S3 E26 TRANSCRIPT Attachment Styles Can Change and Are a Lens that Filters Relationships

[00:00:00] Elisabeth: Welcome to Trauma Rewired, the podcast that teaches you about your nervous system, how trauma lives in the body, and what you can do to heal. I’m your co host Elisabeth Kristof, founder of BrainBased.com an online community where we use evidence based neuro somatic exercises to create resilience, change behavior, and repattern trauma.

[00:00:22] I’m also the founder of Neurosomatic Intelligence Coaching Certification, an ICF accredited course that equips therapists and coaches with a framework and tools to create transformation from the level of the nervous system. 

[00:00:33] And I’m your co host Jennifer Wallace. I specialize in preparing your nervous system for peak somatic psychedelic healing experiences and then integrating those messages into your everyday life and into your nervous system. I’m also a Junior Educator at the Neurosomatic Intelligence Coaching Certification. 

You’ll likely find yourself in this conversation today, and through our own examples, but trauma resolution is more than talking about the past and deeper than cognitively deciding to move forward. Trauma lives in the here and now. It impacts our relationships to self and all of our relationships. It lives in the body and our belief systems and it affects our Present moment until we find a way to rehabilitate the system. If you want to learn more about incorporating Neuro Somatic Intelligence into your life, into your business, with practical, actionable tools that create lasting change in your client’s lives, the next cohort of Neuro Somatic Intelligence is enrolling right now, and you can go to the link in the show notes to find out more.

[00:01:38] As we revisited last week with Complex Trauma is an Attachment Wound, today we’re looking and taking this idea further into that foundational concept and that conflict of complex trauma is this deep need for relationship and wanting other people to co-regulate with and have the experience of safe connection that we never got. And at the same time that need, the even idea of that sometimes, is so immensely stressful in this internal state. And that comes from trying to connect because of the level of secure attachment and safe emotional development that we experience. In our development, and I’m excited to explore this conflict with you today, Elisabeth, as well as how our own attachment styles show up and have shown up, and I think it’ll be a really different exploration, and we really hope y’all enjoy it.

[00:02:41] Elisabeth: Yeah, I am excited to have this conversation again, because like you said, this isn’t our first time trying to record about attachment styles. It’s complex and it can be intense for ourselves to look at all of this and to really reframe. And looking at complex PTSD as an attachment disorder and really linking complex PTSD to disorganized attachment specifically, and that need to feel safe in relationship with other human beings.

[00:02:24] And the fact that is also deeply dysregulating and threatening to our nervous system. Big picture as we look at attachment styles today, because you hear people talk about attachment styles all the time. There’s these quizzes you can take- I’m insecure, I’m disorganized, I am anxious, I’m avoidant. I wanna reframe for a second that attachment style from a Neuro Somatic Perspective is a group of neuro tags. We’ve talked about neuro tags on here as this concept that neurons that fire together wire together. We take in information and certain inputs, certain stimuli, will trigger a whole event inside of our body and inside of our brain.

[00:03:56] When we’re talking about an attachment style, we’re really talking about the filtration system of information. So we have these neuro tags that get activated by different inputs that are maybe coming in from your eyes or your ears or the way that you’re interpreting another person, their vocal tone, their posture, and it creates a change in your brain and that becomes your filtration system. So the attachment style itself is your filtering system. It’s how you take in information and interpret it, and then generate an output. In NSI, we talk a lot about input, interpretation, output is how the nervous system functions. You take in information, your brain and your body interpret it, and then you generate an output. So your attachment style would really be that part in the middle, the interpretation of the information coming in.Big picture, we can either have an attachment style that thinks attachment and relationship is safe or unsafe. It can either be secure or insecure. And within insecure there’s various outputs that can show up. But everything is really through that lens.

[00:05:09] Jennifer: I think it’s a pretty reasonable lens to view things from. There’s secure attachment and then there’s the neuro tags that create the other three are the insecure attachments. And really the initial neuro tags are created by the primary caretakers nervous systems and the environment that shapes us. The other nervous systems that also have interplay with our environment. In the paradigm of there’s secure and there’s insecure, there’s all these endless channels of communication between a child and their mother, or their caregivers, including emotional states that are being communicated through the nervous system.

[00:05:05] These open lines of communication allow us to feel each other from the inside out- to connect or to disconnect. These emotional state transfers begin to happen very quickly, early in our development, and they directly correlate to the security at which we attach.

[00:06:07] Elisabeth: Yep, absolutely. So it is definitely driven by what happens in our development with our primary caretakers because at that time when we’re young, we are entirely dependent upon our caregivers for our survival. As we’ve said many times in here, it doesn’t just mean shelter and food. It means also regulation and emotional expression. So attachment schema has really become the summation of all these thousands of experiences with our caretakers that become this reflexive prediction of the behavior of others. They become activated in our future relationships. They’re driving how we perceive the intentions and the actions of other people. They either lead us to seek proximity and closeness and connection and intimacy, or to avoid it, to pull back to it. 

