Eli Harwood is a licensed therapist, and author of the Book, Securely Attached: Transform Your Attachment Patterns into Loving, Lasting Relationships, and educator who has more than 17 years of experience helping people process relational traumas and develop secure attachment relationships with their children and partners. Eli has three children, one husband, two cats and an extraordinary number of plants.
Websites: www.attachmentnerd.com www.attachmentlabs.com
We’re here today with Eli Harwood. Eli is a licensed therapist, author of the book Securely Attached, Transform Your Attachment Patterns into Loving Lasting Relationships, an educator who has more than 17 years of experience helping people across relational traumas and develop secure attachment relationships with their children and partners. Eli has three children, one husband, two cats, and an extraordinary number of plants. We’re going to dig into the plants in a minute.
It might be hoarding, hoarding orchards or kids over there. Um, Eli, welcome to the relationship revival podcast. Thanks so much for being here. I’ve been a big fan of your Instagram and all your social media postings for a while, so I’m glad we can make this happen.
I am so honored to be here. I just absolutely love this type of a situation and dialogue where we can pick each other’s brains about all things connection.
Absolutely. And you go and your social media handles for people who don’t know you, it’s attachment nerd, correct? Right. So you’re kind of all about attachment theory. Am I is, and obviously your book as well. Like that’s where it all starts. It’s, it’s great to have you on. So I was telling you kind of in the pre-interview that I use three models. So for me, it’s the, the John Bobbly work on attachment theory, sometimes a little bit of the EFT stuff.
Absolutely. Yes, yes, yeah.
and then Gottman and Imago. But for me, attachment theory, I use it as a diagnostic tool. So this is like the pitch that I give my clients and I’m what I’m like selfishly. The reason I’ve had you on is like, I’m curious to see how you use it for the healing process. Cause what, what I tell my clients all the time is like, look, all the research, all the stuff, they’re all great at pointing out the problems, finding the solutions is always the harder part in therapy and coaching and, and any aspect. So
Uh, I’m curious to see how you do it. So the, the kind of spiel I give is like, look, attachment styles are great at, at showing you where your tendencies are, especially during conflict. And so yes.
Mm-hmm and distress tenderness and conflict. So anytime the emotions are highly activated We are likely to get information about how you Have and have you how have you formed your attachment pattern? And then what where is it at currently in this particular relationship?
Perfect. Yeah. So I think you articulated it better than I did, but I think I was, I think I kind of had this in and so I, and then I explained, and I mean, I think you’re probably at the same place where if you talk to a couple for two minutes, you can kind of tell who’s what. And so like diagnosing it like is really easy for people who are around people all day and that, but that’s kind of where it stops. And then I kind of go into my other models. So how do you use attachment theory?
Oh no, you were totally there.
to help the healing to get people to that secure attachment, which I guess is gonna be a sneak peek of what’s in your book, but I’d love to kind of dive in and hear it as a practitioner.
Yeah, oh, absolutely. So a couple of things. One of the things that gets confusing around attachment theory is that there are actually two different separate bodies of research around attachment and they don’t necessarily correlate. So we have a body of research, the oldest body and the most, in my opinion, validated and replicated body of research comes from the developmental psychology tradition.
It starts back with Bowlby, it goes through Maryanns with Mary Mayne, Harry Harlow, and then it goes down into the present day reiterations of some of those studies and some longitudinal research, the Minnesota study of risk and adaptation, which is a 30 year plus longitudinal study on attachment. That body of research is looking at patterns within relationships. So it is studying what is happening between two people. And it is mostly
studying what’s happening between a child and a caregiver. But then when Mary Mayne and her husband Eric Hesse came on the scene, University of California, Berkeley, they did the adult attachment interview. Now we started to make some links between what’s happening in adulthood, what’s happening in childhood, how long do these things stay within us and exist within us, how do they change, that type of stuff, okay. So that I would say we’re studying attachment patterns. There is another body of research that was inspired by Mary Mayne’s work.
which is the social psychology research. And that research looks more at the individual. So what is my style? What is my style of relating? And I think both bodies of research are helpful and informative and can be absolutely used to help people heal and become more secure. I lean towards the developmental research for a couple of reasons. One, I think it’s been around for longer and it’s just got better data, but two, I have known a lot of people who will…
listen to the different attachment styles and go, I think I’m all of them. I’m this with this person. I’m that with that person. And we have more than one caregiver growing up. And so you might have, for instance, growing up, I had a ambivalent resistant attachment pattern with my mom and I had an avoidant pattern with my dad. And depending on who I dated later on in my life, the flavor of what would happen in that relationship would be affected by their past.
