There is some other stuff connected to that last post. I watched some other videos. One of them was about toddlers regulating their behaviour to keep adults from getting angry. That made me think, what if you can’t regulate your behaviour? What if you can’t cope with your emotions well enough to modulate your behaviour? What if your behaviour is out of your control? What if you can’t figure out what will make the adults angry because everything seems to make them angry? What if there appears to be no pattern to their expectations, because they are not consistent or coherent as people? What if you have to work very hard to get your parent’s attention so that you can get some of your attachment needs met, and that means risking their anger?

I think you will feel bad then. I think you will feel, as a child and a human being, you have failed. You cannot maintain the bond with your parents. Attunement keeps breaking apart and you, as a young child, lack the ability to repair the ruptures, and you will feel you are bad. You will feel you are bad and you will also feel abandoned, because the break in attunement feels like the loss of the person. You can’t feel your attachment figure when the attunement is disrupted. Something happens in your brain that gives a felt experience of connection when the attunement is lost and you will experience a sense of loss and of absence, as though the person has physically gone away.

Some other things are on my mind also. They have to do with lacking a sense of self constancy and object constancy. When your parent cannot consistently connect to you, then you will feel that you don’t know they will still be there the next minute. Their behaviour makes them seem like different people. For a small child, it will feel that way. It will feel that there is a good mommy and there is this other person who is scary or aloof or absent. When attunement is ruptured and the rupture cannot be repaired, the parent feels like a different person.

The child in this situation must constantly verify that the good mommy is still there, because she is prone to disappearing without warning. The child doesn’t really want to know if the bad mommy is there, so maybe she doesn’t fully take in anything about your mommy. But she has this compulsion to check, because it’s so unpredictable. She has this compulsion to check and she wants connection intensely, because she needs it. It is a basic human need, and yet it’s frightening when it is not there, so she also doesn’t want to see that it isn’t there. That’s where the push/pull comes from (in part, maybe). It comes from wanting connection so badly, but having it feel catastrophically destabilizing when it is not there. It is catastrophic for a baby to not be able to connect to her parents. You are not allowed to have it, you feel afraid to see that it might not be there, and yet you feel compulsively as though you need to check.

It’s awful.


One thought on “Push/pull

  1. Rachel August 9, 2016 / 8:34 am

    It is awful to think about that baby, unable to make sense of what is happening with the lack of connection to caregiver. Everything you wrote makes sense to me, it describes my internal experience now, in therapy. The compulsion, the constant fret and worry and inability to retain that belief the person is still there. It is scary as an adult, I can only imagine for a baby how debilitating. Makes sense dissociation would form.

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