This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Attachment Challenge Day 1 & 2

Attachment Challenge

Anonymous said...
Does Kitty want to do this? If she doesn't want to and you don't want to, why do it?
If the feeling of love isn't spontanous, if you have to fish around for "words of affirmation," then you're just going through the motions. 

Anon:  My first response to your post was, YOU'RE TOTALLY RIGHT!  Why should I torture us both?  I'm not going to!  Then I took a deep breath, pulled up my big girl panties, and I'll give you the same answer the equine therapist gave Kitty when the horse didn't trust Kitty to work on it's right side. Kitty asked why she should bother, she didn't think it mattered if she didn't brush the horse or approach it on that side. The therapist said that the horse didn't like it, but a therapy horse that wouldn't allow people to work with it - wasn't useful. A child that won't allow people to touch her or attach to adults, will never be a fully, functional human being. It's my job to help her develop into a functional human being, capable of relationships.  No matter how much it sucks.  I think "going through the motions" and "fake it 'till you make it" does work.

Attachment Challenge Day #1 - 
2pm and only 1 hug done. Not good.
8pm - 2 hugs from her in the last 20 minutes. That makes 3. We did our "her choice" activity (I made cheesecake and she helped for a few minutes before making a snack and wandering off)... if you stretch the definition, but still no attachment activity. Not looking good for the home team.
9:30pm - Kitty realized The Attachment Challenge is a "chore" and if chores aren't done then no fun activities tomorrow.  Does her few chores then gives me 7 hugs over the back of the couch where I'm sitting.  *sigh*
10:45pm - Bob comes home from her school field trip to Spain.  She brings presents for everyone.  Kitty handles it pretty well (helped that Bob brought her the "most expensive" present - a $20 bottle of nail polish - oh, and some flip flops that didn't fit Bob).
*MUCHO WHINING ABOUT not wanting to do this attachment thing*

Attachment Challenge Day#2 - 
10am - 1st hug of the day when I reminded her it would be a good idea, because those unsatisfactory hugs at the end of the day before were not going to be allowed to count as more than 3 out of 10.
A couple of hugs scattered throughout the day.
4:00 - On the way to therapy, I found myself full of overwhelming feelings of anger and frustration.  She was her usual demanding self, babbling about all the stuff she wanted us to do for her.  I started to argue with her about her more unreasonable demands, but finally had to just tell her I couldn't talk to her right then, and worked hard to get control over my feelings.  Luckily Hubby was driving.  I told Hubby it might be time for me to get back on meds, because I get these moments where I just feel like ripping someone's head off for no reason sometimes.
4:30 - Therapy starts and Kitty starts in on how evil and stupid she thinks this attachment challenge is.  I can't decide if she's amped it up to impress the therapist or if she hadn't wanted to share her feelings completely with me.  I told the therapist about the "equine therapy theory" and mentioned that many of the other families that have done the challenge have found that   The therapist started talking about compromise, and I got a little frustrated.

As always the therapist was asking Kitty if she could talk about where in the body her feelings were, and to "sit with" the feeling for awhile, describe it...  The therapist noticed that I was having a tough time and turned to me and told me the same thing.  *eek!*  I didn't want to go with my feelings!!  I wanted to shove them down and NOT deal with them.  The therapist subtly let me know that it might help Kitty to see me dealing with my feelings, so after some initial resistance.  I let go.  Kitty and Hubby both said they'd never seen me cry (not true for Hubby, but EXTREMELY rare).  Kitty tried several times to interrupt and bring things back to her, but the therapist didn't let her.

I never did share in therapy what my feelings were really about, but I allowed Kitty to believe that they were a little about the hurt of being rejected by Kitty and mostly worry that she would never be a fully functional human being.  True, but just the tip of the iceberg -- more about that some other time.

So getting back to the Attachment Challenge.  The therapist's point was that there are 2 ways to look at things like hugs with a child as reactive as Kitty.  (See this description of phobia treatments for a more detailed explanation)

Flooding, a type of exposure treatment - which is basically what the Attachment Challenge does.  .  Hugs cause Kitty's nervous system to instinctively flood.  Flooding involves immersing the person in the fear reflex until the fear itself fades away.

The therapist recommended something more like Counter-conditioning.  Instead of hugs and pressured attachment activities with extended eye contact (which is also very hard for Kitty).  We'd change it to her sitting next to me on the couch while we watch TV and I put my hands on her shoulders (eventually working up to pressure on her upper arms and neck), plus warmth and light pressure on her lower back (fingers in line with her lower rib cage) which effects her kidneys.  Kitty isn't happy about it, but she agrees it's better than the way we were doing it.

Counter-conditioning - (Watson, 1924). In this form, one is trained to substitute a relaxation response for the fear response in the presence of the phobic stimulus. Relaxation is incompatible with feeling fearful or having anxiety, so it is said that the relaxation response counters the fear response. This counter-conditioning is most often used in a systematic way to very gradually introduce the feared stimulus in a step-by-step fashion known as systematic desensitization, first used by Joseph Wolpe (1958). This desensitization involves three steps: (1) training the patient to physically relax, (2) establishing an anxiety hierarchy of the stimuli involved, and (3) counter-conditioning relaxation as a response to each feared stimulus beginning first with the least anxiety-provoking stimulus and moving then to the next least anxiety-provoking stimulus until all of the items listed in the anxiety hierarchy have been dealt with successfully.

Attachment Challenge Day #3
11am - One good morning hug.  Her laying on the couch; me doing a walk-by hugging.
3:30pm - Still nothing.  *sigh*  Currently she's hiding in her room either napping or playing with her new iPod she purchased from my niece using money from her job.


Anonymous said...

No idea what kind of meds you were on, but if you feel like ripping someone's head off "for no reason," then you probably should get back on them.

Lisa said...

Hmmm...I have felt like ripping someones head off over the past few days too. I've never been on meds before but I am thinking that it might not really be about the meds (or lack thereof) or for "no reason". There is only so much crap a human being can take before we are drowning. Drowning in everyone else's needs. Everyone else says, "I want" this or that and they make it happen (often by brow beating us into doing or getting for them). We say, "I want..." and it feels like no one gives a crap. No one is listening. Our needs only mean something to us, and as usual, we come last. I know for me personally, I am really tired...sigh. Sometimes that comes out as hopelessness, but sometimes anger as well.

marythemom said...

I was on meds for bipolar disorder, but usually my symptoms are pretty mild and I only need meds when I'm under great stress - although I'm not sleeping well and this is another sign I may need to be back on meds.

I discovered a couple of days later that this could have been caused by PMS as well as issues with Bear and other stress (see

Thanks, guys!