June 9, 2017

Interview with Dr. Carista Luminare: How Childhood Attachments Affect Adult Relationships

Interview with Dr. Carista Luminare_ How Childhood Attachments Affect Adult Relationships

Mike: This is Mike Hennesy on behalf of the team at Loveevolveandthrive.com I am pleased to welcome you to today's interview with Dr. Carista Luminare. Dr. Carista Luminare is a leading counselor, coach, and relationship expert. She integrates her lifelong research on childhood attachment and our early bonding patterns with our parents profoundly affect our primary adult relationship dynamics. To learn more about Dr. Carista visit her website at www.confusedaboutlove.com.

Dr. Carista Luminare, I love the name of your website. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. Carista: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

Mike: As an expert on childhood attachment can you please explain how our early bonding patterns with our parents affect our primary adult relationship dynamics?

Dr. Carista: Sure, love to explore that.

So our deepest instinctual need for the time we're born, actually starting in the womb is to feel safe and loved.

It's a very simple basic need that actually most people don't get because the degree they need it.

Of course, there's a whole spectrum of how to describe safety and security and such which we'll explore up ahead. All infants they need to be held, seen and nurtured in the sense of I can feel secure revealing myself, putting out my needs.

And when we're cared for in this way a child can relax and feel secure in the love bond they have with their primary caregiver. Ideally, their mother and father you know, if your mother or father are the primary love source responded quickly to your needs and treated you as a priority you learn that you can depend on someone to keep you safe and nurtured.

And this was your first experience of being loved. It's what we call secure love or the research calls secure attachment.

So the latest neuroscience research it points to an astonishing fact which is that we never outgrow this basic need for a secure connection to another person.

Even as sophisticated adults in a complex world we need someone in our lives who cares for our needs as a priority. And that is something that, you know when we have this feeling of mutual, trustable love with our intimate partner we flourish and when we don't it's difficult to thrive we feel something is missing inside, this sense that we can feel safe and secure.

Particularly if our partner relates to us in some way that feels threatening and that actually creates a strong reactive cycle that's all happening in the brain which I will really share up ahead how that works.

So, in infancy when we're totally dependent on an adult to care for us, we need to feel that that person we can count on them and as we grow into adulthood we develop two important capacities.

The ability to care for ourselves and the ability to care for others needs based on how we bonded with each parent.

The first capacity allows us to become independent, how we care for ourselves and the second one allows us to grow up and is all mutually interdependent relationships with others. And so, this is the foundation for mature and sustainable intimacy in a primary relationship.

Unfortunately, as children, many of us didn't get our primal needs fulfilled by our parents.

And in response to feeling uncared for or abandoned, we formed a defense strategy to keep ourself safe and during the past 20 years neuropsychology research has identified these 4 basic bonding patterns.

As I said, commonly called attachment styles in our work we call it the love styles at confusedaboutlove.com.

We actually have a love style profile quiz. It's free for the public to discover their own love style in just 22 questions you'll get a complete description back what that is.

And why does that matter is because it will help explain why you and or your partner past, present, future partners go into these reactive cycles that make no sense and are hard to interrupt the pattern and that's because we're really leaning in somewhere in the spectrum from secure to insecure to even traumatic bonding that often can be found, the origins of those reactive cycles can be found in how we bonded with each parent.

So, what's important to realize is that your early childhood love style still operates in the background in your adult relationships, especially with the intimate partner because that's the one where we're subconsciously, consciously, needing to be seen held and you know cared for in that trustworthy way we longed for as a child.

So we can really relax and be our true selves versus when we have to defend against being rejected or abandoned. It's hard to really open up.

So when something happens to trigger us in our adult relationships and we suddenly feel hurt, angry or upset this quick reaction might be, where is it coming from, why am I lashing out or withdrawing.

And again it's early childhood conditioning the love style has grabbed control and hijacked your ability to respond productively.

So we really have found that helping people understand these 4 love styles can help them heal. Because the great news is the neuroscience has shown us that we can actually rewire out ability to react to a response when an outside party triggers us.

There's this, the brain has this capacity to, it's called neuroplasticity to learn how to rewire from insecure to secure love.

That's the great news, even those who've had extreme trauma bonding can learn how to rewire themselves especially if they're in a partnership where the other person wants to help them heal that.

