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Are you still choosing attachment over authenticity?

A theme which often comes up in therapy, especially for people with dissociative patterns, is that they have a sense that they don’t know who they are.

In Gabor Maté’s work, he often discusses what I consider to be at the root of this. Two fundamental needs every infant / child has are 1. Attachment (the drive to be close to another person for the purpose of protection) and 2. Authenticity (connection to self, gut instincts).

The younger the child, the greater the need for attachment – they (we) are, after all, pretty defenseless.

If there is ever a conflict between the child’s authenticity and attachment then of course, attachment wins. What does this look like? Well, Gabor referenced Jordan Peterson’s book where he writes that if a child is angry they should be made to sit by themselves until they are calm again. What does this teach the child? They can either be authentic (ie connected to their anger) OR they can be attached. They can’t have both. This happens in countless ways in our own childhoods, maybe you weren’t allowed to cry, show emotion, be frustrated etc without having the attachment withdrawn.

So you learnt early on to reject your authenticity and make yourself acceptable to others. You became very tuned in to what they wanted you to be. You became an expert at meeting other people’s needs while feeling out of touch with your own. Maybe you even created a story that it was shameful, selfish or unreasonable to have needs.

You probably kept repeating the suppression of parts of yourself that threatened the attachment. And now when your therapist invites you to connect to them and reclaim them, it feels terrifying! Of course it does, you feel the terror of loss of attachment upon which you depended for survival. But that was THEN and this is NOW….

The good news is, you have more options now you’re an adult – once you recognize that you’re still choosing attachment over authenticity. You CAN reclaim those suppressed parts of yourself, you can connect to you and connect to me at the same time, you can explore what it’s like to be authentic in the therapeutic relationship without risk of rejection. You can begin to explore what it’s like to be you. We are born authentic and we can find our way back.

Are there times in your life now when you are still choosing attachment over authenticity? I know there are for me.

Young girl looking thoughtful holding a rope swing


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