My Nonverbal Experience with “Unthought Known”

Nonverbal images of moments and time
Surrealistic Art image of “Shattered Time” which leads to a failure to fit into the present patterns of things.

“In his final book on attachment, Bowlby quotes Freud who remarked on the characteristic response of the patient who has become aware of something “forgotten”: “As a matter o fact I’ve always known it; only I’ve never thought of it” (Bowl by, 1988, p. 101). Perhaps Christopher Bollas (1987) who coined the evocative phrase “the unthought known” was reading the same passage from Freud.

What we “know” but do not (or cannot) “think about” is also what we cannot “talk about.” Enormously influential because it registers outside conscious awareness, unverbalized (or unverbalizable) knowledge plays a crucial role in psychotherapy as well as in childhood.

If it is obvious that the therapeutic conversation is always made up of more than words, the case for attending to the nonverbal realm is still vital to make – first, because its clinical centrality is not universally recognized or well understood, and second, because the spell of spoken language can be so hypnotic. We risk allowing the words we exchange in therapy to monopolize our attention when we don’t remind ourselves that beneath the words there is a flow of critically important experience that provides the underlying context for the words. Fundamentally emotional and relational, this initially unarticulated experience is often where we find the greatest leverage for therapeutic change.”

This “unarticulated experience” is often where we find the greatest change for patients in psychotherapy, from the horrors inflicted by atrocities which are more than a human being can bear is what holds the possibility for “cause for the greatest change” whilst living as a healthy normal adult. Here I am reminded of my experience with electro-magnetic frequency signals in which I was made to feel very ill and depressed. Since electro-magnetic signals remain veiled to a person’s conscious state of awareness, that is they know they are experiencing something but unable to describe it at first or uncover its source means that this technology holds a place in Christopher Bollas’ (1987) coined term “the unthought known.” It can be used to disrupt attachment in the human adults through inflicting pain and suffering (torture). In short, it can be used as a tool for mind control.

During my adult life I began to experience symptoms of electro-magnetic frequency. I felt this intense field of energy surround my body. I felt vibration and electric stimulation in different regions of my body and it made me feel sick, difficult to think. As a human being possessing a conscious state of awareness, I became aware of something I had never been aware of before, like Freud’s “hidden thought” I had no outlet to describe or convey my personal experience with this phenomenon. I did not experience joy or happiness, for I found I could not while this technology was being employed. This put me in a state of depression and I was unable to articulate exactly what I was feeling. Because of my lack of articulate speech, I was prompted to create a drawing. My original artwork was entitled “Religious Hope” but after I put paintbrush to canvas I entitled it just “Hope.”

Hope - Drawing1
Original sketched drawing of “Hope”
Artwork Hope02
Oil on canvas of “Hope”

It is why art is consider such a therapeutic avenue of recovery. It can be a medium for releasing emotion and feeling that could not otherwise be articulated.


How Attachment Relationships Shape The Self

Abstract Shape2

“Attachment is malleable.”

My “representational artifacts” that may establish psychological forensic evidence of the type of early attachment style I experienced in early childhood development can be found in the following statement:

“In contrast, hyper activation is the adaptive strategy of infants who are ambivalent and adults who state of mind is pre-occupied.” (pg. 101)

This statement may be supportive evidence that my mother may have been more pre-occupied than narcissistic in her attachment strategy. This attachment strategy may have been the result result of caring for a set of twins in a family of low-income who already had three other siblings in the home.

My hyperactivation which was expressed through hysterical symptoms (excessive exercise/movement) was caused from trauma, the early tragic loss of a loved one. Initially, I thought I may have experienced hysterical symptoms twice, both following the early tragic loss of a relative. But I discovered that in reality, I had only experienced a clinical case of hysteria only once and the second loss experience was more pronounced and more closely followed symptoms of hysteria.

My first experience with the early tragic loss of a relative sparked more a need, an attempt to establish my own independence. It wasn’t the result of induced hyper activation which follows from unintegrated loss, but was instead set as a sanctioned requirement by the office of unemployment aimed at helping me complete a two year college program in only one year.

