When East meets West to address shame and treat insecure attachment




Blum, Amy Meredith

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Attachment theory provides evidence that infants and children who perceive insufficient care and attunement tend to develop emotional, social, and behavioral deficits (Bowlby, 1969, 1973, 1988; Ainsworth, 1989). The hidden root that sustains attachment-based symptoms and syndromes is shame. Shame is defined as an injury to the self as a result of contemptuous or humiliating treatment from a valued person (Erskine, 1994; Evans, 1994). Similarly, Bowlby (1988) posits that shame is an adaptive, biological response when a child see’s their caretaker as unavailable or hurtful. Children attempt to rationalize their painful emotional experiences, but because they are driven to seek and maintain attachment bonds with caregiving figures, they often disavow anger toward such figures and surmise they are bad, unworthy, or incapable of love. This system of thinking and the associated psychopathology can maintain through adulthood (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991; Shaver & Mikulincer, 2007; Wei et al., 2011). While attachment-based symptoms like depression, anxiety, and anger are typically treated in the West from a medical model perspective, shame often endures and keeps clients stuck in insecure attachment styles. On the other hand, Eastern-based therapeutic treatments that incorporate mindfulness and self-compassion uniquely and effectively quell shame (Gilbert & Procter, 2006; Leary, Adams, & Tate, 2006; Luoma et al., 2012). As such, this report advances that these ancient methodologies may be better suited for adult clients with insecure attachment concerns.


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