We are born in relationship, wounded in relationship and need to recover in relationship. Our significant relationships can either help or hinder our recovery. In this workshop experiential methods will be discussed, demonstrated, and practiced to help our clients identify the relationships that work and/or don’t work and ways to make changes to enhance recovery. Some say we are born alone. J. L. Moreno the founder of Psychodrama, Sociometry, and Group Psychotherapy believed that we were born in relationship to another. We are born attached to our mothers through our umbilical cords. We cannot survive without that connection. After birth we continue in a state of a symbiotic connection with our mother and those around us. Others seem to be extensions of ourselves. There is a oneness between our self and another. Again our survival is totally dependent on others.
In Moreno’s theory of childhood development, the first stage is doubling. Doubling is both a part of the theory and also a therapeutic technique. Doubling occurs when someone comprehends us, understands and meets our needs enough so that we can survive, feel safe, and we can eventually move up the developmental ladder. What happens in the initial dyad is a precursor to dealing with future relationships. When the primary double encourages a bond, this leads to a sense of trust and an internalized sense of being seen and understood. (Dayton) With this harmony within him/herself, the baby and can begin to self regulate. Disharmony in the initial dyad leads to a feeling of disharmony within him/herself.
It takes quite a while before we can think of others as separate. Moreno believed that after doubling we go through the stage of mirroring. This occurs when someone comprehends us and shows or tells us how we appear to others, and we can begin to see what others see. The quality of our mirroring must impact our connection to our bodies. If the mirror is harsh and punitive, we then can experience inner confusion and this can weaken our connection to the outside world. (Dayton) Whose sense of ourselves do we trust, our own or another’s? If however, what the mirror reflects is sensitive and aligned with our inner reality we begin to feel understood and begin to see how others perceive us. There is a sense of congruency.
A more advanced developmental stage is stepping into another’s shoes, also called role reversal. This is when one temporarily leaves the self to experience the position of the other and then comes back to themselves with often a new perspective. Co-dependents
seem to be in another’s body more than their own. They quickly role reverse and sacrifice themselves for another’s needs.
Add to the mix Neurobiology and Bowlby’s Attachment Theory. Studies in neurobiology indicate how critical the early environment is in laying down the neural wiring that becomes part of our emotional regulation throughout our lives. However there is hope in later life to change one’s response to a feeling of disconnection.
Attachment theory comes into play in understanding our connections to others. Tenets of attachment theory according to ( Johnson 2004) are:
1. Attachment is an innate motivating force. Dependency, seeking and maintaining contact with significant others, fear of isolation and loss is found is cross cultural and found in every human heart. It is not pathological. 2. Secure dependency complements autonomy. Complete independence or overdependence is a fallacy. There is only effective or ineffective dependency. “The more securely connected we are, the more separate and different we can be.” 3. Attachment offers an essential safe haven. The presence of a positive attachment figure soothes the nervous system, whereas inaccessibility creates distress. 4. Attachment offers a secure base. When one feels like they have a secure base, one can explore their universe, and be open to new situations and new things, and be a more of a support to others. 5. Emotional accessibility and responsiveness build bonds. Secure bonds are built when there is emotional engagement, and a feeling that it will be there if needed. Even anger is better than no response. 6. Fear and uncertainty activate attachment needs. When one is threatened in any way by life itself, a primary sense of emotional regulation is a sense of connection. 7. The process of separation distress is predictable. Depression is a natural response to loss of connection. 8. A finite number of insecure forms of engagement can be identified. When there is unresponsiveness of an attachment figure, attachment responses are forms of either anxiety or avoidance. Typical behaviors of the former are anxious clinging, pursuit, even aggressive attempts to control another. Examples of the latter are avoiding emotional engagement by becoming very busy, even obsessing about tasks to be done. Avoidance can be seen as an attempt to contain the interaction and regulate fears. 9. Attachment involves working models of self and other. Those with secure attachment believe they are worthy of love and care. They see others as dependable. The opposite is true for those insecurely attached. 10. Isolation and loss are inherently traumatizing. Attachment is a theory of trauma. The traumatic stressors of deprivation, loss, rejection and abandonment have a great influence on personality development and ability to deal with stress. When distress is due to isolation and loss, the response is often fight, flight or freeze.
Now think of those dealing with addiction. Addiction may be an attempt to find a connection with or satisfaction with something that feels soothing. When one finally puts down their drug of choice, there is a breach of the connection. A new connection must be formed. The Twelve Step Program, meetings, a sponsor, the fellowship etc., may become the emotional regulation for the addict. This may be the beginning of a secure attachment. With this secure attachment changes can be made. As in child development, the first year in the Program seems most important. So the primary relationship for the addict at that time needs to be a healthy model of living that offered by the Program and is always there and available.
Estelle Fineberg LCSW, LMFT, LMT, BCD, TEP 105 NE 4th St Ft Lauderdale, Florida 33301 954-766-9964 www.estellefineberg.com