By Dawson Church, PhD, EFT TRN 1-3
The field of psychology uses the term “attachment” to refer to close bonds between people.
An infant in an attached relationship craves the company of her or his caregiver, and experiences distress in the absence of that person.
It is clear why human infants evolved to form attached relationships; these relationships keep them close to their caregivers, and increase their chances of survival.
In terms of evolutionary biology, those with a genetic predisposition for attachment were more likely to survive than those without it. The more attached individuals then passed that trait to the next generation, and so on, until attachment became a well-established characteristic of human relationships.
In the 1960s, psychologist John Bowlby described attachment as “a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.”
Researcher Jaak Panksepp describes a type of fear found in every animal species that rears its young. He calls it “attachment panic.” This fear arises when there is no one to attach to.
In the 1970s, Mary Ainsworth Differentiated Attachment into 3 Basic Styles:
1. Secure attachment,
2. Ambivalent attachment, and
3. Avoidance attachment.
The kind of attachment bonds you developed as a child can affect the way you perceive love relationships as an adult. Infants with secure attachment grow into adults who tend toward lasting love relationships, while those with ambivalent attachment fall in and out of love frequently, and those with avoidance attachment perceive love relationships as fleeting and rare.
Which of the 3 attachment styles is evident in the following story?
Growing Up with an Emotionally Unavailable Parent By Carna Zacharias-Miller
“Melanie,” 34, came to me because she wanted to work on the emotional abandonment by her father. Although she was smart and attractive, none of her relationships with men ever went anywhere. She saw a connection between that fact and the issues with her father.
Even before her father gambled away all their money and left the family in poverty when she was 9-years-old, he had no regard for her feelings.
After his divorce from her mother, Melanie was “kicked to the curb.”
He was a man of big promises, and he never delivered. For example, he told Melanie that she could spend the summer with him, and then he casually called it off.
We tapped on a tsunami of pain, grief, and frustration:
Even though my father always, always let me down, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though my father said, “I don’t know what you are talking about” when I reminded him that he had promised me to spend the summer with him, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though there is this deep pain in my heart because my father never noticed me, never paid attention to me, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I have been waiting my whole life for my father, I deeply and completely accept myself.
When I asked Melanie for a specific memory, she came up with a scene when she was 7-years-old: She was standing in her father’s bedroom beside his bed, watching him while he was asleep, “dead to the world.” She was waiting for him to wake up, and there was nothing she could do to get his attention.
Intense feelings of sadness, being lost, and utter defeat came to the surface, trapped in her thighs and pelvis.
(This memory shows that it is not always active abuse or severe trauma that hurts a child. If a static scene—an image—contains the whole painful essence of a relationship, that is enough to cause deep wounding.)
When the SUD Level of Intensity number came down from a 10 out of 10 to a 5, I got the intuitive hunch to do a memory enrichment rather than continue EFT tapping, and Melanie loved the idea.
A memory enrichment is an act of creative imagination that changes a painful memory into something beautiful and profoundly satisfying. This is not just turning it into its opposite, but lifting it to a higher, often metaphysical level.
Now Melanie is standing at her father’s bed, but he is waking up. He tells her how happy he is that she is there, and that he can’t wait to play with her. That feels good, but what the little girl really wants is for this to last forever. So a Fairy Godmother shows up, waves her magic wand, and asks the little girl what she wants.
“I want the happiness with my dad to last forever!”
“Granted,” says the Fairy Godmother.
Melanie was very happy with this and exclaimed, “I can actually have what I want! That is so strange.”
In the second session, we worked on a deeper layer of the father issue that had come up during the week: the anger, the rage.
Melanie said, “It was all about making himself comfortable; he never considered other people’s feelings. I wasn’t even allowed to have feelings.” The SUD level of intensity number was at a 10 out of 10, and a memory came up.
Even though I feel this intense rage and anger, and I am infuriated when I think of my father, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though he promised to buy me these special sneakers, he sent me some discount brand, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I am not worth it, I deeply and completely accept myself.
The SUD level of intensity number had dropped to a 6 out of 10, and I asked her what the remaining anger was about.
Even though I always got the bare minimum, but I needed so much more, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I am deeply disappointed that my father never made any effort to build me up, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though this remaining anger is stuck in my neck and shoulders, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Melanie was feeling much better.
At the beginning of the third session, Melanie reported that she had been in a car accident. No injuries, but the car needed minor repair. She had told her father about it in a phone call—and there something surprising happened.
“He was caring and concerned! He has never been like that before. And then—can you believe it?—he just sent me a check for $1,000! I am floored. That was more than the bill for the repair. He never, ever has been generous in the past.”
I love it when things like that happen. It shows that changing the energy of one person changes the whole energy field around her.
In the fourth session, we worked on a very painful father memory that Melanie titled “Kicked to the curb.”
Right after the divorce, her father picked her up from school. There was a lady sitting in the front seat, and Melanie crawled into the back. This was obviously “his lady,” but her father had not prepared Melanie for this. Thinking of this scene, intense grief, sadness, and anger came up for Melanie, and she felt it as heaviness in her thighs.
Even though my father just walked away from his family after the divorce, and my heart is torn, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I could sense his love for this woman and he never really loved us, and that hurts so much, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I was no longer Daddy’s little girl, he just kicked me to the curb, I deeply and completely accept myself.
After this tapping round, Melanie had a big, though crushing revelation: “My father had no attachment to me! He probably loved me in his own way, but there was no sense of personal responsibility, emotional care, or concern. I have tried to fix myself my whole life so attachment can happen—and I am still doing exactly that with my boyfriends!”
We tapped on the shock and the devastation of this awareness, and how she has attracted “fragments of love” over and over again. At the end, she felt profoundly different. “More feminine, more in my body. Love might just show up. I am enough.” What a breakthrough!
In the fifth session, we worked with another very painful memory: the moment when her father told her he was moving out. She was standing at a bus station with him, and he said casually: “Your dad is going away for a while.” That was it.
Even though I froze in shock when he said that, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though there was no preparation, I had no idea what was happening, or why, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I still feel that grief and sadness and anger in my solar plexus, I deeply and completely accept myself.
The intensity went down somewhat, but not much. So I asked Melanie what her feelings were about the words “for a while.” (He had said he was going away for a while.) Melanie had never thought about that, and she reacted strongly to it: “This was cruel, torture. I kept waiting for him to come back, but he never did. And a part of me is still waiting.”
Even though a part of me is still waiting for my father to return, I deeply and completely accept myself.
At the end, Melanie declared that she—or any part of her—was no longer waiting, and that was a huge relief.
As for the boyfriends, Melanie is no longer putting up with “fragments of love.” Recently, she talked on the phone to a “gorgeous-looking” man who had caught her attention at an online dating service. He was nice, smart, and charming too. When he said that he just wanted “fun” and not a serious relationship, however, she dropped him.
Melanie observed, “I would not have done that in the past. I always tried hard to get them emotionally involved anyway, but it never worked, and I only got hurt. Stepping out of this pattern feels so good.”
Notice how Melanie is able to start creating a new attachment reality by walking away from the old one. Without EFT, she might have kept on reenacting her father’s abandonment for the rest of her life.
Today, her options have opened up. She can walk away from potential relationships that are flashing danger signals, because she’s no longer attached to her dysfunctional old attachment style!
This article is an excerpt from:
EFT for Love Relationships
By Dawson Church, PhD,