I am coming back to a place that feels somewhat more normal. Not entirely, but somewhat.
Yesterday, I learned something interesting. I learned some other interesting things today. One of the interesting things I came across was that children with disorganized attachment have a primary attachment style that corresponds to Bowlby’s. (Crittenden does not recognize disorganized attachment–instead arguing that disorganized attachment is the use of alternating strategies.) Disorganized behaviours may be seen only briefly, and outside of those moments the child uses organized and coherent attachment strategies. This makes sense to me, as The Girl seems frequently disorganized, but is the rest of the time anxious and preoccupied. C seems dismissive most of the time and has intrusions of great anxiety, but is only sometimes disorganized. The Boy is avoidant and only occasionally disorganized.
So I was watching a YouTube video on dismissive attachment and it mentioned that the problem with dismissive attachment is that social learning is impaired, because the dismissive person does not pay attention during stressful moments: they are trying to mentally escape them in order to cope. Later, it becomes impossible to take anything from that situation for use in other, similar stressful situations, because there isn’t enough data.
This really hit home for me. I miss out on a lot of things in life because I am avoiding reminders of pain, but it also felt explanatory in terms of repeating patterns. You cannot modify your behaviour with much subtlety if you aren’t gathering information about what works and what doesn’t in a robust way. The temptation, I suppose, is just to tackle those painful situations head-on instead of avoiding them, but this doesn’t actually lead to resolution.
The other thing I have been reflecting on is how some parents actually do express a lot of anger at their babies and young children. C’s uncle is very close to his youngest child who is around 2 or 3, I think. The child wants to be with him all the time, but hurts him. The uncle is unable to see that he also hurts the child–that he sometimes plays too rough, that instead of attempting to set boundaries around displaying aggression (“When you bite daddy, it hurts,””No hitting. Daddy doesn’t like when you hit him.”), he hides his revenge in painful play. They both feel affection and anger toward each other, and some of it comes from a lack of finesse–just not seeing that the play has become overstimulating and it’s time to be quieter and gentler. Some of it is more intentional, but stemming from this history of hurting the baby.
I don’t think I have ever seen this kind of painful interaction with a young child before. I imagined abuse to look like whaling on your kid.
These are the behaviours in a parent that have been linked to disorganization in babies.
As described by Lyons-Ruth and Jacobvitz
(2008), these behaviors include: “(a) negative-intrusive behavior
(e.g., mocking or teasing the infant); (b) role confusion (e.g.,
seeking reassurance from the infant); (c) withdrawal (e.g., silent
interaction with the infant); (d) affective communication errors
(e.g., eliciting approach from the infant, then withdrawing from
him or her); and (e) disorientation (e.g., unusual changes in intonation
when interacting with the infant).”
The other thing I read (in the same article) that was interesting to me was that disorganized children have been subdivided into three types: two of them controlling, and one of them not controlling.
strategies can involve one of two controlling types: (a)
punitive, where the child is hostile to the parent and seeks to
punish, challenge, or humiliate him or her; and (b) caregiving,
where the child takes on the role of the parent and engages in
soothing behaviors or takes charge of interactions, even to the
extent of subjugating his or her own desires.
The third type is not considered controlling and displays these characteristics:
manifestations of fear in the presence of
the parent, lack of consistent strategy for interacting with the
parent, confused behavior after conflict with the parent, behavior
that invades parental intimacy, difficulties in addressing the parent,
a negative self with possible self-injuring behaviors, markers for
dissociation, and preferences for strangers over attachment figures.
(Crittenden considers compulsive care-giving a dismissive strategy.)
I have other thoughts about this, but they are still not very coherent.