The impact of attachment styles on relationships

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The first years of life are vital for one’s physical and emotional development. In order for a child to grow into a healthy and happy adult, emotional nurture is as important as the food they are given. The main care giver is responsible for the emotional nurturing of the child and, based on one’s relationship with their main care giver, people develop different types of attachment. Secure attachment and insecure attachment (anxious avoidant and anxious ambivalent) are the main types. While a securely attached child will develop into an adult who can enter, enjoy and sustain healthy relationships, insecurely attached children will grow into anxious adults who will struggle to enter and to keep happy relationships.

Here’s how the attachment style impacts us and the relationship we develop as adults:

Secure attachment

As a child, they tend to explore the environment independently and they see the parents as a secure base they can always return to. As adults, they are able to develop secure connections with their romantic partners and experience more satisfaction than the insecurely attached people. They will often be happier, offering the other partner the freedom they need and taking that for themselves. They will be able to ask for help from their partner when in difficulty and offer support to others when asked. The relationships they have tend to be equal, mature and honest. There is a general degree of independence that both partners enjoy without fearing dishonesty or abandonment. Finally, there is no need for control or for compensatory fantasies. None of the partners has to comply with the other partner’s expectation in order to feel loved and wanted. The partners are themselves and love each other for who they are, not for the needs their presence might satisfy in the other.

Insecure avoidant attachment

Due to a physically or psychologically absent care giver, who didn’t respond properly to a child’s needs or who repeatedly ignored his/her cries, the child developed an insecure avoidant attachment style. That means that, as adults, they will refuse to entertain strong feelings for anyone because they might be hurt again. They have trust issues and a fear of commitment. They are the people who will have many short-term relationships, who have a cynical attitude towards love and who will leave the relationship as soon as it starts to look serious. They are unresponsive to their partner’s needs and they often prefer to break the relationship rather than be there for their other half. It feels like a huge emotional pressure to give or receive love because, deep down, they are still the children who had been hurt when they needed love and responsiveness the most.

Insecure ambivalent attachment

While their parents were relatively present during a child’s first years, they showed no consistency in responding to the child’s needs. The child grew into a confused adult who needs to scream for attention and feels like they never get all the love they need. They are the people who enter often rocky relationships where they ask for permanent reassurance, worry a lot about being left and would do anything to keep their partner. Their fear of abandonment can sometimes make them prisoners of unhealthy relationships, where they might tolerate abusive behaviours just because, in their opinion, having someone who is not suitable for them is better than being lonely.
They can’t see the other person for who they are and often their partner’s image is pure fantasy. Behind this confused state of mind there is an angry and scared child who hasn’t been cared for properly, who keeps trying to repair the damage the care giver did by not seeing him/her, not listening to him/her and, most importantly, not loving him/her for what he/she was.

While there is no such thing as a pure attachment style, most adults tend to adopt one of these types. Relationships are the playground where people can grow, develop and bloom, and the attachment style we have can make that process pleasant, difficult or even impossible. If you or someone you know is having a rocky relationship and always ends up with ‘the wrong person’, it might be because of their attachment style. Individual therapy, as well as couple or family therapy, can help people identify their attachment style and support them in healing the inner child who has been mistreated. Nurturing your inner child means giving yourself the chance to a happier relationship, a more meaningful life and a better model for your children, if you have or decide to have them. A better tomorrow for yourself and your loved ones can start today, so feel free to get in touch if you need any support.

The Power of Dreams in Psychotherapy

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dreamcatcher-1585820Dreams fascinated people since the dawn of human kind. Throughout history, dreams moved from being associated with all kinds of superstitions to becoming the object of complex scientific research. Psychology pays a high importance to these by-products of the psyche and one of the first to acknowledge their use in psychotherapy was Freud, the father of psychoanalysis and talk-therapy. Psychoanalysis puts the unconscious in the centre of the psychological activity and, according to Freud, dreams are the royal road to it. It is worth journeying down that road because interpreting dreams help us understand what the unconscious has to communicate and this can play a vital role in one’s recovery process.