So I, you know, folks that were also resistant ambivalent would sometimes evoke an avoidant pattern from me. Whereas if I was with someone who was more avoidant, that would make me feel more activated. So anyway, I just want to honor that when you start digging into the attachment, there’s a lot to know. And…
Yeah. So let’s, let’s back up for a second because I mean, if they’ve listened to a lot of my episodes, they’ll know like the, the main kind of buckets of attachment, but let’s quickly define it and what the, the big benchmark, so they’re secure. There’s anxious, like, how do you, how, how do you give someone the 42nd version of understanding what the heck this is?
Okay, so the 42nd version is when you’re growing up, your caregiver had a particular capacity to help you when you were in moments of tenderness and distress. So there are caregivers that are very good at that and caregivers who really have no clue what they’re doing. And that’s usually based on their attachment experiences. Or maybe it’s the particular context there and that can also happen. But a caregiver who is attuned, warm, and responsive.
So they are able to read emotional states in the child. They are relationally warm. They move towards the child. They soften in those states. And they are able to effectively soothe that child. That child develops a secure pattern. Now that secure pattern is this. I feel tender and distressed. I’m going to reach for my caregiver. I’m going to seek proximity and closeness to my caregiver. And I’m going to feel better upon reunion and contact with them.
a child who grows up with a caregiver who is unable, so entirely unable, to help soothe them in moments of distress. So that might mean that this caregiver is unable to notice the distress, or dismisses the distress, or gets so hyped up and anxious about their child’s distress that they become intrusive in that moment. So a child is sad and the parent comes in and goes, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, are you gonna die, are you gonna die, I don’t know, right? That’s an intrusive response.
that child learns to be avoided. So basically they learn, it is most effective for me to swallow and internalize my needs, to ignore them as much as I can. And so when I am in distress and tenderness, I avoid showing what’s happening inside my body. I still have the distress and tenderness, I just don’t externalize it, and I don’t actively signal to my caregiver that I’m experiencing it, and I distract myself.
I do whatever I can in order to move away from a feeling state or away from communicating a feeling state. The third category is what we would call an anxious ambivalent resistant. Also the amount of words and names. I’m like people, we all needed to pick a lane. It’s very confusing, but
Yeah, I use my own kind of nomenclature because I have also found that it was just too much of a mouthful.
Yes, I like to use the word resistant actually, because I think this describes where the insecurity plays out in this pattern the most. So this is a child whose caregivers are intermittently effective. So sometimes they are able to notice and soothe, but sometimes they aren’t. I’ll tell you my experience of this, because it will help kind of highlight what that means exactly. My mother had undiagnosed bipolar too.
So when I was little and she was in a stable state, she could respond to me with a state of mind that made sense. So maybe I’m melting down because my sandwich fell on the floor. When she was stable, she could give me some empathy, she could help work with me, we could discuss it. When she was in a depressive state or a hypomanic state, I might get a very different theory of mind. Like, what the hell’s wrong with you? Why are you doing that? I can’t believe, or…
Well, I guess I’m just a bad mother. I just didn’t get you the didn’t put the sandwich in the right place at the right time. Right. So my little brain didn’t know who I was going to get and what type of response I was going to get. But because I did occasionally get soothing and helpful responses, I became hypervigilant. So this pattern is a child who learns to.
scan their caregivers, though they constantly are on the lookout for data that someone is going to leave them or check out. And they’re trying to do what they can to be the kind of person that will make that person stay with them. So they, in their mind, the connection is happening or not happening because of something they’re doing. So you’re gonna love me or not love me because of something I’m doing. It’s the same style.
How does that differ from anxious?
So that’s why I think that the language thing is a problem. So those of you who are familiar with the social psychology, this is the anxious style. In the developmental research, anxious is actually a label for both the avoidant and the resistant style, you know, because it’s, yeah. So anyway, but yeah, so this would be the anxious style.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which gets even more confusing, right? It’s so what’s so interesting about what you said is, you know, the way I, in my head, the way I kind of picture it is they’re secure at the top and then it goes, it goes down like a fork, right? To anxious versus avoidant. And then it comes down to a further point down south, like a diamond where there’s kind of disorganized or whatever you want to call it. And, and there’s so few people who are truly that.
that I that is that I tell people and this is this is what made it funny to hear that story is like it can feel like your partner’s bipolar. Right. And and it’s like here you are saying that’s exactly what my mother was and it does the oscillation between those two big swings is incredibly confusing.
Yep. Yes. Well, and okay, so let me give you those two little keywords too. So the two little keywords on this style. So let’s review the secure is reach and receive. The avoidant is avoid and distract. The resistant is reach and protest. So, and I also like to say reject sometimes because it’s like you’re swatting away. So this pattern is I’m gonna constantly look for proximity and reassurance, but I’m never actually gonna soothe.
I don’t know how to let in a reassurance from a care, from a partner or a caregiver, because I can’t trust that it’s going to stick around and it’s gonna stay.
