posts on my blog. Feel free to link, I never object to traffic. 🙂 ~ AG


  45. Rodney_Louis
    September 3, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Brilliant. Thank you so much. Simple, Brave and very effective. Rodney_Louis. Ipswich/UK


    • November 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      Hi Rodney,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting! I am finally coming up for air and starting to catch up on my back log, my apologies for taking so long to respond. I so appreciate your kind words and you taking the time to write this! ~ AG


  46. evenbiggerspoon
    October 26, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    I think I have a disorganised attachment, though probably not that extreme. I guess I can’t quite figure out what’s wrong. The thing is, I wasn’t abused. Definitely not physically anyway, and listening to how my mother was abused as a child, even the emotionally unhealthy attention/non-attention I received as a child doesn’t seem like abuse exactly (definitely not compared with her). But I have heard that abused mothers can pass on their attachment system to their children?

    The reason I think my attachment system is disorganised is that in adult relationships I’m definitely insecure, but I don’t fit either preoccupied or avoidant – I kind of fit both – and on both spectrums, if you like, I seem to be pretty mild. I have tons of empathy, so I can’t be fully avoidant, but then I don’t think I’ve ever felt jealous and it’s extremely unusual for me to be angry. I’ve also never sought – or considered seeking – revenge. So preoccupied seems unlikely too. When I read the descriptions of the attachment styles, it’s like I strongly relate to the thoughts of the avoidant – they’re all thoughts I’ve had – but I seem to have the feelings of the preoccupied (desperation, I guess). And it’s really, really confusing.

    I found that when me and my ex were in the process of breaking up, I had a kind of ‘go to, run away’ reaction. If I was with him, I didn’t want to go home, but it would be too painful to be near him, so I would just sleep on the sofa while he went to bed so I was kind of ‘there but not there’. Also, I tended to dissociate in bizarre ways – dissociative seizures I think they’re termed, although they’re not really seizures. My body would just go limp and I would fall to the ground and then it was like everything that was happening in ‘real life’ was very, very far away, like it was happening on the television. I would appear unconscious to others, they called ambulances and stuff, because I would just suddenly smack down on the ground and become unresponsive. But I was conscious, and I could hear them out there somewhere. It’s just like I’d forgotten that I was in the same world as them and what they were doing/saying seemed irrelevant to me. And none of this was to manipulate anyone, by the way, it just seemed to happen.

    Recently, it all happened again but really, really badly. I entered ‘that space’ for the first time in many years (it’s only happened twice in my life) with a man I didn’t really know. That’s what made it so confusing, I guess, I felt like I didn’t care about the outcome, and then my emotions started to take on a life of their own. The thing is, that I began to feel, think and act very desperately and helplessly, and then for a couple of months afterwards it felt like I’d lost my identity – like the feeling at your core that is ‘you’ had just gone and I was a shell. It was extremely unsettling. When I look back on the whole breakdown I can’t see myself in it – I can’t relate to it because it doesn’t suit my self concept and I don’t feel like ‘I’ was there. It feels like there’s something living inside of me that has the capacity to take over my mind and body, that’s my subjective experience of it. My only guess is that because I consider the idea of helplessness or dependence, or even victimhood, as being repulsive and disgusting I am unable to accept any such vulnerability in myself so I’ve fragmented that part of me and dissociated from it. But it’s really creepy. There’s no other way to describe it, it’s like an alien took over my body and shoved me out, and stole my identity.

    Now I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of being close to any man in that way. I’d already begun to lose interest in the idea of relationships years before this happened – kind of like I can’t really see what they offer me. They offer sex, but it seems like everything else is something I can provide for myself so there’s no point in having a relationship. And when it comes to sex, I have plans like going to different countries and having sex with people there, then coming home so I can separate them completely from my life – like they’re not really people. My fear over relationships is that ‘the alien’ could take over. That I might lose my identity again, or that I might stop making sense to myself again.

    I don’t know if I explained any of that well…but if you have disoragnised attachment then maybe you can tell me if that sounds familiar?


    • November 3, 2014 at 12:34 pm

      Hi Evenbiggers,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. What you are describing sounds like disorganized attachment to me. Disorganized attachment occurs when the child really has no coherent way to consistently deal with their caregiver’s absence or presence. And yes, a parent can pass along their attachment style. I know as a mother when my children were young, i was still dissociative and avoidant about triggers and wounds I had not yet healed so there were times, no matter how well intended I was, that my children were abandoned because of my own wounding. So some of the effects of insecure attachment have been passed on. Many of the symptoms you are describing: dissociative behaviors, not feeling like yourself or as if you have a self, fear of annihilation, and fear of intimacy are all behaviors associated with long-term trauma/abuse and insecure attachment. Abuse does not need to overt in order to wound a child. Neglect can affect a child just as deeply and can be harder to heal from because its hard to feel like you have a right to need healing. But you do. What I experienced was much worse than anything that my children did, but that does not invalidate their experience and their pain and their need for healing. Considering all that you are struggling with, if you’re comfortable doing so, I would seek out a therapist. The Psychology Today website has a good Find a Therapist section. Look for someone more experienced. If you are dealing with this kind of wounding, therapy may turn out to be very intense at times for you and a more experienced therapist will handle it better. I wish you the best in your healing. ~ AG

      Liked by 1 person

      • evenbiggerspoon
        March 7, 2015 at 2:28 pm

        Thank you for you reply and for reading such a long post. I’m in counselling and I actually had more intensive schema therapy for a while, but to be honest therapy never has been an intense experience for me. I don’t really ever feel emotional in therapy – in fact, I rarely feel emotional, except when I feel ashamed.

