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  • Writer's pictureRobin Prospect

The Rupture and Repair Cycle

Did you know that it is just as normal to feel misattuned to or disconnected from your loved ones as it is to feel attuned and connected? This blew my mind at a whole new level recently! I was reading “The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy” by Deb Dana, to support me in being trauma-aware in my coaching practice, and this point leapt out at me.

Looking through trees to a distant hilltop with wind turbines
A beautiful world opens up when I think about relationships in this way!

All those times something felt off and I made a judgement about a relationship, or made up a story of blame... Unnecessary! In the research on child-mother attachment, it was concluded that a secure attachment can form if there is attunement 30% of the time. Wow! All those self-judgements for not being attuned to partners and friends at all times... Forgiving myself for that! And that instinct to pretend to feel a connection that just isn't there in that moment: that can go, too.

Disconnection is part of a healthy relationship cycle which psychologists call "Rupture and Repair". I love this name because it is alliterative and apt. Everyone experiences ruptures in their relationships. The key to a secure attachment is being able to complete the Repair part.

If you learned that rupture between you and a caregiver was not well repaired as a child, you may have developed an anxious, avoidant or disorganised response to rupture. If you sense disconnection, you might get clingy or panicky or withdrawn or angry, for example, or other more elaborate and complex responses (I find these quite beautiful to notice)! All those responses made sense in context, and those parts of us who carry out those responses need to be loved, understood and appreciated for the important role they have played in protecting us.

For those of us who didn't get amazing training at repairing when we were growing up, there is some skill-building to do. However, I like Deb Dana's simple guidance that the most important single thing is reciprocity. Specifically, both of you finding out what the other person needs to return to a feeling of safety and wellbeing in the relationship. If both people in the relationship try to do that, you feel cared for and you learn how to help each other feel safer in the future.

I have been exploring this territory over the last couple of years. I have to say that it is much more enjoyable to focus on the repair rather than the rupture. I get a lovely feeling of wellbeing when I consider, and carry out, better care for my loved ones. When the other person joins in, there is an even bigger buzz of creating something beautiful together.

Where are you on this journey? Is this as big a piece of news to you as it was to me??

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