Umberto CrisantiCBT, Counselling and Psychotherapy in Canterbury

Cognitive-constructivist therapy

The cognitive-constructivist approach asserts that everyone has 4 ‘personal meaning organisation styles’ or if you want you can call them ‘personality styles’ or tendencies. Here we are not necessarily talking about disorders.

They are called: phobic, eating disorder and obsessive.

The Eating Disorder Organization (ED)are individuals who tend to select internal states and opinions based on an external point of reference. I’d like to stress that people don’t necessarily express this tendency via controlling food; but those are people that are very aware of perceived expectations of others, have a strong need for approval, and a keen sensitivity to judgment and to criticism.

The Obsessive Organization (OBS)type is where the sense of self is based primarily upon conscious control of behaviour and thinking, both of which are expected to match abstract principles. These people tend to focus on responsibility, anticipatory control, order, certainty and coherence.

The Phobic Organization (PHOB)tends to have a vulnerable sense of self that interprets emotional states as impediments to action. Such individuals may be ruled by themes of freedom and invincibility, as well as preoccupations about health, friendship, emotional stability.

The Depressive Organization (DEP)type will have a sense of personal ineptitude on an emotional level and a constant experience of solitude within one’s primary attachment (parent, partner, best friend). They may experience a continuous sense of loss in life events and find it hard to let go or move on

The cognitive-constructivist approach is that it is based on the theory of attachment and considers both the implicit and explicit – that is - looks at both the subconscious or conscious ways of thinking.

What is Attachment?

Attachment is defined as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings” (Bowlby, 1969), and may be considered interchangeable with concepts such as “affectional bond” and “emotional bond.”

Early interactions with caregivers could not only shape how an infant understood and behaved in relationships, but that this impact could be carried forward into adulthood.

4 Attachment Styles

There are four major styles of attachment that people form early in life and generally tend to keep into adulthood. These styles are:

Fearful-avoidant (disorganized)

So what attachment style do you think you have?

1. Securely attached
When a person has a secure attachment style, they feel confident in their relationship and their partner. They feel connected, trusting, and comfortable with having independence and letting their partner have independence even as they openly express love. They reach out for support when they need it and offer support when their partner is distressed.

2. Dismissive-Avoidant
People who have the dismissive-avoidant attachment style tend to be very emotionally independent—perhaps overly so. They find it uncomfortable to get too emotionally close to others or to trust them fully. In fact, those around them may describe them as actively trying to avoid closeness. They seem to pride themselves on not needing emotional intimacy. When they're rejected or hurt, they tend to pull away.

3. Anxious-preoccupied attachment
People with this attachment style tend to crave emotional intimacy, even when their partner is not yet ready or the situation doesn’t call for it. They need a lot of approval, responsiveness, and reassurance from their partners. They can get anxious when they don’t get it.
It’s not fun to have this attachment style. Often, people feel dependent on others for approval and doubt their self-worth. That's only reinforced when the target of their clinginess never seems to be as interested.

4. Disorganized (avoidant) attachment
A person with this attachment style is confused. They essentially have both the dismissive and the anxious styles combined—both wanting emotional closeness and also pushing it away. They're fearful of fully trusting others and yet they need approval or validation. They often deny their feelings or are reluctant to express them. At the same time, they’re more easily jealous and tend to perceive a greater threat from possible romantic rivals.

Loss or Trauma
People who have experienced loss or trauma are more likely to have a fearful-avoidant attachment style. For example, children growing up with parents with alcoholism are more likely to be fearful-avoidant. This makes sense because they live in an environment where security and closeness are not guaranteed, and sometimes there is active harm coming from the person who should be taking care of them. These mixed messages lead to the fearful-avoidant patterns of both reaching out and pulling away.

Can you cultivate a more secure attachment style?

To answer to this question, I have summarised some of the most salient aspects of probably the longest close psychological follow-up of an animal in the literature Original paper: ‘On the evolution of attachment-disordered behaviour’ (Helge Fischer-Mamblona, 2000).