        My problem nowadays is that I can’t stop thinking about how needy I am, and memories of how needy I’ve been in the past. Leaning too much on one particular friend, leaning too much on boyfriends etc. It’s not usually of the ‘you’re going to leave me’ type…in fact, it’s never been that…it’s sometimes been an excessive need for reassurance that I’m not completely unloveable and other times it’s been an excessive need for support because I couldn’t self soothe. I feel like I’ve been a terrible friend and a terrible girlfriend. I always thought of myself as independent but nowadays I don’t know why I thought that because I’m clearly very needy.

        I feel so ashamed I don’t want to go outside. I don’t want to make friends and get close to people because I don’t deserve it. I don’t know whether it’s fearful avoidance or whether it’s anxious attachment, and to be honest the label doesn’t matter. I just don’t feel like I can live with myself sometimes. I feel terrible about having been such a burden on everyone in the past and I’m terrified people will find out. But I don’t want to apologise to my friends because that would be…well…needy. They’d then feel that they had to sympathise and cheer me up, you see. A better friend would just be a lot happier so that they could give back to the relationship and I think that’s what I ought to do.

        I’m not as needy as when I was younger, at least I have that going for me. When I was in my early 20s I hit this spot for a few years after a combination of losses one after the other where I was constantly in need. I was constantly upset. I wasn’t sleeping and I was in such distress that I feel i was actually very self-absorbed and selfish. I’d lost all judgement and I had no idea how much I was talking about myself and my problems or how long for. My friends disappeared for a while – one emailed me to tell me to get back in touch when I was better – and my boyfriend split up with me, which I actually think is fair enough, and I’m very lucky they reappeared again after the storm had blown over, but I don’t really feel like I deserve them now. Sorry for such a long post again. I just seem to hit this place whenever memories of me being needy come back. I’ve read a lot about attachment, but the anxiously attached never seem to talk about how much shame they feel in retrospect when they realise they have been too much for other people and that they have not behaved the way they should. Other people just look after themselves, and I’m trying very hard to learn how to do that, but there have been times even in the last year where I’ve had to reach out. I’m pathetic.

        I don’t know why I’m writing all this. Sorry. I rant far too much on the internet.


  47. Elianna
    October 31, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks for all the information and the long list of input from others, their experiences and thoughts/feelings. I have been wondering about attachment. I have been in therapy for many years, initially for several years I refused to allow myself to feel attached in any way to my therapist, I felt shame about just the thought of it. Now, many years later, after much disclosure, I find myself worried if my therapist goes out of town or takes a vacation. I’m ashamed I may be attached to her. I worry she hates me, something bad will happen to her, I disgust her, I care for her. The more my inner feelings feel out of control the more I worry about her. It is extremely shameful. I am worried these feeling won’t resolve or disappear. I sincerely do not know what to do. Its terrible to feel desperate. I am sad and feel guilty for feeling like I need her. I am thinking about stopping therapy because I do not know what to do.


    • November 3, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Elianna,
      Welcome to my blog. I am sorry you are in so much pain. I understand the depth of shame you are feeling as I have also struggled with it, but the shame is not deserved. Feeling attached to your therapist is actually a healthy, good thing. Human beings are social animals and we need other people. But when our early experiences are not good, we learn to dread and hate any of our needs that would drive us to move closer. I think that you have developed enough trust that your attachment needs are awakening, despite the sense of shame and danger wrapped around them. Their is a battle waging inside you between your legitimate healthy needs and your experience which tells you that expressing or even having those needs is a terrible thing that will only get you hurt. And because these feelings are seated in a time when we were very young they have a life and death quailty to them. Your feelings are not as over the top and desperate as you feel they are, and will not overwhelm your therapist the way they are threatening to overwhelm you. I know that what I am about to say will sound like the most terrifying thing in the world to do, but the best way to resolve and work through these feelings, and especially to decrease the intensity, is to talk about all of them with your therapist. You are doing NOTHING wrong by needing your therapist and there is no need for all that guilt and shame. But the only solution to shame is to speak it out loud (which is the opposite of what shame tells us to do) and have her tell you that your feelings are acceptable and welcome. I found that starting small and by saying that what i was about to say was scary because I feared being sent away (substitute your fear) would help because then BN could reassure me before i talked about the actual feelings. It’s difficult and painful and scary but walking into that fear is the way we heal and learn to move closer. I think its worth it. ~ AG


  48. Elianna
    November 7, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Thank you for your response AG. I have thought it over and I think I will try to do what you have suggested.

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Michelle
    March 17, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    For the first time, I truly understand what my husband of 3 years is going through. Can you give me any advice on how to be there for him so he will stop going back and forth from wanting to be extremely attached to running away and wanting independence?


  50. SamGabor
    May 27, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I believe that my mother has serious issues due to her upbringing, and I think I have developed very serious attachment disorder, and NPD because of that. I been through lot, I am very close to ending my life. Is there ANY possiblity of healing your sense of self / disorganized attachment at 28 years old?


    • May 27, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      Hi Sam,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I am sorry that you are in so much pain that ending your life looks like a good option. I have been there and it’s a terrible place to be. I believe there is a possibility of healing at 28 years old. I was in my 30s before I remembered the sexual abuse and didn’t really start to directly engage with attachment issues until my mid-40s (when I started learning about attachment theory from BN). I am not saying it will be easy or quick. Healing insecure attachment (especially disorganized attachment) can be a long, painful, chaotic process. And you’ll never achieve the same sense of security that someone who had what they needed possesses, so yoursense of worth becomes reflective, rather than reflexive. When the messages rise up about being worthless, it becomes easier to push back on them and not allow them to limit you. But the brain retains its plasticity throughout our lifetimes and it is never too late to change and heal. I know that working with both of my therapists have made enormous changes in how I live my life. I would really suggest reading “The General Theory of Love” by Thomas Lewis, et al. It does a good job of laying out how attachment affects our relationships and how we can heal. I think it would provide you with some hope.
      I do think you’ll need a good therapist, preferably one with experience and who has an understanding of attachment theory and/or experience working with victims of long term trauma. I wish you the best and hope you can find some comfort and relief soon. ~ AG