The second experience of early traumatic loss was more accurately connected to my early childhood experience with attachment figures. Here in this second experience, communication style and word phrases used evoked feelings of separation, abandonment, and/or castration as a feeling of being sequestered off from full involvement with family members during this loss was experienced. Remember that the brain and body remembers the emotional content that was provoked in us by our early caregivers, thus language and speech are closely related to our attachment experience. That is, how our parents made us feel with the words and phrases they communicated to us. Because I was unable to integrate the loss that I felt, this experience re-surfaced unintegrated feelings of loss from my early childhood attachment experience with my primary caregiver. These feelings expressed themselves as portioned off, disconnections void of emotional content; this connection or disconnection to a loving parent was experienced as a void, an emptiness of emotional content. So too, was my experience during this loss as an inability to connect to my other loved ones. I felt sequestered or portioned off from them.

EMF Implant Drawing

Changing gears, my analysis of the electro-magnetic stimulation I’ve been experiencing suggest this technology seeks “deactivation” of the attachment experience by discouraging exploration. During the episodes of intense electro-magnetic stimulation I can focus on nothing but myself and the pain I’m experiencing. This discourages free exploration and play. Deactivation then, in this way, inhibit’s a person’s ability to self govern fully and/or prevents them from healthy exploration in the free world. The result is avoidant, fearful and what follows is a deactivation of autonomy by discouraging proximity seeking behavior in the self and others. These are modes of adaptive strategy the adult employs in his interactions with the real world. These adaptive strategies are one’s which may ensure felt security even though these proximity seeking behaviors may be maladaptive strategies.

“Attachment is driven every bit as much by the need for felt security.” (pg. 99)

So, if you have an adult whose promiscuous sexual (prostitutes, whores, charlatans) attachments are driven out of a need for felt security or temporary secure base, the deactivation of exploration through electro-magnetic stimulation is being used as a tool in mind and body manipulation.

“The psychological fate of the infant (in attachment terms, her security or the lack of it) depends largely on the relative success or failure with which first relationships regulate infants affects…..adaptive attachment strategies [are] strategies of affect regulation that will shape the self in fundamental and pervasive ways (pg. 100).”

Think of a person who develops healthy eating habits with established patterns of exercise. In this way a healthy secure attachment may have shaped a healthy attachment toward the self. Likewise, an individual who may have not developed a healthy secure relationship with their self image might use their body as a prop. Examples of these are prostitutes, strippers, playboy models.

“The self of the developing child emerges as a function of these adaptive strategies and the specific feelings, thoughts, and actions for which the child’s first relationships of attachment can effectively make room. The expressions of the child’s self that evoke the attachment figure’s attuned responsiveness can be integrate, while those that evoke dismissing, unpredictable, or frightening responses (or not at all) will be defensively excluded and distorted. What is integrated can then enjoy a healthy maturational trajectory; what is not tends to remain undeveloped.

Attachment relationships are crucial to the process of integration. The difficulties that bring patients to treatment usually involve unintegrated and undeveloped capacities to feel, think, and relate to others ( and to themselves) in ways that “work” (pg. 100).”

As a result it is the psychotherapist’s task to sanction the patient to think thoughts that his parents have discouraged or forbidden him to think, to experience feelings his parents have discouraged or forbidden him to experience, and to consider actions his parents’ have forbidden him to contemplate. Thus the role of the clinician is, in short, to facilitate integration and resumption of healthy development, starting usual with emotional development.

Now, if the role of therapy is to encourage a patient “to think,” “to experience feelings,” and “to consider actions by contemplation” how is it that electro-magnetic stimulation to the brain (tasing of the body) generated an incapacity of the mind “to think” “to feel” “to experience” “to remember” and even “to contemplate,” how is it this is an effective strategy or tool for change when it inhibits those very capacities?

It is for this reason, I fail to understand the reason for low-level induced electro-magnetic stimulation on the brain. The kind that sanction deactivation of adult exploration and play, even in sexualized forms of play. The effect of electro-magnetic stimulation is avoidant attachment strategies which discourage proximity seeking behavior, even sexualized proximity seeking behavior in adult modes of interaciton. Despite the fact that this adaptive strategy may be maladaptive, any proximity seeking behavior are one’s that may cultivate relationships, human interaction, and felt security through attachment seeking. It is a human beings basic need for human touch and contact. It paralyzes innate biological drives that may cultivate romantic relationships and further provide opportunities for supportive scaffolding in making a connection with others.