[00:07:00] Or in the case of a more disorganized attachment style- both. You’re seeking both. You’re seeking proximity and that feels very dangerous. So it’s the filtering system of our brain that drives our outputs in our relationships, and it shows up across the board. So it’s not just in our romantic relationships. Say I’m operating at an insecure attachment schema and that also shows up with my friends and my colleagues when I’m activated into that threat filter that is looking for ways in which I’m going to be hurt, abandoned, rejected, neglected. Ways in which relationships cause pain for me. I might be at a social event, at a gathering with colleagues, and somebody makes a joke. If I’m in that schema, if I’m in that filtering system, I’m starting to question, what are their intentions behind that? Is that really a dig at me? What are they really implying here? And I have trouble trusting connection with other people, and that doesn’t just have to be in romantic relationships.

[00:08:07] Jennifer: What I’m hearing you say is that our attachments are very fluid. They shift and shape and change depending on the environment and the nervous systems that we are surrounded by. And our attachment style can positively or negatively impact every area of our work and of our lives. It can impact every level of our wellbeing, our cognitive function, and our emotional health. It really impacts and affects the security of social engagements. So like you’re saying, what happens when we’re in either large groups where it’s not very intimate or in really small, intimate places; the attachment affects the security of the social engagement, our ability to safely voice the inner felt sense of an experience, and it affects our emotional regulation, how we play and speak through the social synapse, the fears, anxieties and phobias that are passed down through language posture. A lot of what we talk about is about nonverbal subconscious communication, and through that nonverbal subconscious communication thoughts and beliefs can be transferred, and that greatly impacts our social judgment.

[00:09:20] Elisabeth: 100% It really drives so much of our interaction with the world. And like you said, it can be fluid. I don’t always fit into one attachment style. I’m not always avoidant, I’m not always anxious. It kind of depends on the relationship, what it reminds me of and what well-worn path that drives my brain and my nervous system down. Most of the time our brain will find a more frequently used output. Like this is the one that kept me safe, this is the one I’m gonna go to more frequently. Maybe that’s to avoid closeness or connection or really being seen. Maybe it’s to really try to fight for it and compromise our self and be anxious in that attachment style.

[00:10:02] There’s typically one way that our brain finds to be the most adaptive, and that’s based on our early childhood experiences. But it certainly can change over time and I think it can change based on the other types of nervous systems that we’re around, the other relationships that we have. I think it’s really important as we have this conversation, because this can get really heavy looking at the way that our relationship neuromatrix was shaped by our caregivers and how that’s played out in our lives. 

[00:10:35] It can be hard to look at. I think it’s really important to remember that, especially when we look at current science, our brains and our nervous systems are adaptive. They’re changing all of the time. You’re never set in stone. Even though this is a well-worn path, and it is a journey to create change in that attachment style with intentional training of the nervous system and all kinds of other healing tools too, like not just NSI, but there’s many, many ways to start to create safety inside of yourself, in relationship, and that it does not have to be one and done for the rest of your life. That’s just not the way we’re built. We’re neuroplastic beings.

[00:11:19] Jennifer: Thank God, right. I mean, thank God for this body that is so brilliant in the way. What we’re talking about is survival really. We’re talking about how we survive in relation to attachment. If relationships in the environment are shaping our development and our social interactions, our social relationships, and so much of our survival is rooted in prediction of the very next moment, and our brains are always gonna choose a guaranteed short-term survival over long-term success and health. So going back to attachment and survival, you can see how a world that’s not safe isn’t gonna create a safe relationship.

[00:12:08] Elisabeth: Yep. That whole thing of being primed for protection over connection. And it can be kind of sneaky. It’s not as clear as you might think it is. Sometimes it’s really obvious like I’m running away from a healthy relationship, or I’m constantly choosing people that are harmful to me in some ways. Sometimes our relationship patterns are really clear, but other times it can be more subtle.

[00:12:37] For instance, I am in a relationship now that I would consider very safe. Both of us have done a lot of work on ourselves and I really trust my partner to be able to see me, show up, hold space for me- all of that. And my early childhood development left me with a very disorganized attachment style where I associate both pain, betrayal and abandonment with intimacy and connection at a very deep level. The safer this relationship becomes and the more there’s capacity for really true connection, I have found that there’s still these internal feelings of distrust and expecting pain.

[00:13:25] Then I start to look for it. I start to become really hypervigilant and looking for the ways that I’m going to be hurt at these very deep and also subtle levels. Sometimes it really changes the way I actually see things, the information that’s coming in from my eyes, definitely the way I interpret vocal tones and mannerisms and all these things. I have enough training that I can view it all with altitude and see what’s happening inside of myself, but I can really watch my system skew reality under this protective filter because something that is safe also feels very threatening just by the nature of connection.