  51. Grace
    May 28, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    This is interesting because the symptoms describe but I not quite sure:
    I am in therapy because I always have trouble making friends or introducing myself (though I was forced to improve) and in romantic relationships, I always get deeply uncomfortable with intimacy or trusting him. My dad was my only caregiver (mom was in jail for multiple days) and as I grew up, he just became more intimidating and wasn’t what other parents were, but he was my only guardian I could trust so I always tried to please him (despite nearly killing myself over it). One thing that concerns me is that when I do make friends or my relationship with my stepmom or grandma, I get emotional, and more clingy but I mix between affectionate and anxious with my dad. I don’t how to describe my situation, 2 years has not really helped my mind too much. Help


    • May 31, 2015 at 11:48 pm

      Hi Grace,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I am sorry that you are in so much pain, healing from these kinds of injuries can be very difficult and confusing because so much of our behavior was formed so long ago that we are not really conscious of what we are doing and why. Therapy provides a safe place to allow us to bring our unconscious beliefs and values to light, especially as our therapist is trained to look for patterns that would indicate what’s going on. The combination of a missing mother and a scary dad would certainly lead to insecure attachment. We don’t always have the same style with everyone. The mixture of affectionate and anxious with your dad sounds like disorganized attachment (alternating between anxious and avoidant, or sometimes just freezing) to me, and with your other relationships you sound anxious. Not looking away lest you miss any care you might get (which would fit with a mother who was only intermittedly available). I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but two years is not really a long time when it comes to healing these kind of injuries. The process is, by it’s nature, very slow because the injuries occurred during a formative time and were integrated deeply into who you are. If I may suggest some reading? I would read Dr. Jeffrey Smith’s book, How We Heal and Grow. I reviewed it on my blog, see Book Review: How We Heal and Grow. I would also highly recommend Bessel Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score. The book does a fantastic job of explaining the affects of long term trauma or neglect and how to heal from them. I also have an old post with books I’ve found useful. Each book comes with a short description, you might be able to find something helpful there. Helpful Books. I hope some of this helps, I know it can be very hard. I wish you the best in your healing. ~ AG


  52. SamGabor
    June 1, 2015 at 4:21 am

    Thanks for the answer. AG, I have a question if you don’t mind. How does coming out of dissociation feels like? Did your sense of time change? If so, how? Thank you


    • June 4, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Hi Sam,
      I have never dissociated to the point that I become completely unconscious of the present; it’s more that the feelings of the past are so intense they feel like they are happening now This sounds a little weird but it’s like I’m experiencing the past and present simultaneously. So coming out of it means my emotions become more regulated and I can take in my present surroundings better with a stronger sense that I am IN the present. But time still feels like a continuim. Not sure if that’s what you meant, let me know if it wasn’t. AG


  53. July 12, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    AG – I wanted you to know that I shared this blog post with my FB following tonight. Within 4 hours, my post had a reach of nearly 10,000 people. So its been of great interest and use to many people. I hope you might see a boost in readers through your blog infrastructure.

    I’m Suzanne Zeedyk, and I spend my time trying to help people understand attachment and what I call ‘the science of connect’. If you have a read on this link, you’ll see some of the comments folks have left on my page, in response to your piece.

    Thanks for your work, insight, and honesty. Suzanne



    • July 13, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      Thank you so much for posting that link! I would have been flattered that you posted it, even if it didn’t produce more traffic. But it doubled my hitherto best day and quadrupled my normal traffic! I really appreciate the work you’re doing, I think it’s very important and I am very honored to be a small piece of that. ~ AG


      • July 13, 2015 at 5:25 pm

        AG – Such a pleasure. As of this evening, the FB reach for my post about this piece was over 13,000. 🙂 I think my followers found this post so very helpful. I’m delighted my speaking of it is producing increases readers of your blog, and perhaps will even lead to subscribers to your future posts. You make this difficult stuff come alive. 🙂 Suzanne

        Liked by 1 person

  54. MG
    August 24, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. I found it while searching the web for information about disorganized attachment and how I might help myself. I’m wondering – who is “Boundary Ninja”? Is that a code name for your therapist? 😉

    I’m also wondering if, in your research, you have come across any books or articles that might be helpful to someone trying to better understand their own disorganized attachment?

    Thank you for sharing your life with the world. It is a blessing to share our journeys – and it is a blessing to read about others’ journeys and learn that we are not alone.


    • August 24, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      Hi MG,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. The Boundary Ninja is my quite lovely therapist of almost 10 years. He is so good about boundaries that a friend of mine nicknamed the Boundary Ninja and I shamelessly stole it for the name of my blog. If you click on the About tab at the top of the page that will provide a little background.

      As far as books, I have a number of posts with book recommendations (if you search on books on my blog it should turn these up): Some Handy Links, Helpful Books, Book Review: How We Heal and Grow, and Fantastic Book on Your Brain and How to Get Along with it.. And if I may be so immodest, you may want to read more of my posts as many of them are addressing healing from disorganized attachment.

      And thank you for the kind words, I very much agree that it is a blessing to share our journeys and strength with each other. ~ AG


      • MG
        August 24, 2015 at 9:08 pm

        O.k. I will look into those things, thank you, and God bless!