Yeah, there’s that fear that it’s just temporary and you’re always chasing it.
Yeah, in couples therapy, this classic for me, the classic moment is like, I’ve been working with a couple, I’ve gotten a more avoidant person to finally say the thing or do the thing that the resistant person has been asking for. And then, so they say like, I really do adore you or whatever the thing is. And then the resistant person goes, well, you’re only saying that because I told you to. They know how to say, I want, I want, I want, I need, I need, I need. Whereas the avoidant person doesn’t know how to do that or even recognize the needs.
But when that offering comes in, their instinct is to bat it away as a way to keep proximity. So I, one of my other, yeah, go ahead.
I found, so I found, I found cause it’s an interesting point and I have seen that as well, but I feel like there’s a plague in today’s culture. Maybe it’s not new, but it is that feeling of because I asked, it doesn’t count. That’s, I find that everybody has that. So the avoidant partner is often in my experience, wanting an apology to get over resentment that they have.
But if they ask for the apology, it doesn’t count. And I’m like, why? Like why? Like.
Mm-hmm. See, I think that it is endemic and insecure attachment. I think that is a quality of an insecure attachment pattern because what we know. So part of what I’ve done is I’ve geeked out on secure attachment because just like you, I was like, well, we have all this information, but now what? And so I’ve been going, OK, well, then now what is we want everyone to move into security. So let’s really study security. Let’s study what that is and how we get there.
Um, but one of the qualities of a secure grownup is they do not expect other people to anticipate their needs. So a secure person feels secure about what they need and feel. And so they don’t have that middle moment of does this other person even care that I’m sad or is it even real than I’m sad? They just are like, I’m sad. Hey, I’m sad. Um, so I think that it only counts if I don’t have to tell you is about an unmet attachment need. Um, it’s, it’s.
I think that makes a lot more sense. I’m seeing that now.
longing to be read. It’s longing to be read, which is, you know, in a secure childhood attachment experience, the caregiver is attuning. You know, when my children, I have twin three and a half year olds and a nine year old. So my twin three and a half year olds. Yeah, that’s right. That’s the, that’s the reaction. Agreed. Um, but when, when they’re, Oh, I don’t know. Yeah. I mean,
gone. That’s been me. Yeah. I have four but Twins is like, I’m like, I can’t. Well, yeah, minor six, eight, 10 and 12. So we’re dealing with other issues. But twin three and a half year olds, like, if you don’t have help, you should be like going into bankruptcy hiring help. Yeah.
No, I have help. I have help. I have childcare. I don’t know what I would do. I also have Zoloft. That’s a whole other conversation. But when they are in emotional states, part of what our attachment dance is right now is me helping them to link language to body states. So they’re sad or they’re frustrated or they’re jealous. It’s me paying attention and leaning in with empathy and going, that made you feel jealous that.
Your sister got the pink one from the McDonald’s play thing and you got the yellow one, right? Um, and that mind reading of sorts that happens between a parent and caregiver is tantamount to the secure attachment process. And so when we get to adulthood and we haven’t experienced that, there’s a longing for our partners to give it to us, but it is no longer developmentally effective or appropriate because that is where we start feeling like our partners are asking us to parent them. And that’s a real, you know,
Right. It’s a buzzkill. As inappropriate as it is, there’s, it’s so useful though, to kind of use it as an analogy. I tell people all the time, I’m going to use the parent child analogy, not because you should be the dad or the mom, but because in a healthy ideal version of that relationship, that is pure, unfiltered.
Oh yes, I was going to say something more inappropriate, so I’m glad that’s what you came up with.
Right. And this is what you want. Right. So when, when like my client will say, you know, the, I want the apology, but I want to ask for it. I’m like, if you’re a five year old, you know, it doesn’t want to apologize. Are you just going to wait? No, you have to prompt them like you need to apologize. And then eventually when they’re 16, hopefully they do it on their own because they, you know, they want to drive the car.
Well, they’ve learned that, well, and they’ve learned that rhythm, right? So yes, you know, my husband, when I first got married to my husband, he was far greater in initiating repair than I was because of my resistance kind of pattern. And so I’m much more likely when I’m hurt to protest, I’m going to throw a stink. And he, even in his avoidance, there, this was a very secure characteristic of his family. So his family was very much avoidant in general, but there were areas of security. And I think that’s something I want everyone else to know as well and with your own family of origin.
Right. Right, right.
there might be areas of avoidance, areas of preoccupation, areas of security. Anyway, in his family system, initiating repair was an area that they really did well and do well. And so I experienced that from him over and over again, where we’d be in something and he’d put his hand on my knee and say like, hey, and that’s all he’d say, but it was a return to connection. And I learned that.
from him of like, wow, that feels so great and that works so well. And then I started doing that, you know, over time. And I do that with my kids and my kids do that with me and with each other because it’s a pattern that feels intuitively effective, right?