So I'm going to go into the major, the 4 major love styles, attaching styles and we've created a 5th one which I'll also mention.

Bottom line, the 2 major love styles are secure attachment, secure love style or insecure love style. So most people, although they're in a spectrum from secure to insecure they're either securely attached which means 4 out of 5 interactions with the parent, the friend, the lover is positive.

Feels safe, secure at least 80% of the time. That's what is considered, healthy love.

The dominant experiences, you're a safe source I can count on, can share anything from my deepest darkest feelings to my most magnificent self and you're going to be there to hold me, to support me, to be my cheerleader.

And the other style is called insecure love style which is considered less healthy or dysfunctional is some of the common themes and unlike the secure love which is our trust will be there, you're predictable and I feel safe and secure.

The insecure love style is I can't trust you'll be there, you're unpredictable.

I feel insecure more than I feel safe with you. And there's a low expectation for love and getting a positive response when in need for connection. So this distinction, secure and insecure love styles plays out in all the primary relationships, with your parents, with your partner, friends, colleagues, and child.

Now what's interesting is that the insecure attaching style is divided into 3 different distinctions and so the first one is called anxious insecure love style and that's basically somewhere you don't feel you're going to get your needs met without creating some high reaction or vicious cycle of processing because what you experience when you were younger from one or more primary caregiver is when I have a need that caregiver was inconsistent, they're kind of random and sometimes they're there for me and sometimes they're not.

And so the child stays in this anxious state because they're always afraid the parent will leave them, even when the parent is holding them and caring for them and reaching out for attention.

The parent will be sometimes there, sometimes not it's unpredictable, we call this unpredictable love in our [inaudible08:37] system, and so we're inviting couples who have this version to notice that they might be coming from this wiring at a deep level of anxious attachment style.

They're often the ones who create more drama to get more attention as adults. They need to feel connected, they contest the connection with loud distress signals. It could be anger, criticism which is some of the common reactive patterns of the anxious and secure, they pursue, they kind of blow up, yell and they're more, they're more aggressive.

And the desire that they need to feel connected.

Everyone needs to feel connected in a positive way but the insecure anxious love style, they have this deep need that their core needs are not being met and it leaves them feeling alone, that their feelings don't matter.

These are some of the common stories that, I feel alone, no one seems to care, my feelings don't matter, I'm not sure I matter, no one sees me, can't seem to reach them and frustration are maintained because we're not connected or close.

That's the anxious insecure love style.

The second insecure love style is called avoidance insecure love style often called avoidance attachment.

That's when in childhood the caregiver seldom if ever responds to the child's distress or needs. The child stops putting out distress signals. I'm going to let go of depending on others for emotional connection and we call this unavailable love.

As adults, they don't usually the symptoms are, they usually withdraw, they stop showing stress by disengaging. You know they're the ones that go into avoidance. You get into a fight, they walk out of the room.

They avoidant is more they ignore feelings, they are more in their heads usually, they get paralyzed, they kind of shutdown, they push their feelings away. And you know people like that if you're not an avoidant who they just, they don't share their feelings, they act like they don't need the connection.

And that is because no one values their needs as a child, so they've lost the experience that when I have core needs someone's going to care for me, so I'm just going to, the pain of being rejected is too much I'm going to minimize my need, act like I don't have them and suppress my need for connection. It's not like they don't need to connect, they're desperate to connect.

They're just not aware of it, they fear rejection where the anxious fear is more being abandoned and they usually just get flooded and filling out their core stories, I never get it right, I'm not needy, I can't fix the other's emotional needs, you know those people who just kind of get very deeply emotional with them and they just, they get overwhelmed because they've never really cared for their feelings.

Whereas the anxious is always feeling, they're over-feeling. So those are the 2 primary insecure love styles, anxious and avoidance, they're often called pursuer that the anxious the one that escalates and the avoidance is the avoidance. And then we've got a 3rd style that's in some of the literature. It's called traumatized attachment in the literature we call it scary love trauma love style.

Not everyone has it.

It's another kind of permutation of the insecure attachment love style, it compounds either the insecure or the avoidance. And how do you know you have trauma love style?