  55. Lauren
    October 25, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    I am aching to start therapy again as I read more and more about attachment theory. I have a great sponsor in AA who has been a good AF for me but now I want to go further. Reading your article had rekindled the desire to find a therapist but as soon as I get motivated, I talk myself out of it because I don’t know how to find someone who deals with attachment issues and I’m terrified to get a bad therapist which I’ve had in the past. I live in the NY/NJ area and know there are countless therapists out there. Any advice on how to find the right one?


    • Michelle
      October 26, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Lauren – you could check out therapists.psychologytoday.com – once you put in a zip code, you can select therapy approaches, etc. on the left-hand side of the page. “Attachment-based” is one option. You could also try the AAMFT’s Therapist Finder – therapistlocator.net. While this is a site for Marriage and Family Therapists, many also deal with individuals as well, and many will be attachment-oriented.

      Blessings in your search!


      • michelle
        October 26, 2015 at 2:36 pm

        Also maybe try somaticexperiencing.com – I have had the most success, by far, with SE therapy. For our issues CBT and talk therapy is not going to change things. Wish I knew about SE therapy 20 years ago!


  56. Linda
    January 28, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Perhaps you could help me, or someone here could advise me on how to reconnect with my daughter: We went through a very traumatic custody dispute for the first 3 years of her life, in which her father manipulated, lied and frightened both of us. As he was in a much more secure financial position he was granted a very liberal visitation schedule, despite the negative effects it had on her (3 times a week between households) I was in a very vulnerable position (disabled, unable to drive) with few resources (very low income). In court it was my word against two (he married a very unstable, but convincing woman). I became aware very early on that something was seriously wrong–it was obvious that my daughter was disassociating and as both an ex-nurse and someone with training in the therapeutic field, I was fully aware of what this can mean. Unfortunately my efforts to seek help were thwarted repeatedly–and worse, the court became convinced that not only was I making things up, but that I was convincing my daughter to lie. Once this was legally accepted (though not true) any efforts I might make to improve her situation only made things worse, so I was caught in a very difficult position given that some of the things my daughter told me were very disturbing (Locked out of the house in the snow, her father punching a hole in the wall when angry with her; sending her to school with curdled milk in her thermos, hair uncombed, torn dirty clothes despite her father’s decent income, etc. Though there were no signs of direct physical abuse, these are only a few examples.). Then when my daughter was 10, her father took her and kept me from seeing or speaking with her for over 5 years. Surprisingly, her step-mother brought her over a few times in those years (early on) which only increased my concern (my daughter “accidentally” left a journal behind and I found out she was suicidal and cutting herself. I contacted her school but her father refused to put her in counseling–for obvious reasons I was unable to contact her father directly, and her step mother was unwilling to listen. My desperate contact with the school may even be why the step-mother no longer brought her over–though my concerns were obviously true–the scars on her arms certainly proved it, they still did not seek counseling for her). By the time my daughter re-established contact (apparently at her step-mother’s suggestion) she was very withdrawn and mistrustful of me. I tried to reassure her that I did NOT abandon her and that our separation was not by my choice. I could literally see her blanking out (disassociating), which was very frightening as I am well aware that dissociation indicates abuse. What did this man (or step-mother) do to her?! Obviously, the situation was (is) very upsetting, though I tried (try) not to let her see that, understanding that if I seemed upset she might very well assume I was upset with her instead. I have been trying now for 10 years to be patient and to allow her to contact me when she wants to, while sending her simple text messages such as “I love and miss you.” and all of the usual birthday and holiday wishes via text messages and her Facebook account, etc. I don’t know what else to do. She does not remember the first 12 years of her life, does not remember her time living with me at all–and I’m sure that is part of the reason she is having such difficulty in reconnecting with me. If she could remember then she would know that we had a loving and close relationship. All she talked about was staying with me forever and never having to see her father again. I didn’t support such a fantasy–though I did support the emotions behind it, but it gives you the idea. We had a warm, loving relationship. Again, I don’t know how much to push–as even talking about the happy times seems to upset her and trigger episodes of disassociation. All I’ve been able to do all of these years since, is to tell her (via these short messages) that I won’t push her to talk about the past if she does not want to, that I will let her set the pace–though of course I will answer any of her questions. Nothing seems to be working. I love her and miss her terribly. I am not at all well and–while of course I desperately want her in my life, I worry that something will happen to me (which is far from impossible) and she will forever regret not having had that contact or relationship with me. I will stay out of her life if that is what is best for her, but I’m not convinced at this point, that this is the case. I worry that I’m not doing enough. I worry that I will inadvertently cause more harm if I try to do more. I don’t know WHAT to do. She is not responsible for what happened to her and I don’t want her to have any more pain in her life. I certainly do not want to BE the cause of any pain in her life–I simply do not know what to do. I don’t want to hurt her or trigger any kind of (or further) psychological trauma, but I feel as if this–this waiting isn’t helping her either….. I don’t know how much to push, or what to say, but I feel as if this waiting for her is not working–or helping her either. Any advice you can provide would be very welcome. Thank you


