I want you to watch this video. No need to listen to the music if you don’t like it. Watch the images.

This is disorganized attachment—in my opinion. This is what it feels like.


It is a series of disconnected images because shutting down emotions a lot of the time affects your experience of events and the way memories of those events are formed so that a lot of life is a blur, and these other moments when your feelings break through are experienced as moments of vivid, vibrant life. Whether they are pleasant or unpleasant experiences, you feel more alive in them, because they are encoded in a way that feels real.

So they don’t make a lot of sense, because they are experienced in isolation, partly due to these long gaps in between, when emotions aren’t part of the landscape, but maybe also because you have no way to understand them. There isn’t a way to explain them—no story that binds them together, because your story has been silenced, and the stories on offer collapse in their explanatory power in important ways.

Look at the beginning—there are colours. A red coat, bright flowers. Fingers touch. This person is feeling the aliveness of connection. And there is a rush forward, but what you see juxtaposed with that is an expectation of hopelessness. This has never worked before. It’s not going to work this time. There is a simultaneous feeling of despair—drowning in a bowl of water is emblematic of that.

The other thing you see is a kind of frozen-ness, a blankness. This isn’t really about a new love. This is about a baby, entirely helpless, feeling so completely without stimulation that the baby feels dead inside. It’s almost like cryogenic suspension. The mother comes, and the baby is lifted out of this state of internal blankness—because babies basically can’t manage their level of internal stimulation. It’s a baby so bored, essentially, she has a feeling almost of death. Mom comes and she feels alive. Mom leaves and she feels dead again. Normal babies don’t feel this, because mom comes before the feeling of being dead sets in, and because there is no confidence that the feeling of aliveness will ever come again.

So you see the new boyfriend come along, and the woman seems to come out of a dissociative fugue. There is a moment of life, as the woman receives attention and warmth and a feeling of life. Just like mom once came along and brought the baby to life for brief moments.

And then suddenly the rejection and the abandonment—you can see the shock very clearly in one of the women’s faces. Then there is this abrupt need to retreat and to hide—physically, the women go into a cupboard. C went into the kitchen when she was rejected, and it’s the feeling embodied within these images. I am not allowed, I cannot be, and I need to hide. It feels terrible to hide, to retreat—to stop wailing and protesting against my loss—but I don’t feel I have other options.

There is some disorganization after that—reaching, hiding, reaching, protest and anger, and within it one woman literally lies on her back, just as the infant was compelled to do when her mother did not come.

That happens to me in times of great sadness. I feel compelled to lie down. Because that’s all infants can do. That’s what I did. It is a physical flashback of mom never coming.

And then there is a return to despair: the women lie in chalk hearts, like chalk outlines of dead bodies, because having no stimulation to an infant feels like death. There is a lot of reference to suicidality in the video, because the feelings cannot be expressed through words. What you see instead are feelings the child is trying to communicate through behaviour: this feels like death. I am showing you with references to death that I feel dead inside.

This is what a love affair feels like to an adult with early neglect or abuse: it raises these intense, implicit memories of babyhood that you have no way of understanding.