[00:14:13] Jennifer: I experienced that in the healing of my patterns and stories as it relates to the connection of my primaries and particularly my mom. The safer that relationship gets and the more I try to show up self-expressed and show up as I am now, that can be really hard for me to do because there’s an expectation of how I show up. A lot of that expectation, I hate to say this, but there was a lack of attunement in my early childhood and that led me to learning how to regulate the environment. Whether that mostly worked in my favor to learn, to regulate the environment. But for someone who has a heavily repressed anger response and a Fight trauma response, that cultivated a lot of mistrust in the nervous system of my parents to my nervous system. And that’s part of what I really work to re-pattern right now is that I’m a safe environment of the nervous system. I’m not volatile anymore. You don’t have to worry about me reacting. 

[00:15:28] Back to the misattunement, my nervous system wasn’t in a position before- it didn’t have the experience, the wisdom, or the knowledge to be able to regulate itself when I was younger. All of it just got into this really repressed Fight and then led me to engage in some very dysregulating behaviors. If it wasn’t through that co-regulation of another person, it was through substances or objects, or numbing out in some way through food. A lot through food. Having the safe nervous systems and containers now, it’s a big deal. And it’s a big, it’s a lot. Like you said earlier, the protective threat wirings. What we’re wired for is threat and our protective mechanisms, they show up regardless of whether you are safe or under threat.

[00:16:19] So having the right tools is the key to being able to move forward with this. You talked about earlier that little test that we take. And having cognitive awareness of the way that you’re moving through the world. That is just a foundational step. That conscious awareness should be the catalyst for the next movement of action towards change. To make that action safe and lasting, we need to have tools to work with the nervous system, in my opinion, after all of the modalities I’ve done, which is Rewire Trial, that’s such a valuable offering for our community is for you to explore these tools that we use and talk about every week. We’re not hiding anything. These are the tools.

[00:17:02] Elisabeth: Yeah, this is really how I’ve been able to come to this place where I’m capable of secure attachment some of the time. And also to really be able to even have the altitude to see my patterns, not just be swept away into them and operating in that default protective behavior is through daily training of the nervous system. One of the most important things, I’d like to talk a little bit more about is where these neuro tags live in our brain, and we can get into the specific attachment styles. In general, big picture, if you train your nervous system daily to be more resilient, it will give you the ability to stay in your higher order thinking systems and not be so driven into a threat response with relational interaction so that I can take a step in a new direction. I can have the feeling inside of my body that something is threatening and I can also know that might be coming from an old filter, a protective filter, and I can do some stuff to re-regulate or I can just take contrary action in that moment.

[00:18:21] Then little by little, that trust in myself is earned trust with other people. The way that my body and nervous system responds, becomes different over time. Like you said, it’s way beyond what’s cognitive and we have to go to that nervous system level as well as having the cognitive understanding so that there can be a new reaction.

[00:18:47] Jennifer: Let’s dive into the neuro tags and how that gets created and then we can explore how the nervous system that creates the attachment style, and then how that attachment style lives in the nervous system and how we might express that.

[00:19:04] Elisabeth: Perfect. When we’re talking about these neuro tags, there’s really three main areas of the brain that are responsible for these filters that are created. There’s your anterior cingulate cortex, which is really the area of our brain that holds all our beliefs about our self, about how we’re behaving, about how we’re communicating. This is at the very front most part of your cingulate cortex, part of your higher order thinking systems. It is important for cognitive function, but also for empathy and impulse control. And experiencing emotions and decision making. So there’s a huge component of how that area of the brain is functioning.

[00:19:47] Then there’s your insular cortex, which I feel like we’ve talked about in every single episode this season because it’s so important to relational healing and also to interception and to Presence. Our insular cortex receives and interprets emotional intent from others, both their verbal and their nonverbal intent. That’s really where we’re deciding: what does it mean that they said this? What are their emotions behind this? We’re determining meaning to the information coming in. Our insular cortex is very important for reading the signals from inside of our own body and deciding what those mean- safe or unsafe; what’s going on? It has to do with our pain pathways, also our vestibular functioning. It’s really a core part of the brain that interprets our felt sense, and that is very important for how we are perceiving the world. 

[00:20:42] Then there’s our ventral medial prefrontal cortex. So again, this is part of our frontal lobe. It has various interconnected regions, but all of them integrate information from our sensory inputs. It integrates it, including social cues, and then it does sort of a risk versus reward. It weighs the pros and cons and makes a decision on how to act. This is a really important part in driving our behavior and in how we respond to social connection. Then also where our sense of self lives, our beliefs, live in this area. 

So as we are developing these parts of our brain get certain pathways that are more dominant so that I am either operating from a place in these areas of my brain that is looking at the world through a lens of threat and distrust, or through seeing other people as positive, as safe, as something that I want and how I interpret the way other people sound, look, think about me, my own sense of self that all lives in my brain and in my nervous system.

