It seems counterintuitive, but often, with trauma survivors, we don’t have secure attachments to work with. So what do we do? We find other sources, including within ourselves.
My latest flare-up
I recently had a significant flare-up in my favourite place on earth – holidays in Okanagan, BC. What is usually paradise for me became hell. It took about six weeks to get out of it.
Triggered when an unsafe person joined me a week into the trip, I felt an overnight spiral into disorganized attachment
This attachment issue is my life. I was born and raised in it, married, and made friends with it. I went to school with teachers who had it. And, of course, the Roman Catholic Church was designed with it, which is my family’s religion.
In paradise, I was left with the company I did not want, an Airbnb host that wasn’t who she said she was, and no other support systems like my therapists or friends. Even my online practitioners were out of touch to help me. So I did the one thing, after weeks of fighting myself, because I didn’t want to be a failure at managing myself, to help me re-stabilize. I came home early.
Our surrounding is key
That was the turning point of recovery. I needed somewhere I felt comfortable to be in.
It becomes the “other” we need to co-regulate to restore our nervous systems to homeostasis.
People with disorganized attachment crave safety and stability because, at their core, they don’t have any. It’s like the big bang inside the body until we find something, someone we can lean on and let go of hyper-vigilance to survive.
Creating a secure environment is the most significant way to do this without relying on people. I’ve spent years making my home as comfortable and safe as possible. My bedroom has my best bed and many blanket options based on my needs. I can make it dark, light, quiet, noisy, or anything else my senses need to feel grounded at any given time. I have a lock on my door, and sometimes I use it. Other times, it’s kept open, and my cats visit me at night. I have a massive couch in the living room that is comfy enough to nap. It’s an option for when I can’t be in my bed. I have another couch in another room. I have different places in my garden and nearby parks where I can sit and be with Mother Nature. I walk a lot in these areas.
My dresser is filled with numerous resources when I need extra help – herbs, homeopathy, tea, a weighted blanket, teddy bears, and comfort food. There is a tv in my room. I stopped caring what the “experts” say about sleeping habits. I like the tv on when I’m feeling alone and want some white noise in the background to help me sleep. My living room has a massive shag rug I lie on whenever I need to touch the ground but want a soft place to land.
I could go on and on about my choices, but the key is that I made my environment full of MY choices.
Lack of autonomy is massive in people with disorganized attachments. Healing means bringing back our ability to choose and decide what to do with our environment is essential to feel welcome.
If we feel welcome in our homes, we learn to feel welcome in our bodies.
Instead of our mirror neurons using another person to learn how to regulate, we can use our surroundings.
Making your places welcoming
Sit in your favourite place in your home and in nature and ask yourself the following.
- Why do I like it here?
- What sensations am I feeling?
- What pleases me about this place?
Build on that internal feeling. Attune to it and let it grow into other areas of your body. Use your senses to bring your favourite objects into your body. Walk around and touch what makes you feel good. Spend time looking at things that make you smile. Light a scented candle of your favourite smell. Put on music that grounds you, or listen to the birds if that makes you feel at peace.
The idea is to rewire your neurons for internal stability rather than chaos to build on what makes you feel safe and secure.
Find projects to make your places feel like sanctuaries.
It can be anywhere you know is stable enough for you to return to over and over again.
During my holidays, I was in the lake often. It was my home away from home, and I felt much better when there. The lake is constant. It was always there, and I knew how to find it. But it was different from the location I usually go to because I was in another Airbnb this time. The house was different too. That threw me off. The year before, I was in my favourite place in the Okanagan. I was somewhere different this time, and my disorganized attachment felt it. Even though logically, I was safe as there was nothing wrong with the place, the lake was more noisy, the couches were uncomfortable, and the lighting was dark. The prior year was the opposite.
For our deeply sensitive nervous systems, all it takes is to be a bit off for triggers to arise. And that’s ok. Let’s not shame ourselves for not adapting and instead create our world to help us adapt.
I will have to think about how to make my paradise safe for me again. I still want to holiday there, but I now know there are qualities of care I will need for myself once I am there. And I must remind myself that I can always return home when required. That I still have my comfort zone ready and waiting for me. I can rely on that.
Building internal security
There is a book by Clarrissa Pinkola Estes that I want to share with you. It is been helpful in building my internal secure attachment.
Healing for the “Unmothered Child” – excerpt from:
The pain of abandonment, both real and metaphorical, can cast a shadow over our entire adult experience. Warming the Stone Child investigates the abandoned child archetype in world myths and cultures to find clues about the process of healing the unmothered child within us all. Along the way, this gifted storyteller and Jungian psychoanalyst instructs us about the psychology of abandonment in childhood, how it affects us in later life, and its curiously special gifts and powers. Join her as she
The Inuit fable of the Stone Child
• Symptoms of the adult “abandoned child”
• The story of the Little Red Cap
• The English tale of the Stolen Woman Moon
• The four types of abandonment
• Re-creating the inner mother, and much more.
Drawing from many world cultures, Dr. Estés has gathered a collection of deep myths, fables, and fairy tales with the adult listener in mind. Her storytelling creates a compelling picture of the orphan figure through the ages, while helping us understand the meaning of preadolescent abandonment in our own lives. Spiced with wonderful storytelling, Warming The Stone Child is a unique listening experience with a practical edge.
Recreating my inner mother
A long journey that is still in the making but has the most impact – creating my inner mother to do what my own could not to bring peace, settlement, and safety. I lost her on holiday, but I did come home, so perhaps she was the guiding messenger who told me to do that.
A secure mother is supposed to be your roots where you can feel strong and secure within yourself because you have her to rely on when life is too much to handle. Her resilience and support mirror back to your nervous system. Our first seven years of life are simply mirrors of our caregivers. We cannot self-regulate at this age. We grow with dysfunctional bodies if we do not have a good enough model to be stable.
Creating a stable internal mother is neuroplasticity, rewiring ourselves towards what we lacked when we were younger. I often call trauma survivors mothers of alchemy. We take the desirable qualities good mothers have for their children and turn them inwards to ourselves, where we alchemize our dark parts into light, whole beings.
We are mothers for our inner children.
The book above is an excellent resource for building your inner mother. Clarissa Pinkola Estes is an essential teacher in healing trauma as she understands the energetic essence and generational history of harm done to a child, particularly women. I highly recommend her books.
Personal Support Program
Returning to Self
Journal of Practices