Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation

072: How Your Attachment Style Shapes Reality (with Dr. Todd Hall)

October 03, 2023 Geoff and Cyd Holsclaw Season 5 Episode 72
072: How Your Attachment Style Shapes Reality (with Dr. Todd Hall)
Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation
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Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation
072: How Your Attachment Style Shapes Reality (with Dr. Todd Hall)
Oct 03, 2023 Season 5 Episode 72
Geoff and Cyd Holsclaw

How can two different people experience the same event differently? Do we see, hear, and even feel the world differently? Are we filtering social and emotional information in different ways?  The answer is yes. And this has to do with what Dr. Todd Hall calls attachment filters (or what attachment theory calls "attachment styles"). 

Dr. Todd Hall is Professor of Psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University. Dr. Hall’s writing and research focus on relational approaches to spiritual development, leadership/organizational development, and flourishing.

Get the "Attachment Filter Matrix" PDF here:

Stay Connected:

  • NEED spiritual direction or coaching that aligns with this podcast? Connect with Cyd Holsclaw here.
  • Join the Embodied Faith community to stay connected and get posts, episodes, & resources.
  • Support the podcast with a one-time or regular gift (to keep this ad-free without breaking the Holsclaw's bank).
Show Notes Transcript

How can two different people experience the same event differently? Do we see, hear, and even feel the world differently? Are we filtering social and emotional information in different ways?  The answer is yes. And this has to do with what Dr. Todd Hall calls attachment filters (or what attachment theory calls "attachment styles"). 

Dr. Todd Hall is Professor of Psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University. Dr. Hall’s writing and research focus on relational approaches to spiritual development, leadership/organizational development, and flourishing.

Get the "Attachment Filter Matrix" PDF here:

Stay Connected:

  • NEED spiritual direction or coaching that aligns with this podcast? Connect with Cyd Holsclaw here.
  • Join the Embodied Faith community to stay connected and get posts, episodes, & resources.
  • Support the podcast with a one-time or regular gift (to keep this ad-free without breaking the Holsclaw's bank).

[00:00:15] Geoff: How can two different people experience the same event differently? Do we see, hear, and even feel the world in different ways? Are we filtering the social and emotional information? Differently, the answer is yes. And this has to do with what Dr. Todd Hall calls attachment filters. This is the Embodied Faith Podcast with Jefferson Holtzclaw, where we are exploring a neuroscience informed spiritual formation produced by grassroots Christianity, which is growing faith for everyday people. Dr. Hall is a professor of psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology connected to Biola University. And he also serves as an affiliate faculty to the Harvard Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University. He has recently written books on relational spirituality as well as the connected life. We have Actually recorded episodes on both those books in the past.

Those will be in the show notes and they articulate a comprehensive relational spirituality paradigm that for transformation and highlights the transformative power of connections. It's all about connections. It's all about, that's what we're talking about here on this podcast. Welcome Todd on the show once again.

[00:01:27] Dr. Todd Hall: Thank you, Jeff. And so it's great to, great to be back. Really appreciate you guys having me 

[00:01:32] Geoff: love, well, I love having you on, but now since it has been a part of the show,

[00:01:36] Cyd: Yeah, I finally get 

[00:01:37] Geoff: joining again. 

[00:01:38] Cyd: too. I'm excited about that. Yeah.

[00:01:40] Geoff: it'll be great.

Cyd you were going to kick it off with, uh,

questions or thoughts about attachment and

[00:01:45] Cyd: Yeah. So those questions that Jeff asked at the beginning, you know, he, I don't think you actually said, but, you know, we really wanted you to come on today so we could talk to you about attachment, uh, because, you know, Jeff and I are deeply interested in attachment right now too, and doing some work there.

And I'm just wondering if you can start us off with, you know, I have people say things to me like, Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey, Why do I need to look back at my early formation? Like, you know, I just need to keep moving forward. Life is life now. Now is now. Why does, why does looking backwards, like, I don't want to just be navel gazing for the rest of my life.

Or I've also had people say, like, when they hear that we're working on attachment, they'll be like, Oh, you mean like wearing your baby and like nursing on demand or sleeping with your kid? Is that what you're talking about? So, I'm just curious if you could just sort of give a brief overview for our listeners.

What do you mean when you're talking about attachment relationships?

[00:02:37] Dr. Todd Hall: Yes, definitely. So yeah, in terms of said your first, that, that first comment you mentioned about why do I have to look to the past? So, um, yeah, that comes up a lot in these conversations in the, in the church and with discipleship and therapy and coaching and spiritual direction, maybe even as we've been talking about.

And I think the, the basic answer to that is that The past is never just the past. It's always brought into our present through a form of memory. That's called implicit memory. So we have this gut level, implicit form of memory that stores all of our experiences and filters our perception. And so it's always brought into the present.