Masturbation, homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender, and even nymphomania regulate aggression. It is for this reason many sexualized disorder have been de-classified from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Illness with the exception of nymphomania. However, nymphomania is not a criminal offense.

This technology silences the free-will of individuals who, living in a free society, have the right to choose their sexual preferences. Ones that might foster independence instead of dependence.

Wallin, David J. Attachemnt In Psychotherapy. New York. The Guilford Press. (2007).

How It Feels To Be Called A Pinocchio

On The Couch
“On The Couch”

During a brief time in my life I found myself in a consultation room with a psychiatrist. During this interview I disclosed to her the fact that I have had homosexual fantasies in the past. When I inquired to her for an explanation regarding the psychic manifestation of homosexuality she simply said, “Without going into too much detail I’ll simply say it’s about being a Pinocchio.” And that was it! My reaction was, “A Pinocchio? What the hell does that mean?” Does this mean I’m not a “real” girl only one who wishes to be a “real” one? Needless to say, I was offended.

Some time later I found myself reading a book entitled, Female Perversions by Louise Kaplan. It was in this book that I uncovered the meaning behind the term “Pinocchio” in gender disorders and gender dysphoria. Psychoanalytic theory suggests that homosexuality develops out of our unconscious wish fulfillment, a need to love our mother’s in our same sexed female bodies. Something we felt we were unable to do during our early childhood development with our mothers. This represents for us the “wooden” state of “Pinocchio”, formed as a boy, but not of flesh and blood or fully human yet. For whatever reason, these mothers who produce gay children, were unable to express love toward their offspring. Whether it was due to overwhelming stress or financial pressures or simply due to a personal inability their offspring felt partitioned off from being able to love them. This theory also suggest, and what reasonably follows, is that these mothers are not “real” women. It suggests that my caregiver was a narcissist and/or pre-occupied and what flowed from the discontinuity in human communication and speech was a gender identity disorder among other things.

Personality disorders are rooted in the same early childhood developmental issues that gender identity disorders are rooted in – being raised by one or both narcissistic parents in which attachment styles were insecure. What research in early childhood developmental psychology has shown us is that communication style – language and speech (our attachments which shape our attachment to objects) are closely related to the cause of many disorders found in mental illness but, also too, the effects of early childhood trauma, loss of a parent or relative, are sometimes to blame.

Parents communication style toward their offspring – that includes verbal and non-verbal cues – generate emotions and feelings in the child that will remain connected in the brain throughout the child’s adult life which will shape their experiences in the world. This is the root behind our unconscious fantasies and repetition behaviors.

When there is a communication style that is conflicting to a child, the child is left feeling confused. For example, when a child is told verbally by a parent they are loved but the actions and behavior of that parent express an opposite feeling, the result is a child who becomes disorganized. This can be caused when parents who profess they love and care for their kids, hit or spank them as a form of punishment which denigrates and humiliates them. Electro-shock tasing of a child can cause disorganized attachment and is against the law viewed by state agencies as child abuse. This is crucial because this is how it feels to experience the electro-magnetic stimulus I have been experiencing in my body.

“Pinocchio Syndrome” is also associated with other mental disorders such as transgender – individuals who wish to be a female but are biologically formed male (or visa versa) are thought to be “Pinocchios.” In one case study a invalidated son was made to feel flawed and unworthy by his mother creating his unconscious desire and female longings for breasts and a vagina. The theory suggests this young man interpreted his mother’s desire for a female child as, “If I had been formed female perhaps mommy will love me.”

What’s interesting to note is that attachment is mallable and those with otherwise dysfunctional histories can become what researchers categorized as “earned secure”. This means that even though these adults came from backgrounds that had troubled or problematic histories, they some how were able to communicate and connect with others through reflective functioning. This means, they were capable of mentalizing how their parents experience and the difficulties they faced in rearing their children might have felt without holding grudges or tearing the parents down. These “earned secure” adults can function normally in the world without treating people like objects or play things to be toyed with or mastered. These people are filled with paranoia and fear of which the ward off at all costs.

