Attachment Theory and “The Risk of Rescuing”?.: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D

My wife and I are finishing the 7th year on our healing journey from her dissociative identity disorder. When we first began this journey, she begged me to stay away from the professional and popular literature because she and the girls liked how I was helping them: they were afraid I’d change how I was doing things if I read what others were doing. But eventually I began to read what others had to say. It was then that I understood why they hadn’t wanted me to read some of the destructive things that people suggested when helping sufferers of d.i.d. But 2 years ago I came across attachment theory literature, and this was completely different.

When I began reading attachment theory literature, I realized that somehow I had naturally followed this theory. Maybe it was hard-wired in me, and once I took care of my own issues, I was able to ‘do what comes naturally.’ I don’t know. But whatever the case, I found the scientific theoretical backing for so much of what I do to help my girls heal from d.i.d. But as I continued reading the professional literature about d.i.d. that claims to be pro-attachment theory as well, I noticed that they seemed to have compartmentalized their theoretical paradigms. Instead of making attachment theory the bedrock of their therapeutic methodology, they pick and choose parts and pieces and mish mash it with other therapeutic paradigms. More


Attachment Theory and the Internal Working Model, Part 2: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D.

About 7 years ago my wife began to deal with the fallout from her childhood abuse and parental neglect. We were fortunate that the lady she was and still is seeing nailed the dissociative identity disorder diagnosis very quickly…of course, Karen’s getting lost on the way to one of her counseling sessions raised a glaring red flag that the counsellor did not miss! Once we had the diagnosis, I began courting the insiders, and a few months later Amy and Sophia joined my life. Then Alex came out to express her hatred and disapproval of everything I was and did; but ‘love conquers all.’ Once I made amends for the past and helped defuse her anger about things in general, Alex became Alleylieu who became Alley my girlfriend. She just bought Disney’s Jack Skellington and Sally hoodie for Christmas this year that says ‘true love never dies’ to celebrate our very improved relationship. Then came Shellie and KA. Lastly Tina joined my life 3 years ago; she’s the little girl who held more trauma than the rest of them combined. Once I had helped Tina overcome her fear of me, she firmly, physically and emotionally, attached herself to me in a way that none of the others have.

I talked about Bowlby’s internal working model a few months ago here  and how it has applied to my wife’s healing. I had hoped we would finish our healing journey this year, but 3 of the girls have shown a lot of fear and resistance toward connecting with the others. So we have spent this year strengthening the existing relationships between the girls and changing their inner working model.

Many of the changes were instigated by the 2 littlest girls, Tina and Sophia. Their relationship is becoming more and more intertwined and as it does, it has strengthened them both and the group as a whole. More

Attachment Theory and the Internal Working Model: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D.

My wife/my girls and I have been traveling a road of healing from her dissociative identity disorder for the last 6 years. Last year I ran a series of blog articles on how I had unknowingly followed the tenets of attachment theory as I helped each girl in my wife’s network to heal from the past trauma and then begin the process of reconnecting with the others. Today I want to write about the internal working model everyone has according to attachment theory.

John Bowlby, founder of attachment theory stated, “Each individual builds working models of the world and of himself in it, with the aid of which he perceives events, forecasts the future, and constructs his plans. In the working models of the world that anyone builds a key feature is his notion of who his attachment figures are, where they may be found, and how they may be expected to respond. Similarly, in the working model of the self that anyone builds a key feature is his notion of how acceptable or unacceptable he himself is in the eyes of his attachment figures. (Bowlby, 1973, p.203)

For the last year or so, my girls have been in a new phase of the healing journey where every moment is no longer spent dealing with the past trauma. Now we are trying to loosen the iron straight jacket of habitual dissociation, re-establish the neural pathways between the individual girls, and move toward normal, internal communication. But at this point it seems like their brain is fighting against what I know they are mentally able to do. I know they can talk to and work with each other at a much greater level than they are actually doing.

It is so frustrating when I know the degree of interaction which they are capable of, and yet, they take the path of least resistance which means continuing to act as if they are still 7 separate individuals. Enter Sophia and Tina to the rescue: “And a little child shall lead them…” (Isa. 11:6). More

Attachment Theory and Ambivalent Caregiving: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D.

As my girls and I have traveled together these last 5 years, seeking their healing from dissociative identity disorder, I found myself unknowingly validating the tenets of attachment theory. John Bowlby began to formulate this theory of “the dynamics of long-term relationships between humans” after WWII, and it seems to have become the predominate view of our time.

Attachment theory recognizes that 4 basic attachment patterns arise in children up to age 18 months based upon the primary caregiver’s behavior. A securely attached child’s caregiver responds appropriately, promptly and consistently to the child’s needs and cries for help. An avoidant pattern arises from a caregiver who gives little or no response to the child’s needs and cries for help, discouraging crying and pushing independence. The ambivalent/resistant pattern comes from a caregiver who is inconsistent in his/her responses to the child, swinging from appropriate to neglectful. And the disorganized child often is subjected to an abusive caregiver who frightens the child or is frightened herself. (Wikipedia)

As my girls and I have traveled this road, I began this journey as an attachment figure who was inconsistent. To the little girls I was always appropriate, but I spewed a lot of anger toward Karen because of the neglect I had received as a husband for 20 years. My issues caused wild swings in me from loving to pouting to angry. As a result I caused the girls to be ambivalent, especially Alley who was trying to defend everyone.

But once I dealt with my issues and grasped the larger picture of how my actions would either speed or hinder my wife’s healing, (and thus affect my own happiness), I became a solid caregiver. And as I learned to respond appropriately, promptly, and consistently to everyone including Karen, it freed all the girls to become securely attached to me. They no longer had to guess what kind of a mood I would be in from moment to moment. And that is when their healing began in earnest. My consistent actions now gave them the freedom to focus on healing as I gave them a secure base from which to do so. More

Attachment Theory and Adult Attachment: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D.

As my wife and I have traveled together to heal her dissociative identity disorder these last 5 years, I unknowingly followed the basic tenets of attachment theory. As I assumed the role of the little girls’ primary attachment figure, they began to heal and mature. I watched as they began the paradigmatic shift from trauma victim, not to abuse survivor, but simply to normal and healthy girls. It has truly been one of the most wonderful and rewarding transformations to watch.

But as I studied attachment theory, I began to understand why my girls were doing so well; and yet I was struggling so deeply. Why did they not need anti-depressives and anti-psychotics, and yet I was seeking my uncle who is a pharmacist for herbal anti-depressants for me? Why were my girls not suicidal, but I regularly was ready to throw in the towel and call it quits? Why did I have such wild mood swings all the time? The answers are found in attachment theory.

Attachment theory makes it clear that no matter how old a person is the need for strong attachment relationships never diminishes. A healthy childhood is important, but a secure attachment base as a child does not make one impervious to the healthy need of attachment relationships as an adult. And so I began to realize that  my wife, my girls, were doing so phenomenally because I was providing them with a strong attachment relationship, yet I was deeply foundering because I had no one to meet my own attachment needs. My wife desperately needed me to help her heal, but she was in no position to meet my needs these last 5 years. Frankly she has never met my attachment needs since the day we were married because of how d.i.d. fractured Karen and the other girls.

I have really struggled to find others in my life to help meet some of my attachment needs which should have been naturally met by my wife. My first family and my in-laws for various reasons have been unable to be part of my wife’s healing. And my girls’ demand for absolute privacy made seeking out help even more difficult.  The short of it is I’ve had very few people to partially fill the void that a healthy wife would naturally fill.

I think the strength of any therapeutic methodology is based upon the weakest link. And in the case of what I have been doing to help my wife heal, the lack of attachment figures for me is the weakest link. I’ve never found anyone to replace the desperate need I have for a healthy wife. This methodology has been beyond fantastic for my girls: I’ve been told their progress is unparalleled. But the lack of a replacement, attachment figure for me while my wife heals has devastated me. More

Attachment Theory and Care Giving: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D.

For nearly 5 years I have been helping my wife, my girls, heal from dissociative identity disorder also known as multiple personality disorder. When I first began this blog I was summarily blacklisted from every d.i.d. group that I tried to join because of my unorthodox ways. And yet, my girls continued to heal rapidly, without experiencing the secondary trauma that so many do from the common therapy process itself. Then I began to read about attachment theory more deeply and found a close similarity to its tenets and my methods, and so I’d like to continue examining how this theory can better inform us when helping someone with d.i.d. heal.

One of the tenets of the modern therapeutic relationship is the “empowerment of the survivor. She must be the author and arbiter of her own recovery. Others may offer advice, support, assistance, affection, and care, but not cure. Many benevolent and well-intentioned attempts to assist the survivor founder because this fundamental principle of empowerment is not observed (p.133)”*. The author then goes on to characterize those who break this tenet as narcissistic, breaking boundaries, counterproductive and having visions of “the role of a rescuer.”

As I read this book, (and I actually do greatly appreciate it), I can understand why so many object to my methods, and yet I believe attachment theory firmly supports what I am doing, and here’s why.

Attachment theory is predicated upon the primary caregiver’s care giving. This care giving is complete and total for an infant and continues throughout childhood. As the child ages the care giving changes and diminishes slowly. As it does, the child forms a complex “internal working model of social relationships” (wiki). This internal model follows the child throughout adulthood and all of life.

Having lived with a woman whose personality was broken and fragmented by the massive trauma she sustained at the time her attachment system was forming, I believe modern psychology does not understand that its tenet of empowerment actually feels strikingly similar to the abandonment the trauma survivor felt as a child. Moreover, the complex nature of this disorder has me attending to so many discordant and often conflicting needs in my girls at the beginning of the journey, that to push “empowerment” from the start is to doom the journey to failure. A healthy attachment model is formed over years. Trauma only serves to complicate that process.

Here are some of the labyrinthine factors that preclude a blind adherence to empowerment: More

Attachment Theory and the Myth of Independence: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D.

When my wife and I began our healing journey together thru her dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder, I was informed by some that it was “her” journey, and I should stay out of it. Many people on wordpress found me intrusive, and I was suspected of being a manipulative husband, probably even abusive.

As I continue to study attachment theory today, Walant points out what I would call “the myth of independence” that is idealized in Western cultures.* “Our society’s longstanding denial of merger phenomenon throughout the life cycle has actually increased the likelihood of personality disorders and addiction, precisely because autonomy and independence have been encouraged at the expense of attachment needs.”

How many of us have watched TV show or movies in which someone was negatively described as “needy” and thus that person was judged unworthy of any kind of romantic relationship? Steele points out that “weakness, emotionality, selfishness, entitlement, lack of character, laziness, childishness, manipulation and secondary gain” have all been associated with “dependency” in our society. She also notes that many in the therapeutic community as well view any dependency as pathological

And yet, attachment theory says just the opposite. More

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