Protective strategies in the absence of safe attachment!


He is standing there. He is disconnected. He is hurting. He can’t allow anyone in. There has never been anyone who has felt capable. No one to see him. They have only truly seen his pain, his hurt, his behavior. The behaviors that have been so carefully and cleverly constructed to keep his truths. To keep him safe. He needs (even yearns) for someone to see him. The real him. The person underneath the pain, the hurt, and the behavior. The tiny boy, who once began (as we all do) in need of acceptance, love, protection, nurturing, and opportunities to learn and grow.

The years have not been kind. There have been many losses, many betrayals, many mistakes, and so much judgement (by self and other) of who he appears to be now.

Perspective: This is not any particular person’s story, but it is the genuine experience of so many. Each of us is born with the need to be nurtured, loved, protected, and in need of opportunities to learn and grow. There are many reasons why safe nurturing and learning do not occur and many painful outcomes when they don’t. Many have learned to protectively cocoon that tiny self (the true self) that once began a long (or even short time) ago in what can begin to feel like a maze of survival. Many protective strategies will be crafted to survive. These strategies take many forms. Some will be pleasing to others and some will be alienating. It is important to remember all are created in reaction to pain and with the purpose of protecting.

Attachment research tells us that primary care-giver /child relationships provide important foundation for overall development, and that secure attachments serve as protective factors which may guard against the negative impact of adverse life experiences. Children learn in the early months and years of life what can be counted upon in terms of getting their needs met. Clearly and (again) cleverly constructed attachment based (survival strategies) are then systematically created and in place prior to 3 years of age. These strategies and resulting patterns will then be reinforced through many interactions and experiences creating the belief systems around self worth and trust in relationship with others.

It is these beliefs that maintain distance in relationship (from self and others) that deserve and need supportive informed relationship to make change. Supportive, informed, and corrective relationships can and do make a difference in the lives of all people, but in particular can provide safe places for those who have been hurt (and who have constructed protective cocoons) to begin to see themselves and let themselves be seen clearly. With this clarity comes acceptance and eventual change.

Safe places can come in the form of a parent, an aunt or uncle, a foster parent, a sibling, a school teacher, neighbor, friend, or counselor (and many others). Having just one protective and safe relationship ( a relationship of acceptance) aides in the repair attachment wounds and creates opportunity for trust in self and other. This in turn (eventually) provides foundation for attachment abilities to generalize.


Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. Please note, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

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