For clinicians and therapists earned secure attachment is welcomed news because it means there is “hope” for the future for individuals with troubled or problematic childhood histories. Good therapists and healthy positive relationships can transform individuals’ lives, as does mindfulness practice which raises conscious awareness in the conscious state of our inner child.

Artwork Hope02.jpg
Surrealistic Artwork depicting “Hope”

In The Presence of Women


Maya Angelou. 'She was special, she was rare.'

This was a very poignant thought Oprah shared recently. Oprah stated that when the students of her boarding school in Africa told her they missed their parents, she quoted Maya Angelou’s poem, “Our Grandmothers“ by saying: “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” Then Winfrey directed the students to close their eyes and think of their parents. “Now, think of their mother and their father. Now, think of their mother and their father,” she said.

“I did that for a minute until they started giggling and I said, “That is your 10,000. So when you walk into a room, you never walk alone. You walk with the 10,000 who have come before you, who are with you and are constantly surrounding you,”” she told the students. They never leave us.

Similarly, I thought, as a woman, when we share our experiences and our opinions openly, we work with others in sharing knowledge. Relating our experiences of what it was like as children, as daughters, as mothers, as wives, and as caregivers we collaborate our life. “You never walk into a room alone.“ You are preceded by the 10,000 other women that came before you. That is what it should be like to be a woman. When you share your story with others, identifying with your feminine experience you discover what you have to give to the world, and, when you are your authentic self the world receives you as your authentic self. Discarding the mask of pretense we become the spirit of our ancestors and those 10,000 real women who proceeded us. And as such, you never walk into a room alone.

Likewise, when we miss the presence of a deceased love one we should think of Maya Angelou’s message. We carry our loved ones with us wherever we go. They have left their footprints behind on our hearts and souls. And as for me, I plan to heed Angelou‘s message, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give. As for me, I shall not be moved…… The Divine upon my right impels me to pull forever at the latch on Freedom’s gate. The Holy Spirit upon my left leads my feet without ceasing into the camp of the righteous and into the tents of the free.”

To read her full poem click on the link below:

“Our Grandmothers” by Maya Angelou




When A Mother’s Touch Turns Lethal


As a clinicians attempting to foster change by providing a new attachment relationship, knowledge of the varieties of attachment experience – secure and insecure – can help us identify and eventually make room for the feelings, thoughts, and ways of being with others that were denied a place in the patient’s earliest relationships. Such knowledge can also strengthen our ability to imagine, understand, and empathically resonate with the subjective experience, as well as the childhood histories, of our patients. Moreover, it can cue us with regard to the specific therapeutic stance most likely to be in synch with the particular patient’s developmental needs.

Mary Main’s findings regarding the experience and representation of attachment in infants, six-year-olds, and adults illuminate in evocative detail the development, characteristics, and consequences of each of the four primary states of mind (secure, avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized) with respect to attachment. In recognition of the pervasive influence of attachment models/rules, it becomes important to highlight the structural continuity of representational patterns that emerge in infancy, evolve over time, and find expression in multiple modalities (including nonverbal behavior, language, imagery, etc.). That continuity across the various dimensions of the self is what makes our patients’ attachment patterns (and our own) so vital to recognize and understood.

The Mental Illness Known As Munchausen By Proxy

Munchausen by proxy, also called medical child abuse, occurs when a caregiver (usually the mother) feigns physical illness of the child or inflicts a medical illness on purpose. The reason for this form of abuse is attention seeking from doctors and nurses and also acts as a reassurance to the self‘s ego. When cases like Munchausen by proxy really happen we are left with an even greater mystery; what causes the manifestation of this mental illness? To untangle the complex psyche that drives any single perpetrator, research is shedding light on what medical child abusers seem to all have in common; insecure attachment. This insecure attachment revolves around issues of loss and separation.

