Attachment Styles

Disorganized Attachment


Disorganized attachment is a complex and fragmented attachment style characterized by a mix of conflicting behaviors and emotions. Individuals with disorganized attachment may struggle with regulating their emotions, forming secure relationships, and navigating interpersonal conflicts. This attachment style is believed to result from traumatic or inconsistent experiences with attachment figures in childhood, such as neglect, abuse, or exposure to violence. As a result, individuals with a disorganized attachment style may experience feelings of fear and insecurity in close relationships, and may struggle with trust and intimacy. Despite these challenges, with the right support and treatment, individuals with a disorganized attachment style can learn to develop more secure and healthy relationships.

Characteristics of the Disorganized Attachment

Disorganized attachment is generally caused by fearful experiences with the caregivers during the attachment period. As John Bowlby said that the source of soothing is the source of fear. This is an insoluble problem. Inner fragmentation, and dissociation are what result.

These fearful early experiences imprint as deep, a priori truths about life. As a result, people with disorganized attachment often have a deep fear of intimacy and relationships, despite having the same human longing for connection that we all do.

Confusion and tumult are common internal experiences. Emotional self-regulation skills are also typically lacking as well. For this reason, the person with disorganized attachment tends to be unreliable. All this together makes establishing healthy relationships difficult.

Relatedly, they often lack a coherent sense of self to carry them through life. Their minds tend to be disorganized and they shift into different states frequently. They often have preoccupied parts that are afraid of abandonment and exploration. They often have dismissing parts that avoid closeness, and reliance. This makes them more difficult for others to read and be relied upon. Understandably, this loneliness is unbearable. Often they end up giving up on relationships entirely due to repeated failures.

With poor emotional self regulation skills, a poorly developed sense of self, and an underdeveloped social network the foundation is lacking for healthy development of career, relationships, and personal interests.

For these reasons, their quality of life tends to be much lower than those with organized attachment (secure, dismissing, and preoccupied).

Untreated disorganized attachment is associated and likely causal of characterological problems which often meet the diagnostic criteria for personality disorders (paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, borderline, narcissistic, antisocial, histrionic, avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders). Also, disorganized attachment can be a causal factor in Axis I conditions like ADHD, depression, anxiety etc.

Additionally, people with disorganized attachment conditioning typically have strong deficits in meta-cognitive abilities.

Those with disorganized attachment stand to benefit most from attachment repair.

The Schema Repatterning Meditation for disorganized attachment is similar to that of dismissing and preoccupied attachment described above. The guided meditations emphasize Emotionally Corrective Experiences that are at odds with the old negative emotional learning. Fear is often central to the set of maladaptive schemas. So, in the meditation, the inner parents protect the inner child and patiently build trust. Often dismissing, and preoccupied parts present in the meditation, as well. The inner parents are responsively facilitating the emotionally corrective experiences in the corresponding ways to these dismissing and preoccupied parts as mentioned above.

Parts-work is also important for people with disorganized attachment and is done with those of us with disorganized attachment. Parts-work focuses on soothing and acknowledging the parts various parts, recognizing their utility and formerly adaptive nature to a harsh early-childhood environment. This brings about a more solid and unified sense of self that is better able to move through life achieving normal life goals and having desired impacts on others and the environment.

Which childhood attachment styles and experiences can lead to the Disorganized Attachment style as an adult?

Childhood experiences that may lead to disorganized attachment in adulthood include inconsistent or traumatic experiences with attachment figures, such as neglect, abuse, or exposure to violence. Children with disorganized attachment may experience fear and confusion when interacting with their attachment figures, leading to a lack of coherent strategies for coping with stress. This can result in a fragmented or “disorganized” attachment style that is characterized by a mix of conflicting behaviors and emotions. Children who grow up in environments where they experience fear and insecurity in their relationships with attachment figures are at greater risk for developing disorganized attachment. In adulthood, individuals with a history of disorganized attachment may struggle with regulating their emotions, forming secure relationships, and navigating interpersonal conflicts.

A guided meditation for Disorganized Attachment

This short guided meditation can give you an actual experience of the mental state of Disorganized Attachment.