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January 22, 2015
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The article covers..
Perspective on feeling and
What causes this
How does this bonding
wound relate to giving and receiving
psychological wound affect
typical family relationships?
symptoms of this wound? And...
wounded people learn to genuinely bond (feel and receive love)?
If you know someone who seems
"unable to love," keep them in mind as you read this.
This article assumes you're familiar with...
the intro to this
site and the premises
Part of what follows is based on the widely-acknowledged work of British
psychiatrist Dr. John Bowlby. This
his "attachment (bonding) theory" is well worth reading after you finish
Newborn humans and other animals have the primitive instinctual ability to
form strong emotional attachments,
or bonds, to special "things." Universal examples are the fierce bonds between
parents, specially mothers, and genetic offspring; and the bond between
healthy mates. When young
children are deprived of psychological nurturances "too
much" for "too long," they survive by automatically evolving a fragmented
Parts of their personality want to
emotionally attach to (care about) special people. From abandonment and abuse trauma,
parts develop a primal terror of attaching too
much or at all. Depending on many variables, such wounded girls and boys grow into
adults who are ambivalent about true bonding and
commitment, or are too
shamed, distrustful, and
fearful to achieve real bonding with
Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) are burdened with the indescribable anguish of wanting
to exchange lovingcommunion and attachment with special people, and being unable to
do so - living in a society that relentlessly glorifies pleasure and love.
Shame-based kids may be able to care for others, but
their ruling subselves feel
worthless and rejectothers' love. People who experience
"soul-mate" relationships eloquently affirm that there is a deep
spiritual dimension to the bond between them.
facets of this tragic psychological wound are being unable to
(a) care about yourself
empathize with others,
and (c) an inability to
bond meaningfully with a nurturing
Shelves of scientific, philosophical, and romantic books
focus on this pervasive human mystery. After
36 years' clinical
study and 29 years'
wound-reduction learnings, my guesstimate is this:
Every infant (including
newborn you) has the innate capacity
to attach (bond). S/He is exquisitely responsive at birth to the
interactions s/he has with primary caregivers. A newborn's pre-birth
experience and perhaps genes may influence her or his predisposition to
themselves to connect with this awesome giant being later called
Mother, Mommy,Mum, Mutter, Madre, or Mama.
If a baby's physical,
spiritual needs for gentle attention, security, touching,
stimulation, mirroring, feeding, rest, comforting, and cleaning
are filled well enough by a primary
caregiver who is consistently...
emotionally present ("available"),
vs. distracted or absent ("unavailable"),
genuinely pleased the baby
is there, and wants to nurture him/her; and is...
able to attach
(does not have significant psychological
wounds), and is...
able to feel and
express emotions and needs, and to
steadily alert to things that
please and upset
the baby and is effective at providing comfort (filling needs),
the baby and caregiver will
probably develop a genuine mutual bond.
Initially, the baby's side of the bond is
the years, if the growing young child steadily experiences being prized, wanted, and important ("loved") by key
caregivers, s/he'll shift her part of the bond from "I need you" to
"I love you."
If the baby's
needs are inadequately, erratically, and/or harshly met, or caregivers' looks, sounds, and actions send confusing
"You're good! / You're bad!" double messages then
the baby instinctively begins to form a fragmented
in order to survive.
Her or his bond becomes ambivalent: "I
need you /
I fear you." Over time, that promotes self distrust, dislike, and
("bad me" feelings), confusion, and significant guilt. Typical
babies begin to developing a protective
false self to reduce these discomforts.
If the child's first three to six years feel too confusing (I'm safe
and good / I'm unsafe and bad) and/or too scary and painful, then her or his
psychological wounding and unconscious bonding-ambivalence deepens. If s/he
experiences "too much" shame ("bad me" feelings), guilt ("I do
bad things"), and
fears (distrusts and anxieties),
s/he begins to protectively numb out,
distract, and/or detach psychologically from the people associated
with their pain.
The young child's
personality subselves who want to trust and bond
are overruled by protective distrustful subselves who say "No!
It's not safe (to care) because we always
get hurt!" These subselves form the child's
"bonding block." Such children
increasingly depend on themselves to get key needs met. This becomes
normal, reflexive, and unremarkable. They neither expect or ask for
Other wounded kids become apathetic and numb. Still others become strategically
helpless to force caregivers to attend them, but life
is still not really
safe because the care they get doesn't feel genuine, spontaneous, and loving.