I think that it’s great to talk about the way you have it growing up. And have you noticed in your own children, different styles or different attachment types amongst the three?
Hmm. Mm-hmm. So I would say my son, I had my son, and he was an only child till he was four and a half. So we developed a very secure pattern there. And I had done so much thinking of therapy and of my own work and my own research. I was very privileged to be able to have him at a stage of my life where I was very secure and grounded, and so was my husband. My twins were born after multiple miscarriages, multiple surgeries, infertility.
A lot of other harder stuff. And so my son went through a period of time where there was a decline in security, I think because of what was happening in our lives. And then I had twins at essentially the near height of the pandemic. And my very extroverted child lost his school community and he lost his experience as an only child. Now there were two babies. One of my babies had a heart defect and was very colicky.
So I’m setting this stage. My capacity for regulating my own body and everybody else’s bodies with the introduction of two infant bodies, one that was highly colicky and all during a global pandemic where we knew nothing about what was happening declined. So the relational security in my home declined for a period of time. And so I think during that period of time, I watched my son increase in some of his ambivalence because there was some more like
Mom’s available not now because the baby or what’s happening, or she’s cranky, or she’s all of a sudden expecting me to act like a 12-year-old when I’m four because she really wishes I was 12 because having two babies is insane. But at some juncture about a year in, I recognize like, oh, I’ve lost that warmth with him in those tender moments. I’m annoyed with him when he’s tender because I’m so maxed. That’s when Zoloft came onto the scene.
That really helped me. But it did. It just kind of raised my capacity back to a place I’d been previously. But I also consciously turned that boat around with him. And so I shifted into a space with him where I was far more attentive, attuned, and warmed, and he returned to a secure pattern. Likewise, I have twins. And when you have twins, you have two babies at the same effing time. Let’s just keep talking about that.
one, the one was more colicky and the more colicky one had more medical needs. And so, um, there have been moments with my more typical twin where I think, oh yeah, you have a little bit of ambivalence with me. Like I remember picking her up one time when she was upset and her pushing away from me, which is a primary characteristic of an ambivalently attached infant is they will run to you and then they will in some way protest. So pushing away after holding on is a form of protest. And I thought, oh,
We’ve got some ambivalence here because so often I’m occupied with her sister and I can’t be there for her. And she is experiencing that. But we’ve repaired that over time. So at this juncture, all three of them, I think, have very secure patterns. But there have been moments of ambivalent or resistant patterning as a result of circumstances.
makes perfect sense.
So yeah, I do think that. I mean, you know, when you, I’m sure you do this with your own kids. It’s like when you’re doing this work, you’re like, is that it? Is this it? You’re like, we’re very aware. You know, I do step back and I’m like, what do my kids do when they’re scared? They run to us. Do they feel safe after they’re with us? Yes. And that’s generally how you want to assess, does your child feel secure with you? It’s like, what do they do?
Yeah, I mean it’s, it’s fun to watch it change too. Cause you know, the six year old runs to us, the 12 year old will go to his room and want to be alone. You know, the, you know, the eight year old will cry for us and it’s, that one’s the hardest. She also has ADHD, but she, you know, like, or no, that’s the, yeah, she’s eight. So she’ll cry. She’s overstimulated. She’s dysregulated and she, it could be the simplest thing. And then I’ll go in.
to the room or wherever and I’ll try and help but she’ll push me away violently. But if I leave the room, she’s angry. So I have to, I’ve, I’ve had to learn, like, do you want me to just sit here till you feel better? And she’ll through her tears, not her head. And I say, okay, and I’ll just sit there and eventually she’ll crawl back slowly. So,
Oh, okay, I wanna bust a myth about this though, because I think this gets really confusing. So when we’re talking about attachment and this instinct or this drive to sue, to co-regulate with a caregiver or a partner, we’re talking specifically about tenderness and distress. And tenderness and distress are not the same as frustration or as overstimulation. Those are different states. Are they still dysregulated states? Yes.
but they aren’t necessarily states that will activate our attachment system. So if you tell your child, no, you cannot have that ice cream, it’s we’re gonna eat dinner first, and they lose their mind, they’re actually not in a distressing, tender moment. They’re pissed. And they might be neurochemically flooded, but it’s not gonna activate their attachment system because they actually still feel safe.
So what gets confusing for me is the parents sometimes is I have that outlook. Like this is, this has nothing to do with our relationship. She’s just pissed. That’s essentially what you’re saying. And then I turn around to let her kind of self soothe. And then I hear you don’t love me. And I go, Oh, wait a second. Wrong here.