[00:22:04] Research shows that the holidays come with an increase in maladaptive behaviors, addiction patterns, social isolation, depression, and burnout. And all of you coaches, healers, therapists out here listening, you’re on the front lines helping your clients to navigate family dynamics, financial stress, emotional flashbacks, anxiety. This takes a toll on your nervous system. The secret to navigating the holiday season with Presence and connection to better serve your clients and avoid burnout really to enter into the new year with the energy you need to grow your business is nervous system health. So we’re offering a free live Neuro Somatic Intelligence workshop to create a self care practice for your own nervous system that will change your holiday experience. Matt Bush, Melanie Weller and myself, we’re leaders in the field of applied neurology and vagus nerve health. And we’ve created a simple framework and practical tools that will increase your capacity to handle stress. and create resilience from the level of your nervous system. We’d love for you to join us. The link is in the show notes to register for the workshop on December 15th. You’ll learn practical tools and a framework for your own self care so that you can enter into 2024 resilient and ready to expand your business and show up fully for those you serve. We’d love to see you live, but a recording will also be sent out to anyone who can’t make the live workshop.And again, the link is in the show notes to register for the December 15th NSI workshop.

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[00:24:41] Jennifer: These cPTSD happenings, these attachment wounds that begin to take place and develop under these mis-happenings. They create gaps in your social development. It’s like a mis-programming, if you will, in the windows of our development. Maybe your social skills aren’t developed as you might expect them to be. We have talked about social anxiety on this podcast before too. And we’ve talked about all the five distinguishing characteristics of complex trauma. So when I think about the person who I once was where the world wasn’t safe, relationship wasn’t safe, and how much I really pulled away from the world. Not only from the world, I pulled away from the capital S Self. I furthered the dysregulation through dissociation and through chronic fatigue.

[00:25:46] Then back to the brain development- in those earlier years, the self-soothing that I engaged in was also harmful to the systems, the interoceptive system that you talk about, talking about the insular cortex, and the it falters the ability to determine the meaning. And oftentimes that triggered massive amounts of shame. All of the attachment styles of the insecure, these are all rooted in belief narratives of shame, of lack of worthiness, lack of value in a really inherent way that’s been developed and cultivated. It’s like the garden that’s been tended to our whole lives. Back to that cognitive awareness, it takes a real recommitment to even just recognize yourself and know that I don’t want to behave like this with people. I don’t feel good. It’s a level of self abandonment.

[00:26:52] Elisabeth: It really is, and it can drive so much dissociation and disconnect, also isolation and loneliness. Overall, it comes down to either a negative or a positive correlation with human relationships. The outputs can be varied. It can show up in all different ways, but it comes down to if it’s protective or if it’s performance. Or in this case, we’ll say connective. Connecting us with other people, allowing us to be self-expressed, to use our voice to all of these things that we want.

[00:27:29] And positive attachment schema as they shape the brain in a way that’s more conductive to regulations. So you can use social relationships for positive regulation- to make yourself feel better, to really come into an optimal state of health by connecting with other people. This allows, especially as a child developing for optimal growth and neural functioning and also for better immunological functioning inside of our body. There’s lots of studies that show we really need social connection even into adulthood to have a healthy, well-functioning immune system and internal landscape. Social support is necessary. It’s a necessary part of being a healthy human being. When we have a positive attachment schema, we can do that.

[00:28:11] We can have that. We can have that be the result of social connection. But if we have a negative attachment schema that can have the opposite effect. When we connect with other people, when we’re around other people, we try to create those social networks- it actually causes dysregulation, it causes inflammatory response, it causes all kinds of protective outputs, and that correlates with a higher frequency of physical and emotional illness throughout your life.

[00:28:37] Jennifer: Yeah, we do. We talk about ACE scores here too. When I think about, this is something I was going to talk about a little bit later, but this is how autoimmune gets developed. This is how cancers start to present themselves over long-term. We’ve done episodes on ACE scores and your health across a lifetime. If you’ve learned through your attachment that people in your primaries, in your early development, are not safe, that they’re unstable, unpredictable you are gonna develop a hypersensitivity and a hypervigilance to the way other nervous systems affect you. And then that creates an internal state of stress and anxiety. It really loads the system and it becomes a really a physiological event in the body.

[00:29:31] Elisabeth: Yeah, let’s talk a little bit about the different attachment styles. I’m going to very quickly recap the experiment where these different attachment styles were defined in case people are unfamiliar with it. They come from John Bowlby. He did an experiment where they had children with their mothers and they introduced a stress, and that stress was a stranger. So the mother would leave the room, the stranger would come in. That is stressful to a child, and then they would bring back in the mother and see how the child responded to that. How the child responded was indicative of what kind of attachment style they had. Were they soothed by their mother or were they more dysregulated by their mother? So from there came the development of either having an avoidant attachment style, an anxious attachment style, or a disorganized attachment style. And again, I feel like all of this is slightly dated because it doesn’t allow for neuroplasticity and it’s a little too black and white for my taste. But I do think it’s a really important foundation to see how our development shapes our dysregulation and our ability to connect socially.