Feli, the goose you need to know (I hope it helps):

Helge Fischer-Mamblona was an ethologist and psychologist, who followed the life of a goose, ‘Feli’, for more than a decade, from the time Feli was hatched. This summary contains some animal cruelty, and I want to stress out that in my opinion taking healthy beings and artificially inducing a condition that keeps them in an unnatural and stressful environment is dubious at best, however I can’t help noticing that this experiment provided biological and evolutionary information about ‘programming’ with a language that brings clinical work closer to clients’ actual experiences.

Feli was hatched in the laboratory of the famous ethologist Konrad Lorenz in Germany. She was put into an isolation pen for 8 weeks after hatching. She saw no other geese and no other animals, not even humans. With the exception of the automatic heating lamps and the concealed changing of food and water bowls, she had no other stimulation at this period. She performed all the behavioural patterns typical for her age – for example, she would greet and complain as if there was a social context, although there was no goose-mother to answer and rush to comfort her. Apparently, this lack of response confused Feli deeply. Outbreaks of escape behaviour were expressed in wild erratic running, often to the point of exhaustion, followed by weak greeting sounds into empty space. After a few days she began to greet any alteration at all, even the switching on or off of the heating lamp or the concealed replacement of the food bowl, but wailing and erratic. During her time of isolation, at the beginning of her life, she missed the critical period for creating an attachment (to geese). She was then let free to roam among the flock of ‘normal’ geese. She was a misfit. She did not know how to react to them. She stayed on the periphery of the flock. She did not play with other goslings. She ate alone, waiting for all the other geese to finish eating at the feeding trough and leave before she approached it to eat. Once when she was at the feeding trough, an-other goose unexpectedly approached from behind. Feli turned and directed an aggressive display towards him. However, her display was not the one a goose normally ad-dresses to another goose. It was the display used only for a predatory animal. At times Feli would inappropriately run up to join a family of geese and goslings with whom she had no prior relations – a sort of social promiscuity. They would chase her away. Otherwise the other geese tolerated her. But she was not a total misfit, she retained certain species-specific behavioural patterns. When she was an adolescent, young males would approach her to court. She had pieces of the appropriate behaviours, but could not successfully engage the task. She would then wag her head from side to side and run away from the male. When she was a young adult, she showed some nest-building behaviours. These innate patterns had apparently not required a normal attachment and socialisation to remain intact. Fischer-Mamblona gave her some goose eggs to sit on. Feli knew what to do, but not completely and did not remain sitting on them consistently enough. They did not hatch. Later she was given another clutch of goose eggs to hatch. She did much better this time and the eggs hatched. But when the freshly hatched goslings approached her, got close, and solicited her behaviour, she would wag her head and run away. They all died. After this failure, Fischer-Mamblona reasoned that young goslings were too demanding of maternal care for Feli. Ducklings, on the contrary, are hatched in a more mature state and are more independent. They ask much less of their mother. Feli was given a clutch of duck eggs to hatch. The ducklings hatched. Feli did not reject them, nor did she do a great deal for them. They would walk down to the water by themselves. At night they slept apart from Feli, all together. Feli did not let them stay too close to her. One night, there was a terrible storm with heavy rain, thunder and lightning. The ducklings were afraid and came up to Feli and crawled under her wing for protection. She let them stay the night with her. The next morning, after that night storm, when the ducklings marched down to the water, Feli followed them – an imprint-ing line of march, in reverse. They continued to sleep under her wing. Feli’s ducklings grew up well. She could approach them and be approached by them without running away. She resumed her life at the periphery of the flock, slightly more harmoniously. One day a goose from another flock arrived. He was a slightly older male goose. He, too, was a sort of outsider. He courted her. She now knew what to do and accepted him. They made a tight couple and stayed together. After a while, Konrad Lorenz retired and his laboratory was disbanded. The geese were sent to a place in Austria. Feli and her mate lived there together for several years. One day he was flying over the lake and into Switzerland and a Swiss hunter shot him. He never returned and Feli went into a depression. Not too long after that, she died, having had a surprisingly full life. Attachment behaviours in people obviously more varied, complex and flexible, but its instinctive origins are still there.

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