Love, attachment and intimacy. Part 3/4: disorganised or fearful attachment

This is the third of four articles about the way we form relationships, known as an attachment style. This article explores disorganised or fearful attachment. Taking early experiences with parents or carers as the blueprint, disorganised attachment originates in an abiding fear due to lack of safety, resulting in negative views about life, dissociation, and emotional disregulation. In adult life, this makes relationships problematic, as the primary concern of the fearfully attached is avoiding danger and, for that reason, emotions are either heightened or blocked and hypervigilance is the norm.

Each of these four articles about attachment includes music which exemplifies the attachment style. Disorganised or fearful attachment is illustrated by Björk’s Hyperballad. Finally, the role of psychotherapy is outlined, the process of helping someone with fearful attachment reach a place of emotional security and safety.  Read more

Love, attachment and intimacy. Part 2/4: ambivalent or preoccupied attachment

This is the second of four articles about attachment styles, the way we form relationships and view ourselves based on early experiences of nurturing. The first article briefly outlined the groundbreaking research of Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby and described the avoidant attachment style, in which emotions are either unavailable or feel dangerous to express. This article explains the origin and characteristics of ambivalent attachment, in which the infant is preoccupied with the presence of the parent whose emotional availability is unpredictable, and carries this model of relationships into adult life, passively or angrily fearing that their partner doesn’t love them.

Each article ends with an example of popular songs which encapsulate what it means to live the attachment style, and asks how counselling or psychotherapy can help change the pattern. The ambivalent attachment style is illustrated by Harry Nilsson’s Without You and Radiohead’s Creep, and the combination of avoidant and ambivalent attachments in relationship is illustrated by Wham’s Freedom.

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Letting go and grieving well

We tend to think of grief and bereavement as something we experience only when someone close to us has died, but the bereavement process can happen with any deep and significant loss: the death of a person, the end of a relationship, significant loss of health, the loss of a limb, the end of a career, etc.

This article outlines what to expect in any grieving process. My aim is to show that difficult experiences are normal processes of adjustment to a new situation involving loss.

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What is this thing called love?

What is this thing called love,
This funny thing called love?
Just who can solve its mystery?
Why should it make a fool of me?

~ Cole Porter, What is this thing called love?

In all its various forms, love is a frequent subject in the therapy room. As in Cole Porter’s song, some people’s experience is that loving relationships inevitably end, leaving them feeling foolish. Others experience love as a restricting prison, or as something powerfully desired but unattainable. Why is this? And how can counselling and psychotherapy help?

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Hope in the therapy room

A question I am sometimes asked by clients, usually in the first few sessions, is “Is there any hope for me?” It is a fundamental question which goes to the heart of therapy. A way of understanding the question is ‘Will I be able to grow beyond my present state? Is change really possible?’ The answer is an emphatic ‘Yes’.

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Endings and beginnings: those difficult times of year

For anyone going through relationship problems, bereavement or loss, the pain can be magnified by the time of year, particularly Christmas, new year, anniversaries, birthdays. This article looks at the common theme of these difficult times of year – endings and beginnings. Those unresolved emotions, as well as bringing heartache, can be an opportunity for growth and understanding in therapy. Read more

Seeing what we expect to see: the magic lamp and the circle of trauma

Recently I’ve been doing some work on my house and much of my furniture has been moved to accommodate the changes. I walked into the darkness of one room and reached out to turn on a lamp in the place it used to be. It wasn’t there. But for a split second, as if by magic, I saw it in front of me. I then turned to reach for it in the place I knew it now was, and realised the importance of what had just happened: for those in trauma, reliving expectations is a key part of experience.

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