    • February 4, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      It sounds like you are in an incredibly difficult position. The best advice I can give you is to get support for yourself. I understand the kind of intense, painful feelings you are having and the fact that you desperately want to help your daughter, but it’s important that you get your own needs, including soothing your anxiety about the future, met elsewhere, so that your daughter does not have to worry about how her behavior affects you. I also know that you have very good reasons for why things went down they way they did; it sounds like you fought really hard to take care of your daughter. Which is where the really difficult part comes in. Please know that I am speaking out of my own experience with my children. No matter how good your reasons were or how justified your actions were, the bottom line is that your daughter grew up without her mother. She is entitled to all of her feelings about that and some of them may be very difficult to hear (I dealt with an enormous amount of pain and shame around this) but the best thing you can do is to be patient and allow your daughter to speak when she is ready and then remain non-defensive and focus on her feelings and what her experience was. Our first tendency is to explain how things happened, or how we think someone is misunderstanding, etc. To defend ourselves. But, especially with our children, to whom we owe our care, it is important to just listen and accept and affirm their experience without defending ourselves. I found the only way to do this was for me to do a huge amount of work in therapy so that I could accept both that I did my best AND that in some ways I had failed my children (all parents do, but my past had inflicted some vicarious trauma in a way many parents would not have to deal with). Accepting that, and forgiving myself were what allowed me to remain non-defensive and really hear my children. Your daughter, I’m sure, longs to have a close relationship with you but is understandably wary because of her experience. So I think, in my opinion, that the best thing to do is to be available, make it clear that you are strong enough to hear anything she has to say and that all of her feelings, no matter what they are, are welcome and you want to hear them. I am not sure if you are in therapy, but if not, I would highly recommend finding a good therapist. Working through these issues and restoring my relationships was well worth the pain but was a difficult shame-filled experience that I would never have been able to get through without BN’s support. I wish you the best and hope that you are able to become closer to your daughter. ~ AG


  57. Linda
    January 28, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    None of my replies or comments have shown up. Is there a delay? Or did they simply not get posted?


    • January 29, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Welcome to my blog. The first time you comment, the comment automatically goes into a moderation queue where it has to be approved by me before it is published. Any comments made before the first one is approved also enter the moderation queue. Once a comment has been approved, any subsequent comments will be published immediately without moderation. I do get notified about comments but since there are other demands on my time aside from this blog, my response to a moderated comment is not immediate. Your comments have now all been published. I shall reply to those as time permits. Thanks. ~ AG


  58. Dave
    March 9, 2016 at 8:44 am

    What is the best way to resume interaction with a a person who has a disorganized attachment style? My “ex” definitely is dealing with this issue and distanced herself from me about 7 months ago. I did not chase her as I had in the past. After about 5 weeks of me not chasing her lshe began with approach behaviors. They have continued on a fairly regular basis and are quite obsessive. I have not reached out to her at all. I am just unsure how to do so. I love her very much and she told me she was sexually abused by her father as a child. This is very real for her. I love her very much. She has told me that I am the only one that has ever been there for her.


  59. jkd22008
    April 20, 2016 at 12:41 am

    Wow, this blog is a godsend! OK, today my therapist (somatic experience) told me that I have disorganized attachment. Which therapy modality is best for dealing with this? Thanks.


  60. May 18, 2016 at 12:23 am

    Hi AG,
    Thank you for this insightful post. It made me wonder how much a person is impaired in being able to attach to their children based on their upbringing. I was raised by an extremely cold and verbally abusive father (I think a combination of Obsess Compul. Personality Disorder with antisocial tendencies)…and my mother, although sweet, was distant. She was raised without a father (tragic backstory) and a mother in and out of mental institutions.


  61. Heram
    June 2, 2016 at 12:04 am

    WOW thank you so much. I’m almost 30 years old and have never been able to figure out why I act the way i do in relationships, nor why I could never stay with the same therapist for long. Recently I started dating a guy who will literally say to me “tell me your worries, that’s okay. You’re an anxious person and it’s part of who you are, I accept that”. I have always chosen men who were emotionally distant, constantly with me and needy, or flip flopped between the two making for a very dramatic and childish ‘relationship’. I recognized this new guy as different, but I’m so terrified of him because he isn’t acting in any way I can predict (he’s secure!). So I’ve been telling myself not to care because he doesn’t, and then a moment later I’ll panic and wonder why he hadn’t texted or why he doesn’t want to constantly be with me. He hasn’t punished me or reacted dramatically from me doing this (which i have never experienced) , he just still listens. Then even seems to ‘reward’ me (or maybe that’s myself again) for recognizing that my behavior was not necessary. I recently got my first male therapist which feels different as well, so I’m excited to bring this up with him and see what coping strategies he can suggest. I feel so relieved to read this (yet still unbelievably anxious as you would understand lol). THANK YOU!


  62. jkd22008
    June 2, 2016 at 12:18 am

    I have NEVER had a therapist who allowed between-session contact. (I have had four off and on over the past ~30 years.)


  63. Paul Menten
    July 8, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Hi AG, and thanks for such an insightful, sensitive description of the dilemma of disorganized attachment. I liked this bit; PP

    “…to learn to move close enough to get your needs met, indeed to learn HOW to get your needs met, you need to move closer. But that is the very thing that the primitive part of your brain, the part responsible for keeping you safe, sees as the most dangerous thing in the world. You must walk into the heart of your terror, again and again, until you have enough good experiences of moving closer to form an implicit memory to counteract your memories of being injured in relationship.” PP

    I’ve had a lifetime of difficulties with relationships, and trying to understand why. Although I have read and learned much of what you describe, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it described so well. PP

    There is still more to learn about if and how we can ‘unlearn’ the models of relationship and attachment. Examples; did you know that traumatic memories can be passed from parent to child and grandchild? And that they don’t know what the mechanism is for that transmission of memories? Did you know that neurons can and do connect directly to the amygdala from our sensory cortices, bypassing the prefrontal cortex and giving rise to emotional reactions that cannot be ‘unlearned’, only desensitized? This give rise to PTSD and is so very difficult to treat. PP

    Thanks for what you do. Kindly, Paul


  64. MB
    August 1, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    I have recently leaned about attatchement types. My girlfriend had a disorganised attachment, I had a less insecure type, but def not secure (probably anxious/ambivalent).
    At one point in the relationship she ‘turned’ nasty on me, she suffers from trauma affects too, we assumed that it was due to the trauma.

    It would seem that my requests for less selfish behaviours at the end of the ‘honeymoon period’ were met with feelings that I was trying to change her & brought no improvement. This exaggerated my deeper critical, blaming, & controlling traits & caused her to doubt my commitment.

