6
ATTACHMENT THEORY AND
DISSOCIATION

Although they use different words and concepts, some of the strands (Stern, 1985; Fonagy et al., 1995; Lyons-Ruth, 1999, 2001a, b; Fonagy, 2001) of present-day attachment theory describe dissociation quite well, both in the language of segregated, disconnected internal working models and in that of disorganized attachment. Bowlby’s proposal that under extremely difficult attachment conditions, multiple, segregated working models could develop has proved to be an extremely fruitful way of thinking about human cognitive and emotional development, especially with regard to dissociation. Given the striking functional similarity between the concept of incompatible and segregated working models and that of dissociated self-states, it seems probable that these two different languages are describing much the same phenomena. Indeed, inasmuch as internal working models involve an expectation of a particular kind of relationship, involving self-experience and sense of the other, along with organizing feelings about these, one could say that internal working models are self-states. A dissociated self-state is defined by Bromberg (2001b) as “what Janet called a ‘system or complex’… or a self organized by its own dominant affect, its own view of social phenomena and human relationships, its own moral code, its own view of reality that is fiercely held as a truth” (p. 896).


The Attachment Paradigm

Prior to Bowlby’s work, theories of attachment in psychoanalytic and Hullian learning theory assumed that the infant’s attachment to specific caregivers was a result of association with the gratification of more basic instincts. Attachment behavior was understood to be a secondary drive, an outcome of the satisfaction of primary drives, such as hunger.

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