Since researching attachment theory in psychotherapy, the discovery of this mental illness was a serendipitous find that ignited my curiosity. Of the four different types of infant attachment patters (secure, avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized) it seems that insecure attachment is a common feature in the psyche of the mother’s who abuse there children through the mental illness known as Munchausen by proxy. That means they expressed an attachment style in infancy as either avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganized or some variation thereof.

Take for example the varieties of attachment experience. It is the disorganized infant who experiences their caregiver as both frightening and frightened. It is important to note that not every children who experienced this style of attachment will grow up to abuse their children through medical abuse or even become killers. But the manifestation of this mental illness holds important clues to the representational artifacts they hold in their mental states which were created from their past history with their intimate caregivers.

“Mary Main has hypothesized that disorganized attachment results when the attachment figure is simultaneously experienced not only as the safe haven but also as the source of danger, that is, when the child – pre-programmed to turn to the parent in moments of alarm – is caught between contradictory impulses to approach and avoid. It is an untenable position from which the child’s dependency on the parent affords no escape. Little wonder, then, that the result of such a terrifying “biological paradox” is disorganization and/or disorientation.”

Ongoing research in attachment theory suggests that the human mind is embedded with a stance toward the self. This stance is based on our past history and experience of attachment. This means that the representational self is fundamentally grounded in emotional experiences of attachment and/or its disruption are prone to evoke the most intense of feelings. Thus, our representations of ourselves, of others, and of relationships do not merely have a powerful emotional component; they are in most cases actually dominated by the emotions that underpin them.

Since the Munchausen moms’ are attention seeking to reassure their egos or shore-up their self image, it is not uncommon for Munchausen moms to come from a family background where physical symptoms – real, imagined, or faked – are used to get attention. Children learn physical illness is the best way to get a parent’s attention while more direct ways (crying, expressing emotional distress) are ignored.

Several Munchausen moms have described growing up with a parent who used routinely medical deception to gain the attention of physicians and nurses. When I think of this mental state and its strategies to gain attention, I think of the art work of Orlan and her consecutive plastic surgeries to define herself. Also, it is not uncommon for the perpetrators themselves to have medical records and a history of faking illness.

There remains a continuity between the caregiver’s style of communication and the behavior that originally marked the infants responses. For example, the disorganized infant response can be characterized by the “representational artifacts” of the typical six-year-old, who appeared “inexplicably afraid and unable to do anything about it” (Kaplan, 1987, p. 109).

Children assessed as disorganized in infancy, based on their Strange Situation behavior, revealed an apparent collapse of strategy. Their behavior five years later appeared to reflect a systematic effort to control their parents either through reversing roles and taking care of them (“Are you tired, Mommy? Would you like to sit down and I’ll bring you some [pretend] tea?”) or through being aggressively directive and punitive (“Sit down and shut up, and keep your eyes closed! I said, keep them closed!”) (Hesse & Main, 2000, p. 1107). In either case, it was as through these children were taking on a parental role in order to maintain proximity to their parents while also dealing with the threat they posed. This controlling/role-inverting strategy was very much in evidence during the reunion after separation discourse in which the “dysfluent” conversations (marked by stammering and false starts) were dominated by six-year-olds who either punitively dismissed or solicitously “scaffolded” their parents’ communication (Main et al., 1985; Main, 1995).

Most children who grow up in chaotic or abusive homes do not become medical child abusers. Most children who experience the early loss of a close family member do not become medical child abusers. And, most children whose parents use physical symptoms – even fakes ones – to get attention (again imagining the psychology behind the artwork of Orlan) do not grow up to induce illness in their own children. However, a combination of all three may set the stage for an abnormal relationship between parent, child and the medical profession. Whether or not the parent will act out his childhood drama depends on other factors (to be discussed in future blogs).

Consider these other link which explain the underlying pathology to some other criminal acts:

Violent acts of penetration and enactments of fantasized sexual kleptomania; When infatuation becomes a fetish

Primal Scene Trauma, Sexualized Aggression, and The New Age of Silicon

Camera Catches Mom Poisoning Son At Hospital – Crime Watch Daily

Kaplan, N. (1987, May). Internal representations of attachment in six-year-olds. Paper presented at the biennial meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development, Baltimore.