[00:30:47] Jennifer: It is really fascinating to think about the development of a little nervous system from the perspective of the way the primary nervous system is shaped. Because if a mom’s nervous system is dysregulated, if she is shutting down, if she dissociates then that child isn’t securing attachment. Then that child isn’t securing attachment. That little body can feel that that nervous system isn’t there, and then that’s when the self-soothing behaviors really start. So where would we like to start? You wanna start with anxious attachment? That’s one I used to identify with for a little while; little sprinkle of anxious attachment in relationship for sure. (laughing)

[00:31:37] Elisabeth: Yes. So anxious attachment style is gonna be where you are very anxious about keeping your connection to people that you’re in relationship with, especially close relationship. Whether that’s close friends or partners. It’s gonna be where you’re more likely to sacrifice yourself and overgive in order to make sure that they still love you and that you’re not abandoned. This would often come from a mom or primary, but in this experiment they are looking at the biological mothers. So I’ll just go ahead and refer to that. That’s not consistently available. So they are sometimes there for the kid, but that fluctuates with involvement and then lack of good boundaries. So sometimes they’re really enmeshed and sometimes they’re not available at all.

[00:32:34] Jennifer: Then in the nervous system, that anxious attachment that gets created, it gets primed for almost like a sympathetic state of nervous system activation, right? Because it’s like you are touch and go. You don’t know which way to turn sometimes. And if you’re moving into threat, then that heightened state of activation is gonna be like faster breathing, rapid heart rate, and you’re preparing to protect yourself in the relationship, in the very just moment by moment survival, we are protecting ourselves through a sympathetic activation, but we don’t have a way to soothe ourselves out of that without “maladaptive” behaviors and self-soothing techniques. So you are gonna look for ways to self-soothe and as we get older, of course, that turns to substances mostly.

[00:33:31] Elisabeth: Yeah. So in the experiment what happened is- once they reintroduced the mother, the children just weren’t easily soothed. They kind of stayed stuck in this dysregulated state, this tantrum state. They would be really slow to return to play, and they were stressed out by their mother’s own distress. They internalized their mom’s anxiety and they could be very clingy and wouldn’t wanna go explore the environment. Like you were saying, this really shows up in our adult life because the discomfort- this is how I look at it- the discomfort inside of myself of losing the attachment is so big that I would rather do almost anything rather than face the amount of dysregulation is so big.

[00:34:24] Jennifer: Rather than face the abandonment, but at the same time you are abandoning. So you’re furthering your abandonment wound by self-abandoning, not wanting to be abandoned by the other nervous system. That’s a mind fuck right there.

[00:34:35] Elisabeth: 100% I remember so clearly when I first got sober I was working with a counselor. And we were talking about some of my patterns and we were looking at the fears underneath. We would have to look at like what fear was driving you into this behavior. And fear of abandonment came up over and over and over again. At some point she just stopped me. I was 24 years old at the time, so I didn’t really grasp the magnitude of this, but it still hit home with me to the point where I remember it today. She said, ‘do you understand that you are constantly abandoning yourself in every single one of these situations where you wrote fear of abandonment, you are abandoning you.’

[00:35:15] Jennifer: Which is like a little cut inside of you. It’s like you cut yourself inside a little bit when we do that.

[00:35:23] Elisabeth: That anxious attachment, it leads us to abandon our self in order to ensure the connection to an outside person because the dysregulation and the fear is so great of losing that it’s like we subconsciously choose that. I’m not cognitively deciding -sometimes maybe- but most of the time I’m not cognitively deciding to put my own needs or to stress myself out or to do things that are harmful to my own health. It’s just it feels so terrifying at the level of the nervous system to think about risking losing that connection that we’re driven into these anxious behaviors.

[00:36:05] Jennifer: Yeah. And to get the attachment that we need, we modulate who we are.

[00:36:09] Elisabeth: Yep. And losing attachment, we just have this hypersensitivity to being abandoned and to not getting our social needs met. A lot of times that can come with neglect, emotional neglect as a child. Because you so often were faced with these big, overwhelming emotions and you didn’t have any support in regulating or dealing with them.

[00:36:27] So going back to that place of not having social support or the connection feels very, very scary to that inner child, to those parts of yourself that haven’t healed that. And at the same time, it leads us into very dysfunctional relationships where often we are with people who don’t have the capacity to help us regulate our emotions. It’s not like we’re actually getting those needs met most of the time by the connection. It’s an illusion, it’s a filter of fear. It is important to remember that often what’s happening is there’s the neuro tag that is interpreting through threat and it’s triggering your amygdala to activate one of your Fs, and so you are constantly being driven into a threat response with social interaction.

