Attachment Issues on the Healing Journey

In a recent issue from the PODS (Partners of Dissociative Survivors) group (http://www.pods-online.org.uk/) an article talked about attachment-based therapy being a key part of healing for one suffering from dissociative identity disorder or multiple personality disorder (multipleparts1, “The $64 billion question,” Sept. 2011). If you have never read about this area of study, here is a link to some informative articles which are easily understood by non-professionals. http://www.tag-uk.net/attachment.html

My wife had typical attachment issues as defined by the above articles. But as a husband who is intimately involved in the healing process, I take GREAT issue with the typical response of many therapists who are aware of attachment issues. PODS and others typically think a d.i.d. sufferer needs to form an “attachment relationship” with the therapist in order to facilitate healing. I strongly disagree.

Let me state for the record: I am NOT anti-therapist. But let’s face it: a therapist is a paid expert, and that is not an appropriate attachment figure. When the money dries up, the relationship is over unless the therapist is connected to some kind of charitable foundation or organization or paid by the government. Additionally, many therapists seem to have their own issues judging by the number of distraught patients I read on wordpress who were “abandoned” by overwhelmed or incompetent therapists. Moreover, I watch the blogs of distraught ladies and their insiders who are desperate for a returned phone call or email while therapists have insulated themselves from such pleas with “ethics rules” that preclude personal and emotional involvement by the therapist into the lives of their patients.

But a fully engaged, yet safe, relationship is exactly what someone with attachment issues needs. Again there’s a definite place in the healing journey for the expertise that an informed d.i.d. therapist can offer, but it is NOT in the area of helping the sufferer of d.i.d. form appropriately attached relationships. That’s our place as the supporting spouse, family member, loved one, or involved friend.

I get very, very frustrated by the situation on wordpress were d.i.d. patients have been encouraged to shun the involvement of their family and friends while baring their souls to their therapist. I don’t blame the ladies, but I blame the therapists who are overreaching their place and abilities in the healing process. Karen tells me over and over and over that my relationship with the girls is the most healing aspect of their life. Period! But that is because I have 24/7 access into every aspect of my girls’ life: at play, at work, when I have sex with Karen (we practice d.i.d. “safe sex”, ha!), at nights when we sleep, when they are sick, when we are on vacation, etc, etc. I have made every place in my girls’ life a safe one for them to heal and grow.

Sophia is the toddler of my wife’s network. She is the prime age in which children naturally form attachment relationships. Based on my interactions with her during the last 3 ½ years I believe I have undone the majority of attachment trauma she suffered from her original childhood by simply being involved, loving and safe. To watch her today, you’d never realize she was the same broken, “dirty” and dysfunctional little girl I first met.

What honest therapist thinks he/she could duplicate in one or two sessions a week, what we family members and friends can do in real life every moment of every day? Even for the patients who feel they have the ideal therapist, that person can never have the kind of relationship that the littlest insiders need to undo the damage of the past.

So what do I see as the role of the therapist as concerns attachment issue? The therapist needs to help the d.i.d. sufferer reach out to safe people in her/his life, bring those people into the healing “loop”, and teach each party their roles in forming properly attached relationships. If there are no safe people in the sufferer’s life, then ideally the therapist would have a pool of safe people to connect with the patient (like properly screened people from churches or maybe even retirement communities). I believe a therapist should be the person of “last resort” because the attachment would be foundationally based on available money, and that is not a safe foundation for ANY relationship.

This past weekend, I was watching 27 Wedding Dresses with my girls. For the first half of the movie I was snuggling my two girlfriends and wife (the little girls were there, too) while we sat in the spoons position on our couch. While I had them tightly wrapped up in my arms, Alley turned to me and said, “This (my holding her) feels so safe and romantic.” Three years ago Alley would barely let me touch her. Today I fully have her heart. She is completely and appropriately attached to me as the result of my concerted efforts to win her heart. The other 4 little girls are the same.

Attachment issues are a key place that needs healing in the life of a d.i.d sufferer, and involved, loved ones are the ones best suited to provide that healing.

Blessings,

Sam, I Am

For further reading on attachment studies visit http://thebowlbycentre.org.uk The Bowlby Centre is a leader in attachment research.

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Attachment relationships | Agraphicpro
  2. jeffssong
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 15:17:15

    50 shrinks/therapists/counselors. Only 3 would see a “male survivor of childhood abuse”. One was disqualified (friend of my father). The other . . . well, she tried to create NEW problems . . . and the last had too many problems (we ended up helping her more than she helped me – go figure!).