Hesse, E., & Main, M. (2000). Disorganized infant, child and adult attachment: Collapse in behavioral and attentional strategies. In Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 48(4), 1097-1148.

Main, M. (1995) Attachment: overview, with implications for clinical work. In S. Goldberg, R. Muir, & J. Kerr (Eds.), Attachment theory: Social developmental and clinical perspectives (pp. 407-474). Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press.

On Strengthening and Deconstruction Of The Attachment Relationship

Zen Buddhism

The Reflective Self and the Mindful Self

While the bodily, emotional, and representational dimensions of he self are inherent in being human, and thus accessible to almost all of us, the domains of the reflective and mindful self are only potentially accessible. Yet these potentialities are of critical importance. For in different ways, mentalizing and mindfulness alike are associated with internalized secure base that makes resilience and exploration possible. Moreover, both are capable of fostering insight and empathy, affect regulation and the sense of personal agency, internal freedom and the capacity to respond with adaptive flexibility to the complex, often difficult, circumstances with which our lives confront us. Thus mentalizing and mindfulness are pathways of psychological liberation.

“You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist Monk

As discussed earlier, our reflective or mentalizing self generally emerges through a relationship in which experiencing the attachment figure as a secure base makes it safe for us to explore the world, including the internal world. As Diana Fosha (2003) suggests, it is “being understood by and having the sense of existing in the mind and heart of a loving, caring, attuned, and self-possessed other” (p. 228) that gives us the chance to be known as a person rather than an object – that is, a being whose behavior derives meaning from the feelings, intentions, and beliefs that underlie it. Growing up with someone who has our mind in mind equips us as “mental agents” (Fonagy & Target, in press) who can deliberately attempt to make sense of subjective experience, so as to be able to be present for it, rather than feel overwhelmed by or cut off from it .Lacking a childhood relationship that might have supported such mental agency, many of our patients remain swamped by, or estranged from, their internal experience. As therapists, it is largely our mentalizing ability that enables us to provide for these patients the kind of relationships – a new attachment relationship – within which their own capacity for a reflective self can be nurtured.

By a different route, mindfulness (like mentalizing) can allow us to be present for our experience, rather than submerged by or dissociated from it. For if mentalizing promotes internal freedom by enabling us to act as mental agents, mindfulness fosters freedom by enabling us to act as “attentional agents.” Exercising voluntary, sustained, and nonjudgmental attention to our here-and-now experience changes that experience – at once deepening and ‘lightening” it: deepening because we can be more fully present, accepting, and aware, lightening because present-centered awareness is less burdened by the weight of the past and the future, less encumbered by shame and fear. Such awareness can be beneficial in many ways, It contributes to the regulation of difficult emotions. It also tends to deautomatize habitual patterns of response (Engler, 2003; Martin, 1997; Safran & Muran, 2000), enabling us to “wake up” and experience the world afresh – as if with a “beginner’s mind” (Suzuki, 1970). Moreover, as I suggested, the self that is mindful tends to become increasingly identified with awareness itself, rather than the thoughts, feelings, or sensation of which we’re aware. This identification with awareness – ultimately an experience of selflessness that lessens the need to protect the (personal) self – can strengthen our sense of an internalized secure base. Finally, mindfulness quiets the mind. Lowering the volume of mental static, it heightens our receptivity to signals from every domain of the self. Experiences of the mindful self are thus not only integrated by also integrating: They foster adaptive connections between different aspects of the self and between the self and others.

So it follows that spiritually religious people have strengthened their internal secure base through practice regardless of their previous attachment. This is one example of how attachment is malleable. Cognitive based therapeutic approaches foster insight and empathy, affect regulation and a sense of personal agency, internal freedom and the capacity to respond with adaptive flexibility to the complex, often difficult, circumstances with which our lives confront us. It is for this reason that religious spiritual practice is used as a tool in helping develop the Reflective Self and the Mindful Self.

To contemplate further the importance of religious freedom, consider the U.S. constitutional right that ensures the freedom of religion. Now consider the detrimental side effects of the Nazi interlude, the cause and effect of a tyrannical leader, and how their actions shook the secure base of an entire group of people.