[00:37:16] Jennifer: When your amygdala is triggered and altered in its state of function, the HPA axis gets activated. When all this stuff is ramped up, the hippocampus gets altered, it literally changes the lens by which you see the world. Your memory encoding changes, everything in the brain changes its function. It’s like you go into a totally different mode, you leave your safe default mode network programming and you go into survival mode. It’s just like this ever changing functional organ, the brain. It’s happening as we move through the world, it’s not stuck in a state. Back to that neuroplasticity, dependent plasticity, the shape functions grow, the physical development of the brain itself becomes altered.

[00:38:13] So being in an environment, in a state where you can’t regulate yourself and there’s no one to help you regulate and the brain’s in survival mode, it’s gonna develop in survival mode. Then it naturally leads to those protective behaviors, the way that it learned to develop, and back to those missing gaps of social development. So it’s gonna regulate and survive the world by making it as predictable as possible- back to it, not change, choosing a long-term goal. It’s for right now, this immediate safety and when that unpredictability is directly correlated to your caretaker who is supposed to keep you alive. That’s why we just throw our whole worth in value right out the window because if this person who’s supposed to keep me alive, I have to change and modulate and constantly be anxious about what’s happening in the environment so that I can stay alive.

[00:39:19] Elisabeth: Then this is closely linked with an avoidant attachment style. It’s two outputs of an insecure attachment style. So we have anxious, we just talked about, and then we have avoidant- where we are often avoiding emotional closeness and relationships or feeling like the other person’s being really clingy or when things get very intense we tend to wanna to bolt.

[00:39:41] These are the people who might ghost you. Often there’s a lot of suppressed emotions and withdrawing and wanting to cope with difficult situations alone. Like wanting to pull back from your social relationships when you’re in a high stress state or hurt or sick. This often comes from a primary, from a mother, that was dismissive, who wasn’t very available, who was really distant and didn’t have a lot of emotional expression and didn’t allow for a lot of emotional expression in the child as well. Often these moms didn’t remember a lot of their own childhood. That also leads me to think they were pretty dissociated and detached.

[00:40:27] Jennifer: That detachment is really critical for a young person who is relying on that person for their own regulation of their emotions, for the young body’s emotions. The misattunement is detrimental. It’s really devastating to be this misattuned to your child. I know we’re gonna get into dismissive attachment next, leading into it so let me know if I’m going into another one, but like I really feel in thinking about my own story and feeling like the Fight response so strong in me was that I was being abused and I would leave that situation, I would be immediately in the care of my caretakers my mom, my grandmother.

[00:41:20] My emotional state wasn’t getting re-regulated when I entered back into my safe environment. And look, I wanna say this right now, if I had the words to say what was happening, I have no doubt that my mother would’ve been in to protect me. This is not any blame to put on for the experience. I was too young for the verbal knowledge to express. I know wholeheartedly that the situation would have been different. Dr. Dan Siegel says ‘when we attune with others we allow our internal state to shift, to come to resonance with the inner world of another.’ Lack of attunement, back to me regulating the environment. I still get very scared and close emotional situations. I still can get really triggered by having to have a hard conversation that’s rooted in the way that I feel. That’s rooted in the way that like what happened had an emotional impact on me, and now I need to have that conversation with someone that I love and trust so that I can continue once again to be the safe nervous system and reteach myself that I can handle these harder conversations with people I love and trust that they will not leave me.

[00:42:39] Elisabeth: Oh 100% Me too. I definitely can skew very avoidant. Although the more research we did, the more I realized how disorganized my attachment style is. But like we said, it changes. I also used to think of myself as very anxious, and now I see myself showing up as avoidant in a lot of ways. I’ll see it even in the container of working with my therapist or my neuro coach. When we get to a place where there’s like a big vulnerability for me and I have to be really seen and I share something big or I’m struggling- I want to pull away, I wanna pull out of the container.

[00:43:18] I stop communicating with them. I forget to schedule sessions. I’m like, I don’t think I wanna do this anyway. I’ve straight up said to my neuro coach, multiple times after a big emotional expression, ‘I think this might be too much for us. Do you really wanna do this anymore? This is too hard for you.’ I’m trying to give them an out. And I’m trying to pull back and run away because it is a safe container that allows, if it wasn’t that safe of a container, I wouldn’t have gotten to that level of emotional expression. But because it is, it happens and my first instinct is to run like hell.

[00:43:53] Jennifer: Avoidant doesn’t have a good reputation.

