I have been reading about attachment–not Bowlby’s, but Crittenden’s. It is more detailed and more resonant than what I have read before.
Crittenden does not cluster attachment into 3 styles for adults, but instead places them along a continuum of relationship strategies acquired throughout one’s younger years. She calls these A and C, with B falling in the middle. A strategies diminish one’s feelings of being in danger by distancing the sense of danger from oneself or controlling what causes the danger. C strategies use coercion or manipulation to force others to respond or provide support. People who use C strategies have more obvious dysfunction and are more likely to seek help: they land in therapist’s offices more commonly. A strategies deny one’s felt experience and rely on cognition more. C strategies rely on feelings to dictate responses–cognition is experienced as unreliable. Some people use both A and C strategies. In childhood “disorganized” attachment, the child attempts to use A strategies but is unable to do so: the instinct to seek help and comfort is too strong.
I have now some theories about myself. I use mostly A strategies. I cope by diminishing my sense of danger so that my ability to reason does not become overwhelmed. Over the years, I have added to these strategies and expanded them so that I now have quite a range of them. Therapy has encouraged me to do this, maybe because therapists are accustomed to treating the other end of the spectrum or maybe because using more profoundly dysfunctional relationship strategies diminished the episodes of being overwhelmed. Or maybe I just kept using the same ones.
Crittenden’s strategies are numbered from 1 to 8, with 1 and 2 allowing for quite normal and successful relationships and 7 and 8 leading towards total dysfunction. I can see I use A5 and A6 quite regularly and have for a long time. I may have moved into A4 as a step forward.
I feel I fall back on C strategies at times, but I cannot identify with the person who does this because I have learned so deeply not to have feelings.
I am working at healing this divide, but I am actually not sure how. I have worked out that the sink is involved with some kind of trauma. I go to the sink and feel worthless and ashamed. A strategies would tell me to ignore those feelings and carry on with my work–they are from the past and are no longer helpful. I am trying to remain with those feelings while I work in case that does something.
I think as a child I could not accurately identify sources of danger, because the dangers were themselves my only hope. I couldn’t know my mother drowned me under the tap. Instead, I became afraid of sinks.