Right, right, right. Oaths. Well, that’s a very childlike version of now I need you. Now I do need you. I would say, I mean, what you did, when you talk about going into the room, it’s beautiful. I call it giving space, staying close. Giving space, staying close. So it’s like, I’m going to, you are a dysregulated at such a level that you’re actually disoriented. You like are pushing away. I’m here to help you, but your body is like.
not able to receive that in this very moment. You might be super tired, super hungry, overstimulated, understimulated, whatever. I’m… Yeah, or hormonal. I mean, hormones. Totally. My nine-year-old is, I mean, eight and a half. He’s almost nine. I can, I can feel the hormones. I’m like, oh, they’re starting to come. It’s starting to happen. Yes. All of that is normal. So I guess I don’t want people to kind of feel like they’re like…
I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to do it. We’re just a normal Jewish kid in a, you know, like. Right.
fine tooth combing through all of the moments in all of their relationships and going, it should look exactly like this every time. You know, it’s like, what’s the general sense of the pattern? Do we reach for each other and receive each other’s care and tenderness? Do we repair when we are off and crusty? Do we give each other the benefit of the doubt? Do we have, you know, Dr. Becky Kennedy, she’s a parenting psychologist.
coins this term that I really do love. She calls it the MGI, the most generous interpretation. Do we assume that the other person is doing the best they can? And do we stay out of a catastrophic place in our thinking around those relationships? Staying out of extremes is our inner rudder and message, like whatever we get through, we get through together. And sometimes what we’re gonna get through is my PMS or your mother.
I like that.
or you know like whatever the thing is.
So getting back to modeling success and going after, you know, who does have that secure attachment and how can we implement that into our own lives? I’d love to hear more. So I’ll give you a brief story that you triggered in my memory about, you know, something that happened when I was probably, it’s hard to nail it down. I would say probably a late teens, early twenties. So I’m also one of four and my
It was fun.
And whenever I had like a broken moment with my own mother, who was kind of the more hands-on parent, my dad was like the mythic figure father, which is, you know, great. Now, like we’ve kind of passed it, but with my mom, it was always like, you got to make sure mom’s happy. So when we pissed her off or disappointed her, that repair attempt for me was always like, what can I do to make this better? And for probably, you know, 18 to 20 years, it was like a toil. Like, okay, I got it.
make sure I get an A on the next test and then I’ll show it to her and like, and you know, whatever it is. Meanwhile, here comes my younger brother and he, and he like kind of says, how do you make up with mom? And I was like, that’s a good question. I don’t know. And I’m trying to navigate it. And I, and so I tell him all these things and he has this blank stare on his face. He’s like, I don’t do any of that. And I’m like, what do you mean? He’s like, when she’s mad at me, I usually wait a half hour and then I’ll go up to her and I’ll whisper near I’m sorry. I love you.
And the whisper always works. And I’m like, God damn it. Why didn’t you know? I was like 12 years. I was like, and you know what? It works. You know, and he always had that special relationship with her because he knew how to fix it so, so easily. And it was like, we should be sharing this with each other. Why are we not like, we’re not in the notes. Yeah.
so much less effort.
sibling Intel. Yes, totally. I think that’s so interesting. So in both scenarios, in him waiting and whispering and in you performing…
it was child led repair, which is still tantamount to an insecure pattern. Right. And it was. Right. Well, I mean, think about the amount of trauma. I mean, we do not have time to address the entire sphere of topic around this right now, but the amount of trauma is. I can’t even find a word that’s big enough. Enormous. Right. And so I like.
Yeah. Also known as Jewish mother guilt.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I don’t know, anytime someone says that something insecure is cultural, I’m thinking, well, yeah, what’s happened to that culture? What is it that has happened to that culture that makes that cultural? Right? Anyway, your different responses were a product of multiple different things. Your birth birth. I mean, I’m not a big like birth order person, like people get really into it. However, it’s a dynamic. So you know, the
my girls were born into a world where my son existed already. And so that is a different world than my son was born into, period.
Yeah. And you were in a different place. I mean, like my parents owned a business when I was born and they didn’t own a business when my brother was born. And so like, so like that, even more so than like birth order is like, what was going on with them? You know, so.
Exactly, exactly. So, and temperament. And temperament, right? We all have different instinctual ways of acting, coping, that things are motivated by and drawn to into the world. Before, I was a therapist, before I was a parent. And I’ve always been nerding out on attachment, so I was always attachment-focused. But I think before I had children, I probably would have guessed that a personality is 50%…
nature 50% nurture. After having my children, I’m like, oh no, no. Personality is nature. How a child feels about their personality is the nurture. How they feel within relationship is the nurture. But man, my kids came out and from birth, I was like, whoa, you have a temperament.