Bringing dreams to the consulting room is encouraged by many therapists today because it still represents a safe way to understand what one’s psyche is trying to communicate. There’s still this magical aura around dreams and dreaming, but in psychotherapy people learn there isn’t anything supernatural in analyzing them… It’s all about deciphering the message: associating dream contents with life events, emotions and personal experiences while trying to make as much sense as possible of it all.

Questions like “Why did this dream contents appear now?”, “Why this specific form of expression?”, “What do they represent for the client?” are often used to decrypt the message. Some psychotherapists, like the Jungian ones, go even further from the manifest content of the dream. They look for deeper meaning of what they call the “latent” content of the dream and, in order to find it, they encourage the client to associate parts of the dream with symbols and figures from mythology or folklore. This way, the client has the opportunity to realise that their psyche is a fascinating mirror of a universe where all is connected, not a simple recycling machine that makes you dream of cherry pies because you watched a cooking show before going to bed.

Finally, dreams brought into psychotherapy can give a great indication on the progression of the healing process. Here are two short examples to provide a picture of how it really works:

Dream one: A woman has a recurrent dream where she is trying to lock doors. She is afraid that something will come in. However, she cannot get all the doors locked…

Although this dream is the carrier of a high amount of anxiety, it turns out that it has a positive meaning. In dream analysis, the dreamer is the one who knows the best what the dream is telling them, while the therapist’s role is rather to provide a containing environment where they feel comfortable to make associations and find meanings. This client realises that, as her psychotherapy progresses, she starts downing defences and allowing what is coming up in therapy. She slowly moves from feeling stuck and locked up to talking about her childhood trauma. Of course, it is not the dream on its own that helped her reveal her problem, but the entire therapeutic context. In this scenario, the dream is the sign that the client is ready to start the big journey.

Dream two: A woman has not spoken to her sister in a few years, but she mentions in therapy that she has been thinking that she should perhaps reach out and call her relative. She dreams she is at the swimming pool where she and her sister used to go to when they were children. She stresses that it is a beautiful place and the old rock pool is just as she remembers it. She recalls having a happy feeling in her dream and deciding to go swimming.

It is quite obvious that the dream relates to the relationship with her sister. The fact that she wants to swim is a sign that she is ready to heal the past and to jump back into the relationship. She is becoming aware that it might be a risky endeavour – the pool is made of rocks – but she is also becoming aware of the fact that it is worth the risk. As mentioned before, everything that happens in a dream matters – from events, to characters, to feelings and sensations. On the other hand, everything that appears in the dream is a symbolical, coded reflection of both real life events and of of one’s inner world: in dreams, parts of us are communicating themselves and, with the right therapist, we can make sure they hear each other and work together for a better life, for a better us.

Paying attention to dreams does help us heal and grow. Are you interested in dreams and in a psychotherapeutic approach that values the power of dreaming? Give us a call at +1 847-967-0952.

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Ready to Talk? 5 Steps to Finding the Right Counselor for You

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doctor phoneOnce you’ve made the big decision to begin counseling, the next challenge is finding the right person to talk to. If you simply Google “Skokie therapists” you’ll come up with scores of names. Sifting through the results without really knowing what you’re looking for can be overwhelming. How do you narrow it down to the one person who can help your unique problems?

While finding the right counselor for you can be a complicated process, taking the first steps are easy.

Five Steps to Finding The Right Counselor

1. Ask a friend. If you feel comfortable talking about it, ask friends and family for any recommendations of counselors they have liked. If no one you know is receiving therapy or doesn’t like their counselor, seek ideas elsewhere. Try asking your physician or a leader from your spiritual community for advice. They may know of a counselor who will work well for you.

2. Check online. Looking for counselors online is convenient and very telling. When you visit a therapist’s website, you can get a feeling for who they are. Does their site seem modern and friendly? Chances are that the counselor is too. It’s also a great way to learn about the specializations and services of that therapist. If your problems are one of their specialties, you can bet that you will be receiving excellent care.

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