Genetics and the
nurturance level of the growing child's environment over time determine how her or his
subselves develop, and which subselves dominate. Accumulated pain, pleasure, and
parental response patterns shape...
the bonding ambivalence or block is (weak to strong);
how wide it's scope ("I
trust soft furry animals but not short
red-headed women who frown and growl");
how the child adapts to the
environment's reaction to their block (brazenly, furtively, apologetically,
their family reacts to their growing distrust, detachment, and
A major aspect of this
bonding wound seems to be the child's ability to experience some or all
emotions. Some children who
learn to automatically associate feeling with guilt, shame, and fear respond by
muting their ability to feel. As teens and adults, they must compute
what they're "supposed to" feel to be accepted as "normal."
This promotes feeling (even more) abnormal, weird, and shamed without
The bottom line seems to be: if a young child feels genuinely wanted, safe,
noticed, appreciated, stimulated, comforted, and enjoyed enough
during early years, s/he'll probably develop a healthy-enough ability
to bond with others. If s/he's too deprived too often of
genuinely loving attention,
touching and holding, encouragement, affirmation, comforting, and protection, the
develops a protective group of
Guardian subselves who provide comfort and distraction from current or expected pain.
Inner Kids and
Guardian subselves form a
false self which causes
up to five other psychological wounds. If dominant subselves are too fearful,
distrustful, and ashamed, the child has trouble genuinelyattaching with selected others, themselves, and/or
a benign Higher Power.
How Does this Bonding
to Giving and Receiving Love?
Until well into effective
survivors of major childhood
abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect (Grown Wounded Children, or GWCs) unconsciously
associate love with disappointment, rejection, and
i.e. pain. From
early agonies, alert subselves are sure
"If I risk loving (caring about) somebody, it will hurt."
Trauma-survivors who have never experienced healthy, sustained, genuinely love from another person often can't comprehend that love is other than a mix
of lust, neediness, duty, and pity. To such
"I love you" really means "I feel sad / lonely / sorry
/ compassion / lusty / responsiblefor you."
They semiconsciously equate giving material things as a way of
complains "I don't feel loved by you," unrecovering
uncomprehendingly "but I do - why don't you see that?" (i.e.
"What's wrong with you?"). Similarly,
GWCs have little idea of what it feels like to "love myself."
To gain some self and social acceptance, Most false selves
develop the survival skill of
"shameful" inability to really give and receive love from
What is "Pseudo" (False) Bonding?
Psychologically-wounded adults and kids who can't feel, bond,
empathize, or exchange love
live in a society which glorifies and idealizes love, "closeness,"
"connection," intimacy, and
caring. Behavioral evidence of genuine bonding is an inescapable social
Seeking to feel normal in their own eyes and in society's,
these wounded people often become experts early in life in pretending to feel true attachment to
parents, relatives, friends, and lovers.
They observe how loving adults and kids behave, and become skilled at
sounding and acting just like them - but they don't feel attached,
A common result is they convince
themselves that they can bond and love - so if another person
doesn't feel a bond, the GWC in protective denial is sure the other person is
the problem, not them (reality distortion). These wounded people are often very attractive
socially and professionally.
However, eventually their behavior doesn't match their words in key
relationships, which leads others to feel confused, hurt, guarded, and
distrustful despite the GWCs earnest proclamations of "But I really do
care about you!" Paradoxically, that's their truth, for
they don't know they
don't know what genuine caring feels like.
How Does Difficulty
In ways like these:
One or both courting
partners commit to each other for the
reasons (like duty, rescuing, loneliness, sex,
social normalcy, or
revenge), rather than for real commitment and love;
After courtship excitement and illusions
recede, one or both
mates feel increasingly "empty" in their partnership.
This bonding wound promotes emotional numbness and hinders or blocks
the normal exchange of emotional-physical-spiritual intimacy.
time, this usually promotes secondary relationship problems like hurt,
frustrations, distrust, resentment, disrespect, avoidances, distancing, and
People with this "hole in the soul" and other psychological wounds often
are controlled by an
Addict subself who strives to mute or distract
inner kids' discomfort or numbness and emptiness.
substances, activities, relationships, and/or emotional states inevitably corrode personal
health and marriages, promote
low-nurturance environments, wound dependent kids,
and cause more inner pain;
Adults unable to feel,
empathize, and bond (and
professionals they hire) may misdiagnose their persistent emptiness
(emotional + spiritual disconnection) as "depression." This can
raise personal and
family anxiety, and usually doesn't respond to "anti-depressants" and/or therapy.