Yeah. Any parent that thinks that they can control and shape their kid’s personality probably has a pretty weird view of the world. Like that’s not quite how it works. Yeah.
Yeah. No, no, it does not work like that. They just don’t know right like that misinformed or whatever. But yes, I think that’s interesting just listening to you process the different ways you were coping with your mother’s dysregulation, right? And that the how did that I mean now I want to know. Yeah.
Or at least my perceived, you know, like at least the way I perceived it, she wasn’t that mad. I mean as a parent now I’m like she was like, you know, putting on a show but…
Sure. Right. But what, how did that play out for you in your adult relationships? Like did, did it resolve in adult context?
Fierce independence. I was probably of the four of us, the more the black sheep. So like, instead of going, initially I went into the entertainment field because I was like, that’s as far away as I can get from them. And like the idea of, still to this day, the idea that I’m standing on my own two feet, that I’m not in the family business of real estate. That like…
Mmm, it’s like really important to you.
Yeah, yeah. And when my dad got sick, he’s doing better now. But like there was a scary moment for a year there where he was getting a liver transplant and everything. Like, I remember like the only time I broke down during that whole part, that whole like year was I like he’s like, I love you. And I and I said, the only thing I ever wanted to do is make you proud. And I was like, and then I started bawling and so did he. And then he’s like, I’ve always been proud of you. And it was a really kind of moment. But then I went back to my office and I was like,
Well, I guess I figured out that relationship. And I was like, you know, and it’s like, you know, you’re seeking the approval, but in a way where they didn’t help. And so that’s kind of how it manifested in adult life. And like the, the truth is, like every time I’ve failed, I feel like a failure because I’m in, in somehow my perception of their perspective of me, and they’re laughing like you have four kids, you’re a great dad. All your kids are healthy and beautiful and smart. Like,
What the hell are you working? Like, you know, like what, why are you?
Yeah, well, you, so you substituted performance for connection because, so because they couldn’t give you the emotional attunement and connection you needed, your brain thought, well, then this is, this is the thing then. And you got kudos from your performance as a way to soothe yourself. And so now your, your job in developing more security is to recognize when you are.
soothing yourself through performance and be weary, wary of that, not weary, be wary of that, because if you don’t succeed, because we don’t succeed at all the things all the time, nobody does, nobody does. Then we start to go into a shame spiral versus, or a panic spiral versus being able to go, huh, it’s not about what I do, it’s about who I am and who I am is in relationship to people. Hmm.
No, no we don’t. Yeah.
There is a point of there is a there is a tipping point. So what’s interesting about the performative aspect of it is. People who develop that get really good at it. So like I was performing at the magic castle as a teenager and like I was like, I was really like, I like, I took it to an extreme. So now it’s like, if there’s a speech to give at a family function or something like, like get John or like if the, if people want to laugh at like at John. So like,
Sure, yes, yes.
I love it.
At a certain point, it’s like you get so good at the performative aspect that people start relying on. And you’re like, okay, that I guess that’s a part of my responsibility now.
Well, and what I would say is give yourself permission to determine whether or not it brings you joy. Because I mean, I am very similar. I was absolutely the performative kid in that same way. And I have given every single eulogy in our family. I think we’re at like four in the last like five years. Like I’m the one who gives the eulogy. Well, it was time. They’re all my grandparents. It was okay. Luckily we haven’t had tragic death in my family. But I actually…
But you like having that role. You like it. Yeah.
I was just gonna say, I love it because I process like that. Like writing a eulogy is where I sit and on my computer and I ball my eyes out, it helps me find it. And then I love to bring people into the sacred process of deep emotional processing. So I don’t mind being up at a funeral, bawling my eyes out, sniffling while I read something meaningful. But I think that there were years in my life where I felt obligated to
be the one that always had it together. And that’s a different thing. And so I have shifted, like I was thinking even with my brother recently, he’s gone through some, he started going into recovery around some rough stuff in his life. And he’s sort of entered more of a peer role with me that he didn’t used to play. And I’ve been really intentionally like calling him and asking for things from him. Whereas, you know, for years I didn’t do that cause he wasn’t capable. It is so exciting. And I like, I just…
That’s exciting. That’s a really exciting shift.
And then getting to express gratitude where I’m like, Scott, man, this was so nice. Like, thank you for taking care of me. I needed that reassurance or I needed that like wisdom or whatever. And he’s like, feels good to me too. Then I’d always be like on the end of being that, you know, helped.
Yeah, no, I think you’re right. I mean, to me, I even made that connection a while back where that was my gift. That’s the way I contribute to the world, not just to my relationships, but like I my greatest gift is bringing joy to people, whether that’s through emotional processing or being the funny one in the conversation or like taking the reins on the being the emotional backbone, but it’s much easier and natural and I get more joy doing that than
you know, figuring out someone’s taxes or something. So it’s like that. And that’s why this profession works.
