That’s why addressing early attachment wounds is often a key part of trauma therapy.
So in the video below, Frank Anderson, MD will walk us through a 3-step process to help clients let go of pain they’ve carried for years and begin to heal attachment wounds.
It’s all internal. I would say, “Hey, so Jane, what does that little girl want to share with you? What is she holding?” I don’t say, “What does she want you to know?” Because that pulls for cognitive. I say, “What thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations is she holding?” “She’s got a flutter in her stomach. She’s got a feeling of dread. She’s got a memory of being at a birthday party and being all alone with soiled underwear and nobody doing anything about it.” “What else is she holding? What else?” The part starts to say, “Somebody cares. Somebody’s interested. Somebody wants to hear my story.” There is a being with and witnessing, which is very important. What else? What else? What else? Anything else? No, she feels like finally, somebody is listening to her.
Then the second step in that process is a corrective experience. And the corrective experience is internal. Can you love her the way nobody else did? Can you give her what she needed and wanted and never got. She wants a hug. She did get what she wanted from me because I listened to her and I loved her. She wants me to show up every day and check in with her. Great. We’re wanting the second step, which is a corrective experience. The part shares, what it’s holding, feels heard, seen, and known. It gets what it didn’t get internally. And this is all happening in the mind, right? This is all happening in the imagination because we know the imagination is a powerful neuroplastic agent. We get a lot of neuroplasticity through imagination. And then the last piece, once the part inside feels seen, heard, and known, once there’s a corrective experience, then it’s able to let go of what it’s holding.
Because it says, “Oh, she gets it now. I don’t have to hold this anymore. I could release the burden.” And so then we have the part release what it’s carrying. It’s a transfer of energy. Release all the thoughts, the feelings, and the physical sensations out of their body because they no longer need to carry it anymore. They no longer need to hold this experience. It’s witnessed by the self and the self gave me what I needed and wanted and never got. And that’s where the release happens. And it really is physiologic. You’ll see people just, oh my God. She’s throwing it in the ocean. It’s floating up in the air. It’s really a physiological release and letting go of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations that the part carries as a burden because of the younger experience.
When you get to the stage of release, the way that I prompt the release is “All right, Jane, does that little girl feel loved by you? Does she feel like you see her and get her in a way that nobody else did before?” “Yes. She’s so happy. She’s feeling so much better because there’s been this corrective experience.” “All right, let’s invite her to let go of anything that no longer belongs to her. Let’s invite her now to let go of what no longer serves her, what she no longer needs to carry. Let her release the thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations that she doesn’t need to carry anymore. And she can release them in any way she wants.” I don’t prompt in a direct way. What typically happens is it gets released in some form of nature. It’s a transfer of energy and this is why I say she’s throwing it in the fire.
It’s floating up into the air. It’s going into the ocean. And whatever way it gets released is really up to the imagination of the client. I’m in the canyon and I’m throwing it in down the waterfall. Okay, fine. People do whatever naturally comes to them and it is a release that is physiological. I don’t direct them so much. Sometimes I’ll say, “What do you mean?” Say, “Well, How does she want to let this stuff go?” One person, “Oh, throwing it in the lava into the core of the earth.” Okay, fine. It typically is a release into a form of nature, but it doesn’t have to be.
For expert strategies on working with the neurobiology of attachment, check out this course featuring Bessel van der Kolk, MD; Dan Siegel, MD; Pat Ogden, PhD; Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD; and more.
Now we’d like to hear from you. Do you have clients who might benefit from this strategy? What other approaches have you found to be effective when working with attachment wounds? Let us know in the comments below.