[00:43:59] Elisabeth: No, I think a lot of times people associate this with being the person who ghosts. Being the person who is really distant and self-absorbed and maybe even all the way to narcissism. But it’s really important to remember this is just another protective response. It’s another output of insecure attachment in the experiment, these kids when they returned back, they had already learned reconnecting to their mother is too stressful for them. That they’re not gonna get what they need. So they would ignore the mother, they would avoid eye contact. They really just lacked the expectation that the mom would be able to soothe them. They learned that regulation and self-soothing comes from them and they become really overly self-reliant. That maybe the relationship causes more stress. And it’s just better for my nervous system if I just rely on myself. So when they get pushed into these really intimate, connected experiences, it does not feel good inside. It feels scary.

[00:45:02] Jennifer: This is the emotionally unavailable partner.

[00:45:04] Elisabeth: Mm-hmm.

[00:45:07] Jennifer: Someone who avoids emotional closeness and has a difficult time with intimacy.

[00:45:11] Elisabeth: Yeah. And that truly, that can be me sometimes. I’ve done a lot of work because I want that, I wanna be able to show up. I don’t wanna run away from you when we have a big conversation. I don’t wanna run away from my therapist or my neuro coach. And I don’t wanna run away from my Part. I wanna grow and evolve as a person who’s capable of that. And it takes a lot of regulation and patience with myself. Part of it too is when I feel like I’m really seen, and I think this is why for a lot of my life I was in relationships where the other person had a lot going on. They were really unstable and volatile and emotionally unavailable because then I didn’t have to. There wasn’t any space in the container to look at me and to look at my stuff. The focus was never on me. Now that I’m in something that’s pretty chill and stable and safe, there’s a lot more time to see the things in myself and that’s hard. That can come with shame too.

[00:46:11] Jennifer: I think this is really what helped to shape my self-reliance, my over self-reliance, like my hyper independence of  ‘no, I will do this by myself. I got me. I can do it. I don’t need any help.’ I’ve lived my life that way. And it causes me to withdraw and I deal with things by myself. It’s not just like, no, I can handle whatever the physical is, I will also handle all of my emotions and not share with you honestly about what’s happening for me is my felt sense of the world and my internal felt senses.

[00:46:46] Elisabeth: Yep. When I’m sick, when I’m not feeling good, I just wanna be alone. I wanna curl up and isolate and not rely on other people. Then that can be hard. It can be hard for other people too, because then it feels like they’re getting pushed out.

[00:47:00] Jennifer: Exactly. What’s the last one we have here?

[00:47:01] Elisabeth: Okay, the last one is disorganized. So this is the heavy one. (laughing)

[00:47:10] Jennifer: This is where they all meet. (laughing)

[00:47:13] Elisabeth: This is where they all meet. Just the term disorganized attachment, it’s cringey. 

[00:47:21] Jennifer: Yeah. I’m sweating.

[00:47:23] Elisabeth: It’s heavy to be like, oh, I have disorganized attachment. (laughing) And it is the one that I really associate with complex trauma because it is the one where you can see all of that internal chaos inside. It’s like the system just spiraling all the time. I need this, I need this. I can’t have it. It’s dangerous. It’s scary. And when I say the system, those might be the thoughts, but inside the nervous system it’s constantly launching into threat response and stress, chemicals and inflammation. And you know, as the thoughts are spiraling around what’s safe and not safe, there’s all this reaction going on inside of ourselves.

[00:48:06] Jennifer: And we develop long-term chronic illnesses and disease states in the body. 

[00:48:13] Elisabeth: Yeah, long-term dysregulation leads to disease. You have the stress hormones pumping through, you have the inflammation response because your body’s preparing for you to possibly get hurt. So it’s preparing that inflammation mechanism because that would be part of healing were you to actually get hurt, but instead you’re not actually getting physically hurt you just have inflammation going on all of the time.

[00:48:33] So in the experiment how this attachment style is developed is the mothers in the experiment were both frightened by and frightening to their children. So there was a lot of dysregulation going on inside of the mom who often suffered a trauma that was unresolved and they were the most incoherent themselves. The mothers had incoherent narratives about their own childhood.

[00:49:00] And big picture on this one, I think about it as when you associate connection to your primary as also being linked, inextricably linked, to big dysregulation or pain. So you also see this almost all of the time when there is a child that has sexual abuse from a primary or physical abuse from a primary. Or emotional abuse from a primary. There’s like real big pain associated with the connection with the primary,

[00:49:33] Jennifer: Back to ACE scores. That is an ACE score- when you have a violent mother or a mother that is emotionally, physically, sexually abusive or the father is. It’s very confusing because the disorganized attachment creates so much conflict inside the child. And then you know, over time that child could engage in some chaotic and self-injuring behaviors. In the experiment those children would spin and fall and hit themselves. They didn’t know how to calm themselves down in a safely regulated way. Then they didn’t have the primaries to do that, the mothers in this case, to do it. And so they would sometimes maintain uncomfortable body positions, become in trance like facial expressions and Freeze. It’s like they would approach the mother, but also avoid her completely. It was very too unpredictable.