It's usually when you and your partner get in an argument or in a disagreement and the reaction is disproportionate, way bigger than what is warranted based on what's happening in real-time. Using something very deep and old that is extremely threatening is being mimicked in the interaction in the adult connection.

Can even be between parent, child, it can be between colleagues this kind of trauma reaction there's a need for the child to show being close but their parent was always scary. Alcoholism, abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse. If I get close to them you know they're going to scare me.

As an adult, this manifestation is I want to get close but I'm frightened or controlled of being trapped, that something is going to be very threatening in the way my partner is going to respond to me because the caregiver was frightening, traumatizing or disruptive to the child's sense of safety most of the time.

So these are the relationships you know that we're as I said abuse and addiction from the primary caregiver caused constant fear, terror to that person and the child gets dysregulated and they're caught between I need you and I'm terrified of you.

And you'd be surprised as an attachment specialist and a trauma specialist that I am in my professional work to find how much trauma is riddled in our reactions from mild spectrum to moderate spectrum to severe depending on what happened in childhood.

And then I'll just mention briefly, we've created my partner and I Lion Goodman have created a 5th attachment style, we call it healing attachment. And that's when a couple decides to use the partnership to heal each other, to embody more love and rewire the historical insecure issues.

Some mutual commitment to be loving when one puts out a sign of distress because usually when we were children with insecure trauma attachment we, no one cared, we put out distress and we'd be ignored, abandoned and it is really inspiring a couple to learn how to be there for each other's distress and make that a top priority to care and repair and own that.

That's really what I teach in my work with couples and all the products we offer on our website and our private [intense business14:41] if we're in these reactive cycles we can actually learn how to hold each other and create safety and security.

That's something we call the 3 non-verbal love languages working with the first languages of love. The eyes, the tone of the voice, body language can actually impact whether we trigger or sooth each other when we share our vulnerable needs and feelings.

So the healing attachment is both partners want to learn this consciousness game of connection.

How to report their vulnerabilities and needs and how to be sensitive to each other’s secure and insecure love styles, as a clarity, as a daily practice to rewire, to create greater secure connection and secure love and to understand specifically what each partner needs to create secure and safe behavior ongoing that addresses each one's historical insecure bonding style.

And this healing attachment can occur without even having a long-term commitment although long-term commitments create security.

For those who are newbie is in relationships and they want to really commit to learning how to rewire each other, we call that healing attachment.

So I want to mention a little bit, just this mini insight into what's happening in the brain so that people realize that often why we're getting triggered is not because we mean to hurt each other, we're confused how to love each other that's why I call my work, confused about love.

Because if you take all the narratives away, all the brain of why our parents or our partners historically have hurt us, it's really been because they've been confused how to love us.

And a lot of that conditioning occurs in the brain.

The brain is made of several components for the purposes of this talk.

There is a higher brain which is where the pro-relationship functions are, it's a part of the brain that, the frontal lobes and it's where we have a lot of our executive function, our lot of our practical choices and decision-making.

It's where empathy and mutuality and reciprocity, listen to those words, empathy, mutuality, reciprocity those are pro-relational functions.

It allows us to have the capacity to hold and wait when we're triggered, to listen and understand. In the higher brain, the loving brain part of the brain is very collaborative, it goes for win-win.

The other major part of the brain some people historically call the mid-brain and then there's the brain stem we call the primitive brain. It's often referred to in the neuroscience of attachment literature as called the warring brain.

And everything's automatic, it is the part of the brain that has the fight or flight alarm system that tells us if we're in danger be it in the jungle or with our partner.

This part is built for war, it's got a smoking alarm system, survival system that lights up in the brain as soon as we feel threatened and it highjacks the higher brain, the rational brain.

You say to your partner, I just want to talk to you actually and if they're hijacked in a fight or a flight survival alarm pattern they're going to have a hard time being they're frontal lobes.

So we are all wanting to learn how to help each other not get hijacked by our primitive brain into this fight or flight. What is it that threatens you that I do that I'm not even aware of, that I didn't even realize my voice sounded like your rageaholic mother?

It was just me putting out my adult needs and puts you into some kind of feeling like you want to run. That's the flight, that's the avoidance insecure style or you want to fight with me. That's the anxious or the trauma bonding.

We'll go into that.