    A therapist, or at least a professional one, can never be “your friend” – not really, not entirely. And some of ‘us’ always suspect them for merely doing it for profit; not out of any real concern. Plus there’s the issue of “time”. You’re in a therapist’s office for an hour, maybe two – then ‘ding!’ – the alarm goes off; times up, and off you go -whether you’re ready or not; not matter how upset you’ve become. Kinda lets one know where one stands, ya know? That alarm goes ‘ding’ and it becomes more important than you or your issues.

    And you know this one: timing is everything. Not everyone is ‘out’ at the same time; not ‘everyone’ has the same issues and triggers. Only someone who knows them quite well – REALLY knows this person through and through – and loves them either despite or because of ‘themselves’ – can help them, perhaps guide them (given ‘training’) – and help them become ‘whole’ (or as whole as they are gonna be). And take it from me: a DID system in full ‘beauty’ – where everyone is ‘out’ and functioning together sorta seamlessly – is a good thing; it can be wonderful. Both for the ‘patient’ and those around them – when the system is running good.

    My best hopes for you and Karen and the girls – it sounds like you are having a wonderful time (or at least as wonderful as these times get) – and it seems to be getting only better as you begin to understand (and help ‘raise’ in so many ways) these ‘girls’ of yours – and they flower for you.

    Take care. As always, a thoughtful and insightful post.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 03, 2012 @ 19:49:21

      Hey Jeff and all,

      “attachment issues” are real, but from the articles I’ve read, they really need to be met by someone else. From what I’ve read on other blogs and in my own girls’ lives, the older insiders know that a relationship built on money is NOT a real relationship, but the littles are so desperate for the attachment figure that they never had, that they will be attracted to ANYONE regardless of the wisdom of that action. Because therapists are often the only ones who are really part of the healing process (from what I gather as I survey the blogs) the littles “attach” to the only one who knows about them. But those therapists should be PUSHING their patients to open up to other safe people in their lives so that the littles have a more appropriate attachment figure. Again I’m not anti-therapist, but it’s time for them to get over their need to be center stage in a person’s healing journey, at least for d.i.d. patients. They ought to function more as facilitators (imho) on this issue, helping the patient attach properly to those already in their lives.

      How are you and the Mrs. doing? Are you still trying to bring her more into the loop of your own journey with the others? I know you shared with her a little. Was she receptive or not?

      Sam

      Reply

  3. AlaskanSunflower
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 18:23:05

    I have always thought the same in regards to establishing a relationship with my therapist, it should only be a professional one. I’m not looking for a friend in my therapist or an emotional connection, I am only seeking strict professionalism, I strongly believe otherwise I would be susceptible to having my feelings hurt or distorted if it were not. I am paying for a therapists time and expertise in order for myself to gain the knowledge they have possessed through education and experience and in turn I myself will be better educated and learned in how to help myself in any of the myriad areas that are needing to be corrected, re-directed, soothed…etc. It has always been a goal of mine to become self-sufficient and in the process to be better efficient in establishing or maintaining interpersonal relationships on my own for my emotional needs…I really dont believe paying someone to meet my emotional needs is the right way to go about it, it would be superficial to say the least. The last thing I need in my life is an illusion that my therapist is in a position to save me from myself or would be a person that is a rescuer, I dont think they have that title in their description of their advertising or verbal/written agreements when I became a client and they as my provider of their services that I am paying them for.

    Unfortunately, I have read over the years on blogs, forums..etc. how dependant and enmeshed other survivors are with their therapists and in most instances it is the therapist themselves who have encouraged and nourished this type of relationship with their clients, it is so unethical in my eyes. I have read many times how this type of relationship becomes so complicated and distorted to the point that the focus of healing for the survivor has become abstained and the focus becomes about the dysfunction in their relationship with their therapist. I should know because I have my own experiences, my first two years in therapy I was in a very upside down position with my own therapist, she even admitted to me in the end she was having difficulties with her counter transference and it was having a major impact on my healing and her capabilities of doing her job. I ended her services and learned from the good and the bad, knowing what I wanted and expected out of a professional helped me to obtain healthier boundaries with my new therapist. In all I learned that I had my job to do and my therapist had hers and if we kept it in a professional, therapeutic manner and not a sociable one I was able to get a lot more accomplished with her help and achieve my goals.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 03, 2012 @ 19:56:59

      Hi Alaskan Sunflower,

      good for you to stop by again. I hope sometime if you get the chance you and your husband will read thru some of the articles I linked to. They might help you and him understand the dynamics of what’s going on between him and the others. They’ve added more articles since the last time I was on their website so I’m trying to work my way thru the new ones.

      Karen and the girls have a counselor doing this for free, so they have become attached to her as mutual friends, and it seems that is an honest evaluation of the relationship. But I am still the major attachment figure as only 2 of the girls actually speak to the counselor other than Karen. I’m not saying a therapist could NEVER be an attachment figure (and it should still only be as a last resort) but she/he had better understand what that means and I don’t believe most really understand that and so they leave wreckage in their wake of ignorance.

