Facilitated by Deirdre Fay
2-4 February 2018, Kingsley Hotel, Cork; organised by
Reviewed by Anne Gill
I was drawn to this course as so much of my personal and client work has to do with healing attachment issues. Deirdre Fay integrates trauma and attachment theory with yoga, mindfulness and meditation.
The educational objectives of the course were clear:
- To explain how attachment patterns are non-narrative, encoded in an ‘internal working model’ (Bowlby, 1969)
- To identify the foundational functions of secure attachment
- To describe and apply strategies to move from protest to ‘Nourishing Opposites’
- To learn a step-by-step map to change attachment patterns
- To explain our evolutionary negativity bias and how to cultivate an embodied positivity bias
- To embed new neural pathways with simple embodied approaches
- To cultivate a transformational approach to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
We were a group of 70 and together we created a very safe container, well held by Deirdre. She had beautiful slides which supported her teaching well. As well as the teaching component, there was a strong emphasis on practical exercises, many of them coming from a yoga and mindfulness background. For me, these practices were really key and I will continue to integrate them into my daily life. Deirdre wove them well throughout the course. We looked at the seven characteristics of secure attachment: safety, attunement, reassurance, expressed delight, guidance, conflict and repair and fluidity/flexibility. Deirdre stressed that our internal working model (Bowlby, 1969) is developed before we are two years old. This is the perceptual lens through which we view the world. In cases of insecure attachment it needs to be re-patterned. The good news is that it can be, and we can build a secure attachment as we develop beyond these early years (Davila et al., 1997). This takes practice, patience and the development of mindfulness skills, particularly self-compassion.
We did several yoga/mindfulness practices which helped us create space in which to befriend resistance and painful parts.
One practice we did focussed on ‘Parts Work’ and in yoga it is called Anjali Mudra. It is about grounding into the centre of our being, the place of our spiritual heart. We were invited to externalise different parts of ourselves by placing them in our two hands. I chose a very early foetal part of myself to put in my left hand, and in my right hand was my adult self. I then got a sense of the sensations and feelings in both hands. My left hand was shaking and afraid, but the right hand felt strong and capable: two very different energies. Slowly, I brought both hands together at the heart and noticed the rest of my body, in particular my heart and spine. The two externalised energies came together at my heart. Deirdre then asked ‘What would you like to offer them?’ I offered gratitude for all that they have taught me.
The steps to re-patterning our attachment patterns follow a sequence but are also unique to each individual. To feel safe, we need to explore new possibilities. This will bring us out of our comfort zone and create turbulence. At that point we need attunement, someone who can mirror our needs and help us to self-regulate. It is important to allow ourselves be seen and known without judgement or shame. Our needs need to be validated (Johnson, 2009).
Deirdre stressed that mistakes arise as wisdom, as tools for learning and development which can generate reassurance and comfort.
There is learning in staying in touch with the felt sense of what is going on in our bodies and trusting our impulses. Slowly we can learn to hold all parts of ourselves and also to get a sense of our best self. Eventually we reach a place of self-worth and expressed delight. During the workshop this happened in a lovely way at the end by people sharing poems they had written and singing favourite songs.
Deirdre posited that humans react more strongly to negative stimuli than to equally strong positive ones. We need to develop a positivity bias and learn how to turn towards what is the nourishing opposite. Deirdre spoke of a geranium plant in her workroom which is her teacher. It always finds a way of turning towards the light. We need to learn this skill and practice it.
What I took from the workshop is that we need to learn to surf turbulence. The developmental task of a child is to know itself by getting what is needed from outside. The developmental task of an adult is to learn to live from the inside while also being related to others and life situations. The map looks like this: be mindful, open to your needs and notice protest, practice self-compassion and learn to accept your needs, identify a nourishing opposite, reach for it, learn to surf turbulence, and then, to receive and surrender.
I did this course with my eldest daughter and this was a gift. We have worked individually and together on early trauma as we were separated for a period of three months because of illness in the first year of her life. I have also worked all my life with my own pre and perinatal trauma.
I recommend Deirdre’s book Attachment-Based Yoga and Meditation for Trauma Recovery. She also runs an online course on Becoming Safely Embodied. Her website is www.dfay.com.
Anne Gill MIAHIP is a psychotherapist and supervisor in North County Dublin. She has a special interest in early attachment issues and has trained with Dr. Ray Castellino in prenatal and birth therapy.
Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment. New York: Basic Books.
Davila, J., Burge, D., & Hammen, C. (1997). Why does attachment style change? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(4), 826-838.
Fay, D. (2017). Attachment-based yoga and meditation for trauma recovery. New York & London: W.W.Norton.
Johnson, S.M. (2009). Attachment theory and emotionally focused therapy for individuals and couples: Perfect partners. In J. Obegi & E. Berant (Eds.), Attachment theory and research in clinical work with adults (pp. 410-433). New York, Guilford Press.