Yes. Well, yeah, I was just gonna say, and hence we’re therapists, right? But I do, I do think that I’ve in my security growth over the years, I think early on as a therapist, I was trying to rescue people. And I was trying to rescue people as a part of my sense of my value. And as time has gone on, I, I’m not doing that anymore. I very much am with people, but I recognize that they have to, they have to make the decision to grab ahold of the life rafts that are being thrown at them, right? Um, and that they may not.
Right, right, right.
and I can’t control that. So I don’t know, I think there’s still an evolution for me to be had over the years of really resting in my body, in my nervous system, and knowing and believing that I am relationally connected and valued and secure, and that that’s as much true when I am bombing out on something as when I’m nailing it. Like, that doesn’t change, that’s just part of…
the fabric of human life.
I think for me that was the great gift of, of when I started practice and I’m not good at it, but, uh, but practicing meditation, like, I don’t, I don’t like this trend on YouTube and everything where it’s like, just listen to this when you go to sleep and you’ll manifest the money. I think that gets like incredibly irresponsible, but, but the idea, to me, the whole idea of meditation is you don’t need to do anything. You’re like, it’s okay to let the world go by.
And you’re enough and like it’s fun and like, and also you can’t control almost anything. So why are you trying so hard? And. Right. Yeah. It’s cute. It’s actually the first time I heard it, but that’s cute. Yeah. But I agree with you. It’s really impactful. So let’s, let’s kind of give people some sneak peeks. So, um, of the, of the book in terms of rebuilding or getting to secure.
Right, you’re a human being, not a human doing. I don’t know who coined that phrase, but it’s brilliant. Yes. Oh, isn’t that fun?
Do you have some kind of bullet point couple like quick tips? And then I have a couple of follow up questions too, like court tips. Like if you find yourself in an insecure attachment, what’s like the first thing you should do.
Okay, so and this we have research on, so just know this is data backed. Um, I, I actually divided my book into the three steps because I was like, let’s make this as digestible as possible. And it’s really great for therapists to like, if you’re a therapist, go buy a bunch of these and use them with your clients. If you’re like, how do I help my clients earn a secure pattern? These are the three steps. One, you have to take a very intentional look at what your relationships were like when you were growing up with your caregivers.
Because if we don’t ever look at it and we avoid it, it stays active as a present feeling in our bodies. So the initial step is to consider what was affection like in my family? These are some of the prompts that are in the workbook. What was affection like? Was there affectionate touch? If there was, did it feel natural or did it feel forced? Was it only given when I perform? So was it conditional affection, right?
What were the responses in my family to various emotions? Like were there forbidden emotions? Were we allowed to be sad but not mad? Or mad but not sad? Or scared but not ashamed? You know, like what were the emotions that were received and understood and nurtured and cared for? And what were the ones that weren’t? What were my sibling relationships like? And how did those affect how I felt within my family system?
Was there a sibling that was more favored or less favored? Was there a sibling that really struggled and took up all of the space? And so there was none left for me. What were the cultural implications in my family? Like what?
Yeah, these are all great. I mean, it sounds like there’s this whole, you know, plethora of things you can dive into. I don’t want to get into all of it, but I think the, like the key of being self aware. Yeah.
So yes, that’s step one. Yep, so step one is what happened to you, right? In your attachment relationships. Step two is how did you form a way of coping with those experiences that then you’ve played out now in your adult relationships? And then we want to play, then we have to process some of that, right? Because attachment is not set in stone. It’s not a genetic issue. It’s not a disorder and it shifts according to what’s happening in our lives. So I have known,
Yeah. Just telling people that is so comforting. Like when people say, am I stuck as anxious? I’m like, no, it’s not like being right-handed. Like we could switch it. Like, you know, you know, like it’s okay. Yeah.
Totally. Yes, absolutely. I always say that we all kind of tend to have like a default setting and our default setting is probably about the pattern we had with our closest caregiver. So for most of us, that’s our mother. That’s not true for everybody. For most people, that default setting will always on some level exist in your nervous system. But your pattern in response to it can get to a place where it’s, I mean, I don’t
Honestly, I actually do not feel that anymore in my nervous system. It is extremely rare. I’d say like every three years, something activates in a relationship of mine where I feel that sense of preoccupation, but mostly it doesn’t anymore. So you can get to that place where your default setting is dormant as opposed to active. Yeah, so it’s gonna be healed. So your step one, you’re looking at all that stuff. Step two, you’re thinking through your adult relationships. You may have had…
insecure beginning but had some really healing curative relationships in your life and those could be with therapists or friends or partners so you may have learned some security as you left your family of origin or vice versa you may have had a really secure family of origin experience but then you ended up in a really terribly abusive marriage and it’s like your security right and so the second section is what happened what has
What happened to me as an adult and what have I formed as my primary way of coping that?