    This was ‘resolved’ for a while but the relationship seemed stale, she chose to end the relationship & a very push-pull period of couples counselling followed. The relationship resumed with her refusing further counselling, I should have insisted. Despite both of us still feeling very close & best friends, the relationship became more toxic until she sent a text while I was at work informing me she was ending the relationship & I was not to return home.
    I was blocked from all social media & no contact.

    This was exactly 4 months ago, I have sought therapy for my own needs, resolved my own attachment issues & made contact with her only once explaining my feelings & leaving the door very much open to communication & resolution.
    I am very keen to overcome the problems between us caused by attachment issues, but currently struggle to make effective contact.

    How can I go about re-initiating contact, repairing her trust in me & ideally repairing the relationship ??!

    Any advice would be very much appreciated


  65. L
    September 18, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    I have been searching for years for a article like this. Thank you.


  66. nessa3
    November 12, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Im new to your site. Just found out I have disorganized attachment. Your explanation was very helpful.


  67. nessa3
    December 17, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    I just found out Im dismissive avoid-ant, and why. This article was very helpful.
    I feel things but have a great deal of struggle with dealing,understanding. I feel confused uncomfortable and try to shut them off…..


  68. CJ
    December 22, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    Pleaase help.

    Well, I certainly have attachment issues, to say the least and could use some perspective perhaps right now? I have never attached to anyone until my therapist. Yes, I mean no-one, not parents, just him. I wanted him (therapist) to adopt me, the whole 9 yards. He seems to understand attachment related issues and trauma. Although I’ve worked with him for 7 years, I still don’t trust him even though I really do try. I’m either afraid he will abandon me (so I want to be around him or call him) or I’m afraid of what he’ll do to me (so I avoid him). He has always been very good at returning my calls and such and all in all seems to be a pretty empathetic guy.
    Just recently however, I’ve noticed he is distant. It’s not in the usual way – it’s in an unspoken way that many people don’t understand unless they’ve been in therapy with a highly attuned therapist. Sometimes, with a very attuned therapist, it’s as if they are experiencing what you are experiencing in the moment and it’s very intense. At other times they are not, sort of like being unplugged and usually they are somewhere in between. Lately, however, he isn’t unplugged (which is OK), but instead there is a wall there. It’s not in his overt behavior, it’s almost a resistance that I can pick up on. He’s untouchable emotionally. Still available otherwise.
    Lately, much has been brought up for me from my past and I have been terrified to stay in therapy, but know I will miss him in leaving. We conversed about this 2 days ago. I’m having a hard time staying because I really believe nothing he says but I also know I will never trust another therapist (or anyone for that matter) nor do I have it in me to work with another. It’s him or bust. I’ve expressed how sad it is to me to realize that this is how I am built – that even after so many years I am still unable to trust him enough. It’s sad because if it was going to happen with someone he was the safest person for it to happen with and I feel as though the chances of that have now been destroyed. He definitely knows how much any change or deviation from things (our routine behaviors I suppose) causes me such anxiety that I feel the need to flee because I don’t know what is going to happen next. He knows, per our last conversation, just how hard any change is and I’m waiting – waiting for something bad to happen, for something to change all the time.

    Well, he always tells me when he is going on vacation and won’t be in the office. He told me he wouldn’t be in the office next week and the date when he would be back but said nothing about this week. I called his office today to find out that he was gone. His secretary and voicemail stated that he is on vacation. It felt like I had been stabbed in the chest. I don’t understand. Abandonment. I called and he isn’t there. He usually doesn’t answer but he’s never just gone. When he is on vacation I never call and I always know when he is on vacation. Everything is usually predictable so why this? I really don’t believe this was an oversight on his part. I don’t think that at all. He is far too deliberate in his actions for something like that and he KNOWS me and he made it a point this week to tell me he would be out of the office all next week.

    I can’t go back and I’m devastated. I’ve worked so hard to hang onto what little trust I had for him and now it’s gone. I’m just so incredibly sad and I realize how incredibly silly it sounds to be so affected by a therapist going on vacation without telling you when they always have previously. Please help~


  69. Rose
    February 12, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    Hello AG

    I came blog today after searching for ‘disorganised attachment’ in Google. My therapist recently mentioned that I had attachment issues which got me wanting to understand more. The attachment style that I can most relate to is the disorganised one.

    Thank you for this great post AG. There is something about your writing style that I love; the way that you’re able to explain and relate things make sense to me. The following sentence really struck a chord…

    “You must walk into the heart of your terror, again and again, until you have enough good experiences of moving closer to form an implicit memory to counteract your memories of being injured in relationship.”

    It was quite surprising to hear my therapist say that I had attachment issues as it’s not something I’ve ever considered myself to have. Others yes, me – no! I’ve been with this therapist for about 18 months now and it’s the first time she’s mentioned it – she’s not normally so bold. She has said that I endured many many traumas over many years and the ‘funny’ thing is that I can perhaps identify one as a ‘trauma’. They became the norm. I can’t fully grasp the magnitude of the dysfunction because it was so normal. From what I’ve read, as I was never diagnosed, I disassociated all the time. The first therapist I saw in my early twenties said that I showed signs of PTSD behaviour. I didn’t think much of it at the time – I was too detached from myself. I think the atttachment issues are another piece of the puzzle that I can use to put myself together.

    Thanks again for this insightful post 🙂


    • February 28, 2017 at 6:33 pm

      Hi Rose,
      Welcome to my blog! So glad you found your way here. Sorry to take so long to reply, we were out of town and when we got back, I did what I always do and got sick. That’s the problem with childhood trauma. Whatever happens to us a child is “normal” because it’s the only thing we’ve ever experienced. It is often the case that we don’t get a feel for it until we’re out in the wide world. I often found myself surprised at how other people reacted to my story. I definitely underplayed it. I still vividly remember reading a book on trauma clients and the author had a scale defining how severe the trauma was and I was shocked how far over I came out. We were so invested in keeping our parents seen as “safe” that we often minimize what happened, or more damaging yet, decide the fault really lay with ourselves. So your story makes a lot of sense to me.

