Attachment Theory and Proximity Maintenance: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D.

As my wife and I have traveled together to heal her dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder, in reflection our methodology bore striking conformity to the tenets of attachment theory. And as I continue to study this theory of human development, experts say that the primary goal of infants in forming attachments is to meet their needs for security and protection. Hmmm. And yet what was the thing that most d.i.d. sufferers lacked: security and protection.

Attachment theory maintains that a child’s need for security is primarily met thru the proximity of it primary attachment caregiver. In other words the child feels safe if it knows momma is close by. As the child matures, its feelings of security provided by its caregiver is what enables it to begin exploring its own world. When its security feels threatened, it rushes back to the safety it finds in the presence of its attachment figure until the threat has passed. Then exploration is renewed.

When the girls first came outside, their overwhelming need was for me to be close to them. They did not want to leave my presence. And the phrase that I could be heard saying to them repeatedly was, “It’s ok now. You’re not alone anymore. I’m here, and I will take care of you.” I’ve spent 5 years doing this with each of the girls as she entered my life. I’m still doing it with Tina as I help her thru the initial phase of becoming attached to me.

And as I’ve hammered this message into each and every one of the little girls, I’ve watched their desire to explore and conquer the world revive. In fact, just last weekend I was taking the girls to shop at Hobby Lobby, and Karen expressed her frustration that the girls will not stick with one crafting technique. She likes the security of being good at something and staying with it. But in response I told Tina, “You girls like to learn new things, don’t you?” Tina voiced her confirmation. The little girls have finally found their safety in my proximity, and so they are unleashing the pent up need to explore and learn new things that was taken from them during their initial childhood.

I clearly remember the day when the littlest girl, Sophia, exclaimed to me, “You make me safe! You make me safe!” And it is that safety that has allowed each of the girls to exhibit the traits of a securely-attached child as they leave behind their trauma paradigm.

I have to wonder if one reason that so many people struggle as they try to heal d.i.d. is that we’ve forgotten the desperate need a child has for “proximity” with its attachment caregiver. The traumatized child did not experience the security that every child needs to develop in healthy ways. And when d.i.d. occurs, those traumatize parts are frozen inside with the need for proximity and safety still desperately seeking satisfaction. I’ve read trauma experts who have expressed the sentiment that it’s too late to ever meet that original need for proximity and security. But thru the little girls who were “frozen in time” inside my wife, the truth was just the opposite. I’ve spent many, many days and nights during the last 5 years simply sitting with my girls, wrapping them up in my arms while I tell them repeatedly, “You’re safe now. You’re not alone anymore. I will protect you.” In fact for the last year Tina has demanded that I not get out of bed in the morning before she does. She simply wants the security of knowing that I’m there with her when she awakens, and for the most part I have submitted to that need.

I’ve always privately believed that experiencing trauma was not the greatest tragedy in my girls’ life. As the saying goes, “Sh!t happens” to all of us. But the loneliness and isolation in the midst of the trauma is what was unbearable for my girls. And so I instinctively made the end of isolation and loneliness the main thrust I have always pushed with each girl. YOU ARE NOT ALONE ANYMORE. And that’s what attachment theory would support.

And it’s worked. I’m so proud of my girls now as I watch them spread their wings and fly. They still seek my presence and help as they initially tackle new interests. But with each success or failure, they learn and grow and become more mature and less afraid of the unknown. My willingness to meet their needs for proximity, and thus safety, has transformed them into securely-attached girls. And that surely is good news for the woman that I love.


Sam, I Am (note Kathy’s support of attachment dynamics)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Attachment Theory and “The Risk of Rescuing”?.: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D | Loving My DID Girl(s)

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