So this fight or flight is almost always going on when we pull away from our partner. That's the flight, I want to go away and protect myself from this threat, those are more those avoidance who leave the room or the fight. I'm going to escalate and make sure you never hurt me like that again.

And that you care for my needs and I'm going to do whatever it takes. Both are ineffective.

Both, going to fight or flight or even freeze which is more of the trauma bonding, just shutting down. It's too dangerous if I just stay still and don't move I won't you know get the scary reaction from my partner like I did from my parents.

So the fight, flight or freeze. Those are the survival alarms in the mid-section of the brain and they build our part of the brain our anti-relationship responses. Often appearing as the need to be right, attack, control.

That's more the anxious, insecure defend and the avoidant would be more I want to escape, get away, shutdown, give up.

So part of rewiring from our childhood to adult, from insecure to secure bonding is to learn how to keep the primitive brain,, the alarm system off in green, non-rattling.

Not going to yellow which is more smoke, uh oh your kind of scaring me, your voce I wish you'd just talk softer.

Okay honey, thanks for telling me, puts the person back in green.

So teaching people how to, really educate each other how to stay in greens so the fire alarm stays off, the higher brain, the loving brain is online dominating is the name of the game here.

And most people don't realize it, they don’t realize they're going to fight or flight the body's the first place, usually the adrenalines pumping, the nervous systems rattling, the heart's racing.

Most people are not really think, stop. Stop the processing. Stop, you’re not going to get your needs met when you or your partner are in these high reactions.

Signal, I'm going into yellow or I'm going to red.

Okay, let's take some space get ourselves back in green and come back in our more loving, higher brains and learn how to care for each other’s vulnerable needs more constructively.

So we need to look at you know how our brain is running us and care when we get in these historic, distinctive reactive behavior as if it's avoidance or trauma or anxiety and how to interrupt the psych within ourselves, that's called self-regulating and how to help the partner as, because if you're upset it's going to take us both down.

Your distress becomes my distress.

Who sleeps well when their partner's angry at them?

Who works well during the day when they've had a big fight in the morning?

Both lose.

So the real commitment in secure love as I really simplify this is we commit to own when we've triggered ourselves or the other as a top priority.

We commit to care that we've impacted the other whether we meant it or not.

Didn't we love it when our parents said they were sorry after they scared us or hurt us or our dear partner, or the child when someone, our brother or sister.

Everyone loves it when someone owns and cares they've hurt us.

This is what love does when it's healthy. And then we want to repair. And repairing ultimately can be done in one minute to a few hours max if you need space to calm yourself.

But never more than that. When you really know how to own, care and repair which is what our work offers people the simple, practical building blocks of love they never got this can be done very quickly.

And I know, because I'm a recovering anxious and my partner's a recovering avoidance and I have a lot of trauma in my background.

Rageaholic father, I had been abused in the background, luckily not from a family member in my background. I've had a lot of trauma I've healed and I know, I can stand firmly working with thousands of clients and hundreds of them with lots of trauma that everyone can rewire and you have choose your partners wisely.

Someone that wants to commit to keeping you out of high threat and really wants to give you the experience of safe and secure love.

So this is all available for people to learn how to do, we have course on our website at confusedaboutlove.com and a lot of free blogs, the free love style profile quiz and I and my partner are available by phone or Skype in the Bay area for those who want to work in person we do intensive with couples and individuals who want to really quick, comprehensive course, How To Rewire Quickly, especially if there's a lot of trauma and intensive can really speed that up.

So any way that we can support you let me know.

You can contact me through the website and just know that there's always the possibility of healing yourself and sometime it might mean leaving a partner who doesn't want to heal with you and leave you threatened.

And other times it's you learning what you need to do to regulate yourself and not get so triggered and the best is when you can get your partner to really commit to secure love practices and learn some specific techniques that you can custom design for your unique personalities and belief systems.

Mike: Dr. Carista Luminare, thank you so much for joining us today. Could you repeat your website one more time for us.

Dr. Carista: Sure, confusedaboutlove.com

Mike: This is Mike Hennessy and on behalf of the team at LoveEvolveandThrive.com, I would like to thank you for listening to our interview today. 

For free tips and thoughts on relationship advice for women, from hundreds of experts and authors, please visit our website at www.LoveEvolveandThrive.com.

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