Were You Seen, Safe, Soothed, and Secure?

Dan Siegel and Teresa Rose
Dan Siegel and Teresa Rose

I spent last Saturday at a workshop by David Siegel, M.D.  His newest book, Brainstorm:  The Power & Purpose of the Teenage Brain made it to the New York Times Bestsellers list.  Congratulations, Dan!

One of Dan’s passions is to talk about what happens to us when we grow up in varying degrees of secure attachment with our parents.  Secure attachment being when the 4 S’s are met:

  • We’re seen by a parent(s)
  • We’re safe with a parent(s), meaning protected from harm and the parent is not seen as a source of terror
  • We’re soothed by interaction with a parent(s)
  • We’re secure with a solid launching pad for our lives, and relationship ruptures get repaired

Dan says that ~2/3s of the population have their 4 S’s met – secure attachment -which allows these folks to meet their full potential.

~20% of us are attached in the avoidance model.  As children when we went to our parents to get attention for our upset, for instance, instead of responding to us, they ignored/dismissed us.  We learned, “I’ll do it on my own.”

In ~15% there’s inconsistent availability of the parent – ambivalent attachment.  Also the parent intrudes his or her own state of anxiety onto the child resulting in more anxiety in the child.  We learned, “Am I secure with others?  I’ll cling to others.”

In ~5-15% the child feels so terrified by the caregiver that he or she imagines their life to be in jeopardy.  This is disorganized attachment.  When this happens the child dissociates (gets depressed, numbs out, has amnesia, …).

We may recognize one or more of these attachment styles within us.

In Dan’s words, “The good news is that healing is possible. Often the hardest step is acknowledging that there is some serious and frightening unresolved business. When we can take the deliberate steps to face the challenge of knowing the truth, we are ready to begin the path toward healing and growth and become more the person we’d like to be.”

Dan told us that Jack Kornfield, author, Buddhist teacher, and co-founder of the SpiritRock Meditation Center was raised in a family where he felt terrorized.  Jack’s life is an example of healing and one of great accomplishment.  I am happy to have Jack as an inspiration.

How would it be for you to get those foundational needs of being seen, safe, soothed, and secure met right now and live to be more the person you’d like to be?

In the words of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.”

In peace and love, Teresa

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