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Attachments 9

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Attachments 9

       If you have not been here, we have moved on from the Avoidant Attachment Style to the Ambivalent Attachment style.  So, please turn with me to page 85.

Dependency Development:

The Pathways to Ambivalent Attachment

“You might wonder how this type of dependency develops.  Let’s take a look at four common scenarios that can produce a dependent personality most likely to develop ambivalent attachment.

       The primary goal of good parenting is to help children become autonomous adults who are able to function independently of their parents.  But some parents do just the opposite.  Their goal is to foster compliant, always-there-for-the-parent kids—dependent children who are discouraged from being independent.

       (Remember:  babies come here dependent.  We must help them develop some measure of independence, so that they might learn to be interdependent!)

(All right, let’s look at the first scenario that can produce a dependent personality that is more likely to develop ambivalent attachment.)

The Cold-Shoulder Treatment

The genesis of the dependent personality can begin in situations like this:  (a) The child behaves in a way the parent disapproves of, and (b) the parent refuses to talk to the child or emotionally turns a cold shoulder toward the child.  Often uncomfortable with strong emotion, these parents especially learn to unleash their frigid-shoulder demeanor when the children assert their sense of self, their own opinions, and their ways that differ from the parents’.  Ice also forms on their shoulders when the children express strong emotions, like anger or frustration.

       Don’t get us wrong here.  We are not suggesting that parents allow their children to be rude or obnoxious when they disagree with their parents.  However, children should be allowed to disagree, and that disagreement should not be automatically interpreted as ‘bad attitude’ followed consistently with the cold shoulder to correct their nonconformity.”[1]

       As I have been reading about and studying Mediterranean or Biblical culture, I can see that there is a value for assertiveness!  This value is also very healthy for us today.  Assertiveness is not aggressiveness or passivity.  It is simply maintaining one’s boundaries.  Aggressiveness is ignoring the fences or boundaries of others and dumping garbage into the yards of others, without their permission.  Passivity is allowing others to ignore our fenses or boundaries and dump garbage into our yards, with our permission.  Assertiveness is simply maintaining our own boundaries and not dumping or receiving garbage that we have not asked for!!!

(The second scenario that can produce a dependent personality that is more likely to develop ambivalent attachment is:)


Kids should be allowed to be kids.  When parents forbid their children from participating in age-appropriate, ordinary activities because the parents believe such activities put the children in too much physical or emotional danger, the children never learn to deal with the normal bumps and bruises the world hands out.  As a result, they remain dependent.” [2]

(The third scenario that can produce a dependent personality that is more likely to develop ambivalent attachment is:)

Withholding Affection and Approval

As the name implies, withholding occurs as parents withhold their affection and approval when children get excited or experience joy independently of parents.  As you can imagine, this dampens the children’s sense of autonomy and makes it too dangerous to explore outside the parents’ world.

       For example, a ten-year-old girl told us she and her girlfriend were playing in her room, whispering and giggling about the typical things ten-year-old girls find funny, when the girl’s mom poked her head in the, interrupted, and accused them of misbehaving.”[3]  The message:  “It is not permissable to have fun without me!”[4]

(The fourth and final scenario that can produce a dependent personality that is more likely to develop ambivalent attachment is:)

“Invisible Fences

An invisible fence is used to teach the dog to stay in the yard.  An invisible electronic “fence” is buried around the perimeter of the yard.  The dog is trained with a special collar that emits a high-pitched sound, if the dog gets too close to the fence.  If the dog walks closer to the fence, it gets a painful shock.  The master then pulls the dog back from the shock and the dog quickly learns to associate the high-pitched sound with pain, so when it hears that sound in the future, it will stop and retreat.  The dog also believes that the electronic force field continues, indefinitely beyond the perimeter.  That’s why good doggie parents never let the dog loose beyond the invisible fence’s electric field.  It will learn its parents have misled him, and the fence may no longer work.

       Dependency develops in the same way whenever children behave autonomously, express their own opinions or their feelings of anger or frustration, or engate in age-appropriate activities, and the parents display disapproval.  The dependent person comes to associate painful disapproval with the experience of autonomy and independence.  Just as the dog retreats from the sound of the collar to the safety of the master’s yard, so the dependent person retreats from independence and anxiously seeks refuge in the caregiver.”[5]

(We are now on page 87.)

Three Shades of Dependency

That Lead to Ambivalent Attachment

“Anxiety, uncertainty, and self-doubt rumble like a nearby subway just beneath the surface of dependent people.  Their goal is to manage their anxiety.  If and how they manage it differs, however.  Let’s take a look at three shades of dependence.

