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  • Fe Robinson

The experiences we need to enable feelings of security and safety

I’ve recently been reading Daniel Brown and David Elliott’s work about attachment difficulties, which focuses on how to help adults who are having difficulties relating to repair the wounds they carry as a result of their early experiences. It’s important to know this is not about blaming others, or passing on responsibility, it’s about proactive work in the here and now that can repair and improve our inner experience of ourselves and of relationships.

I really like their description of the key components of parenting that cause feelings of security and safety in children, that lead to confident and flexible relating with others. They suggest that parents need to be accessible, reliable, consistent and interested. They also say that parents need to evoke, through their ways of being, five things in each child:

  • Feeling safe and protected

  • Feeling seen and known

  • Feeling comfort, knowing they will be soothed and reassured

  • Feeling valued for who they are, knowing the parent takes delight in them as a person

  • Feeling encouraged to explore and to be their best self, knowing support is unconditional

I like their focus on ways of being, recognising that parents may well do all the things expected, for example feeding, clothing and stimulating their child, but if they fail to attune to the individual child and create the conditions that child needs to feel safe and secure, then damage to the child’s ability to relate both then and in later years will be inevitable.

The good news is that although we none of us can go back and change our childhoods, we can build our inner experiences of these qualities of relationships imaginally now. Our brains have a great flexibility and can create and deepen new pathways and we can change the way we feel, think and act, regardless of what happened way back when.

It’s not always quick work, and it does take courage, and application, but if you want to change the way you feel and act in relationships, it is possible. For help, reach out to a psychotherapist who is well informed and experienced in working with attachment.


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