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Clear Communication to Create Secure Attachment

With IFS (Internal Family Systems) & NVC (Non-Violent Communication) Integrated

Here is the why

Here is a personal example from my childhood that, I hope, will illustrate how we can grow past the limitations of the relative circumstances we have experienced. My intention is to impart a preferred option of being in relationships so we can all create the safety and confidence we desire.

The tender underbelly of what you’ve really been arguing about

She sat in the backseat of the truck. She’s about 5 years old and still in PJs. I imagine this younger version of me might have been clutching some item, a stuffed toy or blanket for comfort as she watches her father pacing back and forth in the darkness after following the direction of her mother to “get in the truck.” She did not question the instruction, yet felt the conflict of leaving her father and the longing for the safety of her grandma’s house, the destination that they would be driving to was over an hour away. 

She did not know how long they would remain at her grandma’s or when she would see her father again. She was a passenger during this stage of her life. Witnessing her fate unfolding through the rageful words and the retaliatory threats of her parents.  Eventually, days, weeks, or months later, when they did travel back home, she was not clear on what (if anything) had changed to make it safe to return. I do not know how often this experience occurred throughout my childhood, monthly or maybe a few times a year, yet I am now fortunate to be learning how to grow past what this role-modeling taught me. The map etched into my nervous system that when things get tough, you leave until they are better, and then you reunite. 

An opportunity to create healthier relationships going forward

I can now see how, throughout my life, this map guided my relationship patterns when challenges occurred. I am also now getting to learn how to do things differently by: 

1. Learning how to have effective and kind communication through disagreements. 

2. Identifying what needs to occur after the disagreement to get out of cycles of disconnection and into a securely attached growth pattern that creates stability in the relationship.

How do we learn a better way? 

If you, too, would like to transform the scaffolding in your relationship map, here are some important points to include as you co-create healthy new companionships, so the bridge of connection can remain consistently open throughout the ups and downs in relationships.

Note, these are not quick fixes. Yet when learned and integrated, we are enabled with a new map to create the healthy relationships and secure attachments that we desire.

Stage 1 – Listening

  1. Attuned Listening – Being compassionately aware of our own and each other’s relationship patterns so they can be gently noticed when they are activated
  2. Safe Listening – Offering each other a safe space to share what is coming up through sharing and listening without blaming, accusing, or shaming the other person ( I recommend Non-Violent Communication, NVC  as a useful tool if kind communication was not role-modeled in childhood to help both people stay centered and open)
  3. Warm Listening – The ability to hold multiple perspectives as valid while listening to the other person’s experience, versus gaslighting (When we did not feel our perspective was heard and valued as children, we can engage in gaslighting, which is invalidating the other’s experience through insisting that their experience is not valid).
  4. Accurate Listening – Reflecting on the experience of the other person before going into what happened to us (by validating the other person’s experience, we maintain the connection, and avoid the other person feeling gaslighted, or ignored)
  5. Kind Listening – Asking the other person if there’s anything missing once we have reflected on what we heard. 

NOTE: This fifth step is what allows the connection to remain strong during challenges. Maintaining the ability to express curiosity and care towards the other by showing that you want them to feel fully heard and seen, helps the bridge of the heart to remain open. To be able to successfully stay open-hearted, self-soothing is essential in this step so that the parts of you that are fearing abandonment do not take over and block your ability to hear the other person’s experience. If we have not had secure attachment role modeled for us, we may filter the other person’s experience through a defensive screen that denies their experience. We do this in an attempt to avoid abandonment, which we sometimes express through things like fault finding or avoiding.

  1. Productive Listening – Noticing the experience of your the other person and offering one or a combination of the following without justifying our role in their experience:
    • Validation of the role that you played in the experience
    • Recognizing how that experience impacted them
    • Sharing what you are willing to change or do differently, so the experience does not occur again
    • Offer comfort
      • *Ask if they would like a hug
      • *Words of affirmation example: “Wow you were really patient.”
      • *Appreciation example: “Thank you for cleaning up my dishes even when you were tired.”
      • *Recognition example: ”I can see the imbalance, I’d like to cook/order us dinner so you can rest.”
  1. Respectful Listening – After you have finished addressing their trigger, if you would like to share what your experience was, prior to sharing your perspective, ask if the person is open to hearing your experience or check to see if there is a later time that would allow them to fully be present and hold space for your experience.his step requires a high level of trust and allows the bridge to stay open between sharing until both people’s experiences are heard. It is wise to set the time and even add it to a shared calendar so that both people learn that their perspective is important and valued by each other.

Stage 2 – Personal Growth 

  1. Transparent Growth – When we learn to use transparency during growth, it strengthens the trust and strengthens the connection with the other. If we did not have securely attached growth role modeled for us, this is where the patterns of our past are repeated, especially if the other person, or we, experienced a chaotic childhood where healthy role modeling on how to maintain a healthy and loving bond through challenges was missed, and instead, we/ they witnessed parents who stormed out or shut down when challenges arose. We can build trust in the commitment to grow together by including each other in our growth process. This allows us to see the commitment that will create a safe and secure relationship that makes the challenging times feel worth it, and also gives opportunities to share appreciation and gratitude for each other’s efforts as we learn and grow together.
  2. Compassionate Growth: One major benefit of using transparency during the evolution of the relationship is that we become far more tolerant of the challenges we are facing together, when we see the other person’s efforts. Many families and cultures create shame around growth, so many people try to hide while they grow. It takes a lot of trust and tenderness to stay transparent with each other, and the benefit is huge! We then get to see that we are loved beyond what we “do” but are enough as we are. A major core wound for many of us.

Join us at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 7th at ArcanaSF to start creating the deeply satisfying relationships you desire.