It also lowers trust in the outcome of hiring professionals to help.
People with serious bonding blocks are prone to having
loveless (physical only) sex, leaving one or both partners increasingly dissatisfied and
feel "empty" (as in childhood) are vulnerable to the excitement and
temporary relief of (a) fighting or rebelling, (b) taking major risks,
and (c) sexual affairs. including possible incest.
And this bonding-block wound can also affect family relationships like
Kids raised by adults who can't
empathize and genuinely
often feel unloved. They conclude "something's wrong with
I'm unlovable and bad."
They develop a shame-based
false self, which deeply distrusts
that anyone offering love really means it. This promotes social isolation
and/or approach-avoid or "hollow"
(emotionally-spiritually empty), "independent" relationships. It
may also contribute to
or grandparent with
this bonding wound may not be able to nurture
kids effectively. Their ruling subselves may provide care
from duty, guilt, or anxiety, but not from their heart. This risks
low-nurturance ("dysfunctional") family environment that the
wounded adult survived as a child, specially if s/he divorced and/or
re/married another Grown Wounded Child.
Becausepeople with this disability form
weak or no genuine attachments, they have little to grieve. That may confuse or alarm caring (unaware) others who judge the wounded person as
cold, indifferent, self-absorbed, detached,
intellectual, phony, plastic, materialistic,
wooden, frozen, egotistical, Narcissistic, or uncaring.
These labels strengthen subselves' belief that their host person
is alien, bad, and defective as an individual, a fe/male, a mate, and/or
to heal a low-bond or no-bond relationship through marriage counseling
the therapist knows how to
treat psychological wounds (e.g. with some version of
inner-family therapy), and...
each wounded partner
accepts personality subselves and wounds, and admits their true Self is
disabled, and ...
My professional experience is that
of typical troubled adults are significantly wounded, and are unaware of this and what
means. Many of them have some level of
this bonding block.
Typical Symptoms of an
The inability to feel, empathize, bond,
and love probably results from all five other psychological wounds. This
inability has common
behavioral signs like these:
_ 1) Oftenfeeling alone with (disconnected
from) other people.
_ 2) Periodically feeling
Theres something missing in my
life, but I dont know what.
_ 3) Inability to relate to a still small
(spiritual) voice within. (intuition)
_ 4) Being harshly cynical,
scornful, and critical of religion (a crutch for
the weak"), clergy, church, worship, do-gooders, missionaries, etc.
_ 5) Periodically feeling sad,
empty, or depressed for no
feeling "nothing," and/or being unable to feel normal emotional
7) Often feeling like being on the outside looking in (at others
8) Feeling Theres something basically
about me - Im not like other people.
9)Having chronic difficulty
empathizing with other people, and denying, joking about, or
rationalizing that. A related symptom is being unable to do
_10) Being religious but not
spiritual, and denying or justifying that.
More common behavioral symptoms of an inability to empathize,
love, and bond...
_ 11) Having no
genuine two-way relation with a personal
Higher Power (God).
_ 12) Being puzzled by, and unable to empathize with, others who talk about
feeling Gods presence or having a personal relationship with
_ 13)Often being unable to identify clearly what I
feel, want, or need
_ 14) Not really understanding or empathizing with any of these symptoms.
_ 15) Being described as cold, phony,
"plastic," over-intellectual, distant, aloof, insincere, glib,
selfish, egotistical, self-centered,
Narcissistic, unapproachable, and/or impersonal.
_ 16) Confusing love with
pity (for a
needy partner), so I love you means I feel sorry for
you. This promotes marrying to rescue,
and later heartache.
_ 17) Emotionally numbing out or withdrawing when real unconditional
love and intimacy is offered, and denying, rationalizing, and/or minimizing this.
_ 18)Being unable to describe clearly what adult-partner
love feels like or means.
_ 19) Becoming anxious, evasive, defensive, mute,
numb if intimate conversation or behavior turns to "caring,"
"intimacy," or love.