And so you’re recognizing those patterns then at that point.
Yep, yep. And so there’s a lot of questions in this section that kind of relate to that. What has conflicts been like in your relationships? What…
Right. So you’re kind of playing detective with your own patterns and kind of saying like, oh, that’s why I do that. And then I’m, I guess the third step is, is probably fixing those patterns.
Yep, yep. So the third section is what now? Where are you headed? And I break down the qualities of a secure relator. So having a, being emotionally trustworthy is a part of security, is that you show up for people when there’s emotions and you are kind and compassionate and gentle. Being emotionally trusting is another category, is that we have to allow our partners to feel trusted by us as well, or our friends or whoever.
Anyway, so there’s, I don’t even know how many, like 12 qualities in the last section. That’s basically like, so here’s how you do it, and here’s what it looks like. And that section will also help you if you are someone who isn’t currently in a relationship to really consider what security looks like in somebody else so that you’re keeping your eyes peeled for that. And I do some discussion around the difference between conflict and abuse, because I think a lot of people get very confused about those two things, and either fear conflicts because they…
they don’t know that conflict is a healthy part of a relationship or they accept abuse because they don’t realize that abuse is an unhealthy Experience and it’s not conflict. So I break down some of that stuff in that last section. So it’s basically I mean, this is my like manual
Sounds like a heck of a handbook. Yeah. It’s like a little, it’s like the little pocket guide to like a healthy attachment.
I hope so. I sure hope so, because I worked my tukish off. I was like, this is something we all need, and I want it to be accessible. And it’s not like academic humbo jumbo, where you’re reading it and thinking, what? My hope is that everyone will take this workbook, put in some effort, do some reflecting, and leave it with more confidence in their worthiness for love and in their capability to give and receive love with the people who matter the most.
Sure, sure. And it’s available on Amazon right now. Everywhere.
It’s available on Amazon. It’s actually available everywhere. You go to Amazon. If you are an anti-Amazoner, which I know a lot of people are, then go to attachmentnerd.com slash books. And I have a link there that links to all the other retailers. It’s like Target, Amazon, Walmart, all the people. Yes. Books a million, Powell’s books. Um, yeah. So you can get it wherever you want.
Or de novo or whatever, yeah.
And I want to ask you about your courses and your kind of group things as well. But before we do that, every Jew listening to this ears burned a little bit when you said tookish. So, okay, just making sure. So I know that you work with parents and you have a course. Tell me about that and what that work looks like for you.
I mean, I definitely did it on purpose. Of course.
Yeah, so I have, there’s two options for parents. So if you’re a parent and you’re thinking, oh my gosh, I definitely don’t have a secure pattern with my partner or with my kids. I want help figuring out how to do this. One, I have a team of coaches. So you can go to attachmentlabs.com and there’s a team of coaches that you can hire to walk you through what’s going on for you, what you need, all that stuff. And two, if you go to attachmentnerd.com, I have a…
whole bunch of courses. So there are courses on how to have a secure marriage while you’re raising children or how to talk to your kids about sexual abuse and prevent sexual abuse or how to stay calm when your children are not calm, how to learn how to master co-regulation. I mean there are probably like 13, 14 courses at this point and I do live virtual classes and Q&As so you can jump on those and then there’s a village. So for those of you who are like, I have a village but my village kind of sucks.
Like there’s no one that’s actually going to help me become more authentic and more connected. I have a team of people that are in that space talking, processing, supporting each other. My coaches also kind of work within that space to give people additional support around like, what do I do? This just happened. What should I say? How should I go about it? What would be a secure response? And I’m working on my second book, which is my parenting.
But I want everyone to read book one first, because we know from the research that if you haven’t done your work on your own attachment, then applying a bunch of parenting strategies is going to be way less effective. So yeah, so that’ll be coming hopefully in September. Yeah, so that’s all the offerings, all the fun things. And of course, all the social media stuff is free.
Very cool. I’m going to. Yeah. Attachment nerd. You’re on TikTok and threads and YouTube, Facebook, Instagram. I’ll put all the links to your socials as well as the websites that, uh, Eli has mentioned, um, if in the show notes, um, I think you could probably find most of it at attachmentnerd.com if you only want to remember one thing and you’re listening to this in your car. Um, so that’ll probably kind of, you know, that all roads lead back to attachmentnerd.com.
Right, yes, check.
But you could find it everywhere. I really enjoyed our conversation. Thank you so much for being here and sharing your wisdom. And I can’t wait to read the book myself.
Me too. Me too, I’m so glad you’re here and I just love your energy and I’m so thankful that you’re in the world helping people do this healing work.
Thank you. Same to you.