[00:50:39] Elisabeth: When I was reading through that and the results it just… I think I talked about this in the cPTSD episode, I saw myself as a kid. I started engaging in self-harm at a really early age, probably four or five. I can remember cutting myself. I remember beating myself with a rake, binge eating, tantrums that my mom just could not get me to calm down. She would try to put me in the bath. She would try to do this, she would leave me alone in my room, like all the things. And I just remember slashing up a mattress with a knife as a kid. I was wild. I could not get regulated. 

And I also had all of the health effects that come with that, right? I had eczema. I was in and out of the hospital because I would start throwing up and get a fever and they could never figure out what was wrong with me. So my body was showing that dysregulation too. That went on until I found substance and truly substance was what saved me for a while, because I needed something to help me regulate my nervous system. Binge eating and alcoholism saved me at certain points in my life because my nervous system was stuck in such a high state of stress and dysregulation all the time without it. Then eventually it didn’t help, but for a while it did.

[00:51:57] Jennifer: And for people who don’t go into substances, or both/and, could also find themselves attracted to people who are unavailable, dangerous, abusive because that’s parental behavior that you are accustomed to growing up. Back to the brain going to choose what it knows to survive. It will repeat the patterns until you change them. And in romantic relationships this can show up with a lot of fighting or abuse. It can be very unhealthy relationship patterns, very tumultuous romantic places. That need for closeness, yet the pushing away out of the pure fear of relationships.

[00:52:43] Elisabeth: Yeah. One of the biggest reasons that I have really immersed myself in a healing life and really pursued the path of healing and nervous system regulation is because of my relational patterns. After I got sober, there was the binge eating that continued and that was pretty painful. There was the workaholism, the overwork and the exhaustion. And bigger than that, there were real dangerous relationship patterns that I got to some point where I knew if I don’t do something about this, this is gonna take me out. It’ll either take me out through disease because the stress load is so high, or I’m gonna be in a relationship that is so dangerous, it’s gonna kill me.

[00:53:23]  Jennifer: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for sharing that. As it goes on the spectrum, that is very relatable. I was not choosing good partners and partners that also had substance issues and were emotionally unavailable and not showing up as the divine masculine at all, not a space holder in any way. Not a safe space holder. I think we’re both fortunate because it was going to take us out one way or another. I mean, autoimmune, cancer. We’ve experienced quite a bit that now we do get to understand that we have swam in these narratives in our body. 

And these narratives are charged with emotional energy that wants to move, but gets stuck. Then if we don’t do something, and now we have conscious awareness, now we’ve done so much work that our awareness has changed. Or maybe some people have conscious awareness already but can’t find themselves moving out of the pattern or to change the way and house that we are living, how our brain is functioning, how we’re operating. It really does lead to detrimental effects on the body as we are uncovering truths and gaining more knowledge as to the whys. When we have the tools to make it safe, to be Present with all of those feelings and emotions, to have tools that support altitude from any experience and give yourself grace and compassion for being in the stories, for your accountability in the stories the ways that you have behaved and shown up in life. It’s beginning to solve a problem and getting really curious. And it’s like being an Explorer of your nervous system. 

[00:55:20] I think part of healing is letting these stories go and grieving who we were and knowing that, as I change the emotional charge to these stories and integrate that younger version of me, I grieve the moving on of that. We talk about this in the Parts conversation, but it all leads to a deeper understanding of why I’m behaving the way that I am. Which I love. 

[00:55:59] Elisabeth: Yes. Now I can do something about it, and it’s really important to me to not just.. A lot of my traumas weren’t uncovered until much later in my life, but it’s important for me not to know those stories just so that I can overly attach to them. They’re important to me so that I have understanding of my behavior. It was really like, oh, okay when I learned this is why, this explains so much about my life. And now I can see how my nervous system has been shaped, how it’s been driving my behavior, because I have the education that I have and the understanding of the nervous system that I do, I also know that it’s possible to create change.

[00:56:44] And I really knew that for me, this next layer of healing had to be relational. It had to be in the way that I was able to connect to other people. And so over the past maybe two, three years there’s been a big focus for me on creating safety and connection using my neuro tools to give my nervous system capacity to create safety and connection in my romantic partnership. But across the board in my life.

[00:57:11] Jennifer: Yeah. Like we’re saying before, it affects all areas of our wellbeing and the way that we move in and through the world. 

[00:57:20] Elisabeth: If you’re a coach, a therapist or a practitioner, and you know that you need a framework and tools to help your clients be able to be embodied and present in the work that you are doing, just like all the things that Jennifer and I are talking about today, then consider joining us for the next cohort of Neurosomatic Intelligence Training. It is a certification that is ICF accredited and will give you a practical actionable framework to bring the body and the brain into your practice. Join us at neurosomaticintelligence.com. The link is in the show notes. 

[00:57:55] Jennifer: Thank you all so much for joining us today. We’ll see you all next week. Thank you.

[00:58:02] Elisabeth: Bye everybody.

S3 E26

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