      I found that learning about attachment theory was a real key to my healing. A lot of my behaviors and feelings finally made sense once seen in the light of development gone astray. It also allowed me to see myself as not fundamentally damaged but as someone that did not receive what I needed. That it wasn’t too late to learn. We can never completely erase all the damage, but I do believe that we can heal enough to live a much fuller life. My best wishes for your healing and thank you for all the kind words. ~ AG


  70. Rose
    March 1, 2017 at 7:18 am

    AG, thank you for taking the time to reply and thanks for your well wishes. I’m sorry to hear you got sick. I hope you are on your way to feeling better. There was no need to say sorry for your delayed response as I honestly wasn’t expecting an actual reply. Saying that, I have just realised why I never expect anyone to ever reply :-/

    What’s ‘funny’ is that another therapist who I’ve just started seeing specifically for work related issues, exclaimed whilst throwing her head back, “OF COURSE you have attachment issues!” This was in response to me telling her what my long term therapist had mentioned to me the week prior (as per my post above). It was my second session with this new therapist and in the first, I’d given her a brief run down of my history. I was a little taken aback by her response – having attachment issues wasn’t obvious to me so in that moment I felt a bit stupid for not knowing! She’s been great though – in just a couple sessions she’s given me some practical advice which is just what I need to get me through work right now.

    Anyway, I purchased a book on disorganised attachment and things are starting to make much more sense. As I was reading the book, some memories started to resurface. Your comment, “We were so invested in keeping our parents seen as “safe” that we often minimize what happened” rings so true. As I was reading the book, I remembered an occasion when we as a family were being assessed by some people behind a one way glass window. I remember being told by Mum to act like a family, otherwise we’d be taken away. It was a scary and confusing experience at the time because I didn’t understand what was happening. I couldn’t get my head around why my father was in the room with us ‘playing’ with my special needs sister, something he’d never normally do. Of course now I realise, this exercise was being carried out by social services. Now I can see that that we literally had to minimise what was happening in our household for fear of being taken away.

    When I was a little older and my mum was under a psychiatrist, I once asked her, “What about me?” I could see that she was getting what seemed like a lot of help from doctors as she was always having appointments for her mental illness, but nobody was there to support us children. Her response to me was, “What about me!!”. She also went onto say how we (my two sisters and I) were not showing any behavioural problems so showed no cause for concern. Like so many other children, if we’d been truant from school, showed signs of physical neglect or were suffering from malnutrition – showed obvious physical signs of abuse, then we’d have garnered some attention from the teachers. Maybe that’s another reason why we minimilised what was happening – it couldn’t be ‘that’ bad if we weren’t displaying the obvious signs, otherwise somebody (you’d like to think) would have noticed.

    I’ve started to read your posts like a book. Thanks for sharing your journey with us 🙂

    Best wishes x


  71. Sarah Whisenant
    March 6, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Wow this article was so helpful. My husband has disorganized attachment disorder and I am just now understanding why he operates and behaves in the way he does. We have found a wonderful therapist who is truly helping our marriage. I am such a nurturer and I can see why he chose me subconsciously. I am capable of giving him the love and attention he was denied as a young child. He was deeply close to his mother even though she stayed in abusive relationship with his father and she died a year ago. After her death the childhood wounds really came to surface and I was the target 😦 its been hard but I believe in time he will have true healing I just need to be strong and not take personal offense. Thank you for the hope!


  72. Dan
    April 4, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    Very helpful description. Thank you.


  73. Cat
    June 23, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I have been in therapy 30 yrs with many different therapists. The first one I stayed with for 7 years but that was way before Attachment Theory was well-known or probably even developed. More recently, I’ve been with my therapist, who uses trauma touch skills for 1 and a half years. I find it really hard to attach and wish I could find a new therapist but everyone else I visit seems like someone I also would not be able to attach to. The main issue with my current one is she has 2 young kids who have high emotional dysregulation and her ‘outside of the office’ time and bandwidth are really limited due to the priority (rightly so) of her kids. She also makes a ton of mistakes – in the billing, in calling me back at the numbers I ask her to call (she always calls my cell and then I don’t get the call), and in remembering the things I’ve told her. Most of the time I feel like the only way to not absolutely hate her is to just think of her as a bodyworker who is recalibrating my nervous system. I’ve definitely had worse therapists though – ones that totally retraumatized me, who knew nothing of developmental trauma nor facilitated healthy attachment despite listing it in their training.
    My current therapist tells me that my system is just too terrified of attachment. But from my view I CAN’T attach to someone so flakey. But the reality is, everyone I ‘hire’ is going to be flakey as I’m just a way for them to earn a living at the end of the day.
    I don’t feel like I have one single relationship, outside of my pet dog, that isn’t excrutiating.
    What advice would you have for someone like this to be able to carve out any sense of a life worth living?


    • michelle deeb
      June 23, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      Please don’t give up.
      Isn’t it funny how we attach so well to our pets 🙂 ha.
      I really think you would benefit from Inner Bonding – Dr. Margaret Paul. It’s an online support I recently receive and it has been, by far, the most helpful for developmental PTSD. I don’t think I can attach to any of my therapists, and it wouldn’t be healthy anyway, I believe.
      I just benefited from the free stuff for the first year, but I decided to pay for support monthly, what I would be paying for a therapist anyway. Absolutely the most helpful, I feel, when there’s issues of attachment.