To extinguish the religious hope of an entire group of people, or even for one person for that matter, through acts of brutality and cruelty is an abomination. People have a human right, a human need, to believe in God. To take this right away through methods of genocide and further atrocities must be stopped. For this is the Evil that corrupts the innocent. To demonstrate to the world one’s superior power by threatening the foundations of a secure base in religion is an Evil most malevolent. Its purpose and design will be laid bare for the world to recognize at face value what it truly represents.

In a lot of ways I feel I have been victimized by this same kind of Evil. An Evil whose sole purpose was to prove to me God simply didn’t exist. By what methods and what techniques do you think this was accomplished?

Mary Main, a developmental psychologist, who identified the various categories of attachment (secure, avoidant, ambivalent, disorganized) identified a subgroup of secure attachment. “Earned secure” was the subgroup that described people with problematic and painful childhood histories of the kind ordinarily associated with insecure attachment, but who nonetheless spoke coherently and collaboratively about their histories (Main & Goldwyn, 1984-1998). This is encouraging because it means that “earned secure” adults have had emotionally significant relationships with close friends, romantic partners, and/or therapist (Siegel, 1999). It also suggests that one of these significant relationships can be found through a spiritual connection with God in joining a community based in faith. It is for this reason finding a spiritual center encourages and welcomes positive relationships, for the most part but there a few exceptions to this rule. Individuals who have had traumatic life experiences are often advised to find a higher power. Through a spiritual connection one can learn to become open, flexible, and self-monitoring, rather than restricted by particular attentional rules.

Fosha, D. (2003). Dyadic regulation and experiential work with emotion and relatedness in trauma and disorganized attachment. In M.F. Solomon & D.J. Siegel (Eds.), Healing trauma: Attachment, mind, body and brain (pp. 221-281). New York: Norton.

Fonagy, P., & Target, M. (2006). The metallization focused approach to self pathology. Journal of Personality Disorders, 20(6), 554-576.

Engler, J. (2003). Being somebody and being nobody: A reexamination of the understanding of self in psychoanalysis and Buddhism. In J.D. Safran (Ed.), Psychoanalysis and Buddhism: An unfolding dialogue (pp. 35-100). Somerville, MA: Wisdom.

Martin, J. (1997). Mindfulness: A proposed common factor. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 7(4), 291-312.

Safran, J.D., & Muran, J. C. (2000). Negotiating the therapeutic alliance: A relational treatment guide. New York: Guilford Press.

Suzuki, S. (1970). Zen mind, beginner’s mind. New York: Weatherhill.

Main, M., & Goldwyn, R. (1994). Adult attachment scoring and classification system. Unpublished manuscript, University of California at Berkeley.

Siegel, D. J. (1999). The developing mind. How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. New York: Guilford Press.

My Malleable Attachment In The Representational World Of The Self


The Representational Self

“Feelings of pain or pleasure or some quality in between are the bedrock of our minds.” ~Antonio Damasio (2003, p. 3)

John Bowlby argued that it was an evolutionary necessity to have a representational world that mapped the real one: To function effectively, we needed (and still need) knowledge of the world and of ourselves, and this knowledge must be portable. We derive such knowledge from memories of past experience, and we use this knowledge to make predictions about present and future experience. Hence, the internal working model. But the map, as they say, is not the territory.

The working models of our attachment relationships are selective, more or less representative samplings of lived relational experience. In the framework of Daniel Stern (1985), they are composed of “representations of interactions that have been generalized” (p. 97). Throughout our lives they continue to provide us with a fundamental orientation, or quality of responsiveness, to experience.

If our early relationships were secure, the result may well be a capacity to respond – that is, to think, sense, feel, and act – with openness and flexibility. In this case, we can modify old representations in light of new experience. Such malleable representations can be used, along with our feelings, as guides in adaptively shaping our conscious choices. If, on the other hand, our formative relationships were marked by avoidance, ambivalence, or disorganization, then our capacity for the “response flexibility” (Siegel 1999) associated with such alterable representations will be compromised.