      I hope you and your husband are doing well! Tell him I said, “hey.”

      Sam

      Reply

  4. K
    Feb 07, 2012 @ 19:10:03

    Life needs more people like you.

    I think it’s amazing, what you’ve done for your girls. I agree with you here, as well. I’ve had a few therapists off and on, but what’s helped more than anything else has been finding friends who, whether they can help or not, are willing to listen to my story and be my friend despite of how many people I might be.
    ~Rage

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 08, 2012 @ 11:10:53

      Hi Rage,

      I’m glad you’ve got some real friends who can be there for you and the others. I wish my wife would trust more people with “themselves.” I think it would be very healing to have the support of more than just me, my son and their counselor. Some of my family know about the others, but the others refuse to interact with them which is too bad for all.

      Take care.

      Sam

      Reply

  5. Kathleen Sullivan
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:05:05

    Hi, Sam – since your blog was written a year ago, it may be too late to add on new info but I’ll try. I’m a survivor too, and am now a clinical therapist/social worker in the US, as well as a long-term advocate for myself and other survivors of extreme abuse. About a decade ago, I suffered greatly after I’d attached to a female therapist for over 6 years, and then had to fire her for a series of very uncool boundary violations on her end. (She later lost her license.) Because she’d encouraged me to attach to and depend mainly on her, that new trauma of losing her as my primary attachment figure was horrible and lasting. But that tragedy also helped me, when I then became a therapist in my own right, to understand how important it is to focus on encouraging my own clients – young and older and mixed – to focus on building safe attachment relationships with people in their own support networks, and to not become dependent on me to meet their attachment needs. Recently, I learned about Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) which reportedly focuses on helping adult partners to help each other to heal more fully by building healthy, reparative attachment relationships with one another. It may be worth checking into.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Mar 16, 2012 @ 22:06:12

      Hi Kathleen,

      thanks so much for stopping by. And thanks for the heads up about EFT. Here’s the link to the website if anyone else has any interest: http://www.emotionfocusedtherapy.org/

      I read a lot of literature that talks about how important the therapist-patient relationship is and it worries me a little. I think your attitude is great: pushing clients to build safe attachment relationships in the networks they already have. Plus a therapist simply can’t be there 24/7, and at least in our case, my girls need me 24/7 especially in the beginning when each one first came out.

      I’d love to have you stop by more.

      Sam

      Reply

  6. Keith
    Nov 22, 2012 @ 15:49:12

    Brilliant article. You hit the nail on the head so many times.

    Why any of the “pros” consider themselves experts is beyond me, considering the hours they dont put in.

    Years ago, I figured that if you wanted to really be able help someone in need, you would probably do better to do the exact opposite of what the “pros” do. In other words I made a decision to get emotionally involved as a starting point, a foundation for everything else.

    Everyone I support I do on a friendship basis, and I do not believe it is really ethical to help people for financial reward. We work together on a voyage of discovery, and my friend is the real expert on themselves.

    As far as the appropriateness of relationships goes, many people have disagreed with the intensity of the relationship that I have had with my friend. 24/7 is a big ask, but it is needed for a season. Ten years ago I was a full on parent, because that is what was needed at the time and now my friend has a degree, and a job and I am just the driver! Isn’t that a normal progression for most parents?

    I also think that my friends healing process is streets ahead of anyone else I have encountered with DID, and I would go as far to say that in many ways she is more healed than I am! So we 24/7ers really do have something to be proud of, we are pioneering.

    I believe that it may be possible to teach the therapy approach that I use in a simple weekend course, supported by a mentor as needed. Developing a real friendship is much more difficult. So my approach would be to develop a beginners course along the lines of “how to help your friends”.

    Therefore I view the way forward is for therapists to re-focus their efforts to give up this exclusive therapy relationship approach in order to become mentors of those already in supportive roles.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Nov 26, 2012 @ 19:54:37

      Hi Keith,

      I try VERY hard not to be negative about the experts on this blog because I do feel they have a legitimate role in the healing process; but it’s certainly not the one they’ve taken in general. I reread the ISSTD guidelines for healing last week and they made me cringe (again). It’s no wonder people aren’t experiencing deep healing when the experts are being guided by rules that would preclude so many of the exact things that someone with d.i.d. needs to have in order to be deeply healed. Some of those things would be unethical for the expert to give but not all of them.

      I’m definitely in favor of the therapists becoming more like a resource person for those of us doing it 24/7. I could have used guidance and support myself, but I’ve been shut out so I’ve had to go it alone here. But my girls are doing pretty well in spite of my naivetee.

      Sam

      Reply

  7. Trackback: The Struggles of Dissociative Identity Disorder | Katrina Wisniewski

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