  74. nessa3
    June 24, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Just reading this gave me anxiety….I have disorganized attachment….this article was very helpful…I struggle with needing closeness….yet shutting it down…because I hate how it makes me vulnerable …and its more painful than good


  75. Sam
    January 7, 2018 at 5:07 am

    This was very interesting to read. I appreciate your honesty, and I can somehow relate. Based on the symptoms I’ve read so far, I feel that there are times when I, too, need to be able to open myself to someone. I have also experienced inconsistencies, confusion, and ambivalence. There are times when I can communicate effectively. But at other times I find myself struggling to socialize. There’s only one thing that doesn’t apply to me. I’ve always had great parents. Is it possible that I’ve gotten disorganized attachment from the way I was mistreated by my peers in elementary and highschool? My condition is recurring. And I get so exhausted with this psychological distress.


    • Szurdoki Gábor
      April 22, 2022 at 9:42 am

      “I’ve always had great parents.” I would be very surprised if that’d be true.


  76. Awesome
    January 9, 2018 at 3:47 am

    While this I believe helps my understanding of something I didn’t know I was gonna wanna know…this has bought My 2nd therapy session to terrify me that she won’t understand me that my feelings are invalid that she will let me down… You think I’d be used to it. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be used to the feelings of the opportunity to be loved only to be gave up on when it starts getting hard and the parts of me that were finally built to be smashed and shattered worse then before. Im nervous there isn’t any pieces that can be put together let alone destroyed any worse it’s almost like dust to blow away or swept under the rug depends on who crushes the last piece. I’d say there’s about a jolly rancher size piece of me I’ve been hiding so I don’t lose my good person. I don’t know thanks anyways. I hope tomorrow is the best day of your life; in case today was already ruined: so you have a full day of the best day of your life
    -♥️ more


  77. Kirsty
    February 26, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Even though you haven’t posted in awhile Attachment Girl, thank you for documenting your journey towards wellness. This post in particular helped me a lot.


  78. Grace
    April 10, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you for this blog AG. I booked an appointment with a therapist because she has experience with narcissistic abuse. She listened to my history and said, “You have a ‘coherent narrative’ and know about disorganized attachment”. Um, actually not until she mentioned it but being the researcher I am, came straight home and jumped on the internet. Your blog has definitely been the most useful on this topic. Wonder why you have not posted for a while…hope all is well in your life. I know you know how much you have helped people with this blog. Blessings on your head!


  79. Kat
    July 15, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    Thanks! I am just discovering now how the abuse and trauma from childhood have made life so challenging. I saw your post somewhere else about missing your therapist so much. I am struggling with that. No one has ever been so caring or kind to me. I do have a good husband but out is hard for him to understand what I am going through with CPTSD that I admit I push him away.


  80. Gábor Szurdoki
    April 30, 2021 at 11:05 am

    I’m in the process of resolving it on my own. I can very very much relate “One of the worst byproducts of insecure attachment is that a child “learns” the lie that they do not matter, that their feelings are not important enough to matter and their needs will not be met.”

    Now I see more what it means I’m not even sure it can be healed especially alone. I’ll do my best.


  81. Gábor Szurdoki
    October 12, 2021 at 1:54 pm

    Update: It has been 5 and a half months ago I posted here. I can tell I made huge improvements but I can tell this is not about time, but as the article writes “pick the thing that scares you the most and talk about it first.”.

    My trigger was when I started to write songs about my childhood.

    What I can tell anyone who is struggling with this that this is NO JOKE. You literally feel such intense emotions that you feel like going absolutely crazy.

    I believe this is EXACTLY how the article says “For the first time in their lives, for some people, we experience a relationship which is focused on our needs, with a person who is attuned to us and is working to understand us”.

    I really learned it early that expressing myself will bring TERROR.

    Resolving disorgranized attachment is NOT for cowards. It is absolutely crazy experience. But, every time you go into the terror, you can go a little further in healing.


  82. neuroticgirl
    April 15, 2022 at 2:24 pm

    How long does this process typically take in repairing a severe case of disorganized attachment that has stemmed from very early childhood abuse and neglect? I am a 28yr old female trying to overcome this with a therapist that I’ve become insanely attached to and it feels like I am forcing myself to stay in therapy out of sheer terror and desperation of being alone and losing her, on the one hand, while I’m paranoid, bitter, obsessive, and distrustful when I stay, on the other hand, which creates massive ruptures in the relationship that feel impossible to overcome. This push/pull conflict within causes me to become hopeless and suicidal very often and unable to soothe/regulate the emotional pain. I’ve never had any kind of relationship that was more intimate than with this therapist in an emotional context and it feels like im trapped in this neverending crisis of isolation vs attachment with no resolution and that the suffering is inevitable no matter what I do. I cannot figure out any solution. How can I tell if my attachment is improving or not and what’s the longest this process can take? I feel like each time it happens I split, become insanely paranoid, and turn on myself in self-destruction which is making this process exceedingly difficult yet crucial to resolve. I just want to be secure and stable.


    • Szurdoki Gábor
      April 22, 2022 at 9:39 am

      “How long does this process typically take in repairing a severe case of disorganized attachment that has stemmed from very early childhood abuse and neglect?”

      Disorganized attachment is in itself very severe and stems from early childhood abuse and neglect. Not trying to disrespect you. I am just saying it is by default a very very heavy thing.


      • neuroticgirl
        May 26, 2022 at 7:46 pm

        I can’t help but wonder what purpose your responses serve…..


    • Szurdoki Gábor
      April 22, 2022 at 9:40 am

      “This push/pull conflict within causes me to become hopeless and suicidal very often and unable to soothe/regulate the emotional pain. ” I can absolutely relate. It is beyond hell.


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