The Anxious Dependent

Anxious dependents behave a little like turtles without shells.  They feel vulnerable all the time—to the world and to others.  All they ever want is security and to be protected, but they never get it, or at least they never feel that they do.  Instead a foreboding sense of danger, of being somehow defective and inadequate, follows them like a little black cloud.  If you are married to one of these people, you understand.  (Have you heard of Schleprock, on the Flintstones?  He is the guy walking around with a dark cloud that is raining on him!)  Caught in a tough spot, this strong dependency is combined with the dismal sense that others will inevitably reject them.  For these people, the greatest fear is that others will get to know them for who they really are—inadequate and defective.  (I wish I had a dollar for every time that I have heard people say this!)  And they are sure this awareness will lead to instant and outright rejection.

       As a consequence, anxious dependent persons hesitate to start a relationship unless they are certain that they won’t be rejected.  Outwardly these people may appear apathetic and disinterested in relationships, but somewhere inside them a storm of desire clashes with fears of rejection—and the thunder rolls.  Some common characteristics include:

·        a tendency to avoid close relationships because of the fear of rejection

·        an unwillingness to get involved in activities that require social interaction

·        a pattern of restraint and reservation within social situations

·        excessive fear of criticism

·        an aversion to embarrassment, one of the most feared emotions

·        low self-esteem, a feeling that the person is fundamentally flawed or defective

·        a tendency to exaggerate risks, especially the risk of being embarrassed socially

·        a tendency to be easily sidetracked and overwhelmed by otherwise minor failures or disappointments

Engulfed in this fire, it’s very difficult to get out of the flames.  Why?  Because it’s a vicious, self-repeating cycle that is often plagued by a number of negative thought patterns:

·        I feel flawed; no one could possible like me.

·        Every failure verifies I am flawed.

·        If someone rejects me, it also proves I’m flawed.

·        Those who like me must not really know who I am or else they’re poor judges of character.

·        If I feel embarrassed, it will be overwhelming and unbearable.”[6]

(All right, let’s go the next shade of dependence.)

“The Melodramatic Dependent

While anxious dependents deal with the fear of rejection by withdrawing, melodramatic dependents, often women, are far more active about it.  They seek attention with great enthusiasm and tenacity.  Unfortunately, when trying to achieve their goals of acceptance and social applause, they tend to rely too heavily on their looks and theatrical displays of emotion.  …Their ambivalent attachment style is characterized by dependency and attention seeking, especially getting attention from men.  The following list shows some important characteristics and life themes of melodramatics:

·        are “onstage” all the time as they seek to be the center of attention

·        tend to perceive all relationships as closer then they really are

·        are strongly impacted by the opinions of others

·        pay excessive attention to their physical appearance

·        always want to stay looking young

·        dress in sexually provocative ways but get little pleasure from sex, even in marriage

·        shift emotions rapidly, often quite dramatically

·        speak in a very impressionistic way, paying very little attention to details

·        though emotional displays may be quite dramatic, they generally try to downplay stronger emotions (especially about abandonment) and present themselves in a very favorable light.

…In addition to basic dependency, melodramatic dependent people struggle with three fundamental beliefs:

·        I must be the center of attention or I’m not worthy/lovable.

·        I need someone, especially a strong man, to constantly offer me reassurance and praise or I will feel awful about myself.

·        In order for others to want to be around me, I must always be fun and exciting.”[7]

(All right, let’s look at the third shade of dependence.)

The Angry Dependent

Although anger seems out of place for a dependent person, it’s a common characteristic—if we define it right.  So, before we go any further, let’s define two types of anger.

       Primary adaptive anger recognizes we’ve been wronged or mistreated.  It is validating anger; some have called it righteous indignation, a sense that This just isn’t fair.  I don’t deserve what you’ve done to hurt me.

       Secondary maladaptive anger frequently ignores the event that provoked the anger and suppresses it.  Behaviorally, it’s repressed anger, tamped down—stuffed and overcontrolled because the person is afraid to be direct about it.  However, anger can’t be totally repressed for very long, because it always finds an expression.  In time it will surface—maybe physically, in problems like ulcers or high blood pressure, or perhaps emotionally, through irritability and nagging.   (It comes out sideways!)

For dependent people, anger generally takes the form of the secondary maladaptive type.  When the person has become tired of the nagging, s/he can emotionally disengage from the dependent person and go silent.  The walls thicken and become impenetrable, forcing the angry dependent person into a vicious cycle as he or she becomes increasingly exasperated by the situation.  After all, angry dependents believe themselves unworthy, and when their anger, no matter how indifferently expressed, goes unacknowledged, anger can easily degenerate into rage.  Inevitably the relationship deteriorates.  When this happens it fulfills the dependent’s worse nightmare and a morbid depression or devasting anxiety may consume the soul.”[8]

Breaking the Cycle

This kind of teaching may be uncomfortable for both me and you.  You may even be embarrassed or hurt by some of the descriptions, but stay tuned, because you can break free of this destructive cycle of dependence.”[9]

Homework:    Attachments (pages 95-106).

Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB-U), “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

(Now is the Day of Salvation!  Come to Jesus, Now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 85.

[2] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 85-86.

[3] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 86.

[4] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 86.

[5] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 86-87.

[6] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 87-88.

[7] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 89-90.

[8] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 93-94.

[9] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 95.

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