The present moment is, is always. Constructed somewhat based on our past experiences, and that's what happens with attachment. So that's why we need to understand those influences and reshape and restructure them. So one of the things I tell my students teaching them, you know, in the context of learning therapy is that therapy is the process of changing the way we remember the

[00:03:40] Cyd: Hmm.

[00:03:40] Dr. Todd Hall: So oftentimes. You know, clients will say to them and, you know, at some point early in the therapy, um, they'll get, you know, distraught and, and feel hopeless and say something like, you know, I can't change what happened to me. What's, what's the point of this, right? And of course it's true. We can't change what happened, but we can change the way we remember what happened to us.

And that's essentially what psychotherapy and all forms of growth really are, um, helping us to change the way we remember the past. Um, and that's because. The past is always influencing how we experience the present moment.

[00:04:12] Cyd: Yeah. Yeah. That's a great ex. So when you talk about attachment, you're talking, so that's like defending that why it's important. Um, but what are you actually talking about when you're talking about attachment relationships? Like which relationships are those? Yeah.

[00:04:27] Dr. Todd Hall: Right. Right. Great question. So right. Attachment is attachment relationships are a particular kind of relationship. And, you know, some scholars define them a little more narrowly, and then there's, there's, you know, huge literature on this now. And so people are starting to define it a little bit more broadly, but in the literature that developed around attachment theory.

Basically, it's referring to a very particular special kind of relationship where there's a deep connection between a caregiver, what we sometimes call an attachment figure, um, usually someone stronger and wiser, but those can also be peer relationships, you know, and then someone on the receiving end of that care, such as a child.

So the prototype is in a, is a parent child relationship. And so when the child becomes attached, which usually happens by six months of age, that's six to 12 months, that's usually in place. This bond develops that we call an attachment bond. And there's a couple of characteristics of that, that we, that sort of tell us this is an attachment relationship.

One is. Um, that the child seeks physical proximity, there's sort of two sides of the same coin. One is they seek physical proximity to, in order to, uh, promote safety, physical safety as well as emotional security. And then the flip side of that coin is when there's separation, they experience distress.

Separation anxiety, sometimes it's called, right? But to stress the separation and we all see that in our, our children, children of your friends, right? That's a normal thing, right? And that's part of what shows us this is an attachment relationship is that somebody seeks proximity when they're upset or distressed.

The other, um, aspect of that is sometimes it's called a secure base in, um, attachment theory. And so that's, uh, what I call comfort and challenge, but just the security to. Go out and explore the world, but also, you know, explore our, our internal world. And so that's another aspect that sort of tells us this is an attachment relationship.

So to simplify that, I just refer to it as a secure base that has these two components of comfort and challenge. So comfort when we're distressed and then a positive sense of challenge to explore the world, explore our internal world, our past, you know, as you mentioned, Sid. Um, so those are really kind of the things that mark an attachment relationship.

[00:06:47] Geoff: Well, just for those, um, very studious listeners who want to like track down this information. Uh, I just want to throw some caveats out there because, because I've been teaching, you know, some students, these things and the terminology can get all over the place. So what you described

as the secure base, you were kind of using both sides of the coming to in the midst of distress and the longing for proximity. But then it's also like. The place that you go out from, because you've been charged up with confidence, you've been given a little kind of encouraging nudge, like you can go explore that you can ride your bicycle. You could, you know, and, and that comes from that secure base, that attachment figure, and sometimes that split between it's called both secure base and then like a safe Haven. Uh, so sometimes I just want to throw

that there for those, uh, Todd and Sid and I, we conflate that. We just talk about secure base, but some people talk about a secure base and a safe haven as these components of an attachment relationship. Just throwing it out there for those of you who have come

across that anyways.

All right,

So then, um, the, the attachment bond is, uh, like an emotional, um. obviously. So when it's, it's, uh, threatened or absent for whatever reason, there's a, some distress and there's wanting to seek the proximity. There's an emotional bond also for like joy and excitement where, um, you're being stretched, you know, with all that kind of positive exuberance, uh, kind of life, what are some like other. Uh, components of understanding an attachment relationship. Sometimes people start talking about like internal working models or some of these other

fancy terms, like what, what what is that stuff?

[00:08:27] Dr. Todd Hall: Yeah. So, right. So just to lead up to kind of understanding internal working model. Um, it's helpful to understand sort of the attachment process, how it gets activated and unfolds, which you just were alluding to Jeff, I think. So. It's always operating in the background to some extent, but the attachment system in particular gets activated when we perceive threat or loss or separation, you know, or some kind of distress.

So that's when it kicks into high gear and we typically seek proximity to our attachment figures and