Most critical of all, perhaps, is the extent to which our early attachments have (or have not) provided us with the relational experience of a secure base and, thus, the foundation for a mental representation of an internalized secure base. This internal representation allows us to restore emotional equilibrium, at times, through obtaining symbolic contact with security-enhancing attachment figures, without necessarily seeking actual proximity to them (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2003; Holmes, 2001). When we are able to turn (consciously or otherwise) to such a reassuring internal presence, we gain a degree of resilience – and the resulting confidence to explore our selves and the world – that is missing or diminished when we lack an internalized secure base.

As illuminate by object relations theory, the development of mental representations that “work” entails two fundamental processes: Differentiation – creates psychological boundaries, particularly between self and other, and between the internal world and external reality. A well-differentiated self-representation allows us to function autonomously without feeling that we are defined by the feelings others have about us. On the problematic side, a lack of differentiation between the inside and outside, between the mental and physical worlds, is exactly what marks the mode of psychic equivalence that undermines many of our insecurely attached patients. Integration – involves synthesis and connection. Integrated representations of ourselves and of others enable us to bring together emotionally contradictory experiences – so that, for example, we can love someone even when we’re angry with them. Integration fosters balance and an awareness of the nuances and complexity of experience. Without integrated representations, we’re vulnerable to experiencing our selves and others in extreme and simplistic terms: as all good or as all bad, heroes or villains.

In the above two paragraphs, Melanie Klein’s “good breast bad breast” can be heard. To ward off anxiety, the child in his/her earliest defense mechanism split’s the object into a good part and a bad part. It is the first introjection of the persecutory maternal object and the subsequent defensive operation of splitting this object into good and bad parts that provide the basis for the primitive superego (Jacobs, 2007). It is in the differences of others that fantasies and delusions are born when we are unable to integrate the differences of others. Understanding that differentiation creates boundaries in inter-relatedness, that you may not be like me and I may not be like you but we still both possess the human condition which require certain basic needs to be satiated. Thus, “without the capacity to integrate representations, we’re vulnerable to experiencing ourselves and others in extreme and simplistic terms: as all good or as all bad, heroes and villains.” This is exactly what men do when they categorize women as either “good girls” or “bad girls” that is to say, the “Good Breast vs. the Bad Breast” ideology. This is where fantasies of evil are created. Good girls are chaste, obedient, and silent. They wear modest dress and carefully select their words. Whereas, bad girls are promiscuous, disobedient to their husbands and ruling authorities, and have a lose tongue. They were revealing dresses and showcase their bodies in an attempt to seduce their unwitting male subjects. These “vamps,” as they are so called, are represented in non-human terms as the term “vamp” suggests. These monsters who will literally eat individuals alive with their vagina dentate; the hairy toothed vagina. These “whores” who lead men astray into their own self-destruction are the product of the bad breast is the distorted thinking.

With the onslaught of electro-magnetic frequency which inflicted pain and suffering and resulted in my significant weight gain was designed to “tear down” my internalized representational self (the healthy female form capable of intellectual thought and possessing the female sensual form). Since women are overly self-conscious about how they look, it only follows that any advanced technology that is used to undermine the internal secure base of a person by disfiguring their physical image and distorting their cognitive capacity (electric shock waves to the brain) is a direct attack upon the person themselves. It is no longer political. It is personal.

Just as the roots of the emotional self are found in bodily experience, the representational self is fundamentally grounded in emotional experiences of attachment and/or its disruption are prone to evoke the most intense of feelings. Thus, our representations of ourselves, of others, and of relationships do not merely have a powerful emotional component; they are in most cases actually dominated, outside awareness, by the emotions that underpin them.

Stern, D.N. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant: A view from psychoanalysis and developmental psychology. New York. Basic Books.

Siegel, D.J. (1999). The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. New York: Guilford Press.

Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P.R. (2003). The attachment behavioral system in adulthood: Activation, psychodynamics, and interpersonal processes. In M.P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 35, pp. 53 – 152). New York: Academic Press.

Holmes, J. (2001). The search for the secure base: Attachment theory and psychotherapy. New York. Brunner-Routledge.

Jacobs, A. (2007). On Matricide; Myth, Psychoanalysis, and the Law of the Mother. New York. Columbia University Press.

Damasio, A.R. (2003). Looking for Spinoza. New York: Harcourt.