20)Confusing love with
intercourse, so I
love you means I desire you sexually;
21) Complaining that a partner never demonstrates their love enough
or "right." This can be true, or an inability to receive
(feel, trust, and respond to) love.
22) Righteously expecting something in return for providing
love; Not really understanding unconditional love.
_ 23)Confusing love with dependence, so
I love you means I (mainly) need you, and expect you to fill my
behavioral symptoms of an inability to empathize and bond...
_ 24) Insisting I love you, but the receiver doesnt
loved (but they may have a bonding-block too.)
_ 25) Showing “love” by providing physical things
and/or money and feeling frustrated if told "that's not enough."
_ 26)Confusing love with
duty, so I
love you means Im
supposed to feel love for you
(but I can only guess what that is.)
self neglect - being unable to genuinely
and demonstrate consistent, unconditional love for ones Self - e.g. putting
healthy food, rest, exercise, and medical care at low
priority and trivializing, justifying, or joking about that, or saying "I can't help
it." This is also a symptom of excessive shame.
_ 28) Confusing love with power: If you
loved me, you would/nt
_ 29) Habitual discomfort with, or avoidance of, spontaneously
expressing love physically - i.e. avoiding appropriate caressing, hugging, stroking, and
kissing. Alternative: pretending to want to do these ("faking
it"), and denying that.
30) Having acquaintances but
few or no real friends. Paying professional counselors to listen, because "there's no one else
Often experiencing family gatherings and social events as boring chores
to be endured or avoided, vs. enjoyed.
A history of approach-avoid relationships, maritalseparations,
affairs, and/or emotional or legal
divorces, or never really committing to a mate.
33) Appearing to feel more attachment to animals or plants than people; or having no interest in
pets or plants at all.
_ 34) Having one or several
addictions, and focusing on denying that, and/or on reducing the secondary problems they
cause rather than assessing for psychological wounds.
imply several or all six psychological
wounds, not just a bonding block.
the more bonding-block symptoms like
these that you or another person has, the higher the odds
you or s/he is dominated by a protective false self. The checklist above is one of several you can use to
assess someone for
inherited psychological wounds.
Use them all before drawing any
Can This Bonding Wound be "Cured"?
My clinical experience since 1986 is
that psychological wounds can be reduced(vs. cured) over time, when the
wounded person (GWC)...
accepts the reality of
fully acknowledges that s/he
has inherited significant psychological wounds (hits
genuinely wants to
makes that a stable high life-priority; and...
competent clinical and pastoral
help, over time.
As our culture
wakens to the reality and meaning of the toxic [wounds +
wound-reduction help is
slowly becoming easier to find.
believe this inability to bond and
experience love results from
having all five other psychological wounds. If this is true, patient work at
reducing each of them and harmonizing the inner
family (personality) under the true Self's leadership will also reduce
this tragic wound. My clinical experience is that skilled
("pars work"). psychodrama, and/or
Voice-dialog therapy can help
self-motivated GWCs do this.
Lesson 1, Part 3
includes detailed parts-work strategies for reducing many common psychological
problems, including each of the six GWC wounds.
For more background and resources, see
the Association for Treatment and Training
in the Attachment of Children (ATTACh)
and this CDC study..
The clinical name for this widespread
psychological wound is
Attachment Disorder (RAD)." It's usually associated with young -
vs. adult - trauma survivors. Option: search the Web with that term
for perspective and resources. Don't expect any to
acknowledge false selves and psychological wounds yet.
general perspective, study these:
overview of the silent [wounds + unawareness]
cycle that may be harming your
family and descendents;
an overview of psychological wound
This Lesson-1 article focuses on the last of six common psychological
wounds - the inability to feel, empathize, bond, and love. The article
Perspective on feeling and
What causes this
How does this bonding
wound relate to giving and receiving love?
this psychological wound affect
typical family relationships?
typical behavioral symptoms of this wound? And...
wounded people learn to genuinely bond (feel and receive love)?
The ability to bond may be
improved by admitting
and working intentionally to
reduce the five other psychological wounds that cause it. Lesson 1 in this nonprofit Web
site offers an effective way to do that for people who have hit true
Pause, breathe, and reflect: why did you read this article?
What are your subselves
thinking and feeling now? Did they get what they needed here?
If not, what do they need?
answering these questions - your wise
true Self or