Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Bowen Center works to improve relationships

Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015

Michael Wright, LMHC, Huntington Bowen Center

Bowen Center clinicians are given the privilege daily to help individuals improve their relationships. Relationships are related to the individual’s attachment style.  There are four primary attachment styles:

Secure / Autonomous: Strong early bond between caregiver and infant. Child feels safe to explore. Later childhood usually shows signs of normal social, cognitive and emotional development. As adults they are able to demonstrate a healthy balance of attachment and autonomy in most social and romantic relationships.

Resistant / Ambivalent: Mother and child are unable to form a secure bond early on. The caregiver may be incapable of responding appropriately to the child’s attachment cues, may be unequipped to meet the child’s emotional and physical needs, or may be unreliable caregiver. As an adult, social and romantic relationships are strained. The person may be able to express their emotional needs openly, but in an inappropriate manner. They may be overly clingy, needy and even show signs of obsessive love.

Avoidant: Mother and child seem almost incapable of bonding early on. This may be because the mother’s own history of attachment, or because the child falls into a category of “hard to love” because of colic or something similar.  The mother may be unavailable emotionally to meet the infant’s needs. As adults with avoidant history, they will tend to shut out any external emotional connections.  In romantic relationships they may be defensive and fear intimacy.  They will often dismiss the importance of their relationships and become compulsively self-reliant.  Generally, with their own children these parents have very little success developing secure attachments and the cycle continues.

Disorganized/Disoriented: The majority of cases come from families which situations of drug abuse by parents, or abuse or neglect occur. This pattern of attachment displays many of the same features as resistant and avoidant styles, but is characterized by the child’s inability to develop a strategy for regulating negative emotions. Many times the result is severe behavioral disorder, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or Mood Disorder, such as Bipolar Disorder. This adult will display very little ability to develop healthy, happy relationships.  The person may recognize that they need a relationship, but doubt their own self-worth and fear intimacy profoundly. They lack the ability to meet attachment needs for any social or romantic relationship.  Again, this pattern of attachment results in behaviors being passed on to the future generations.

With various combinations or alone there are methods to increase the attachment bond and thus help the individual, couple or family relate to one another in a more meaningful manner and get their primary needs met in a more healthy and fulfilling manner. A few of the ways are to:

Pay close attention to body language (if they are struggling in some way, tears for example and telling you they are all right you may want to ask “is there anything you need from me right now.” Leave notes letting them know you are thinking of them, you love them, you need to talk, or just because (those are the best). Ask for and give hugs (get permission first). Listen closely and make sure you know what they are asking or saying before you give your thoughts (think of others first). If the baby is crying it is probably for a reason.  Make sure all their needs are met (food, change dirty diaper, comfortable, etc.). Tell them you care and they are important to you. Tell them 3 positives for every one negative. Ask for help if you are struggling.  It takes more courage to ask for help and admit you do not know it all than it does to try and keep it all inside. Let them know what you feel and think about the relationship and any specific issue you struggle with (take a risk and be vulnerable). Never, ever stop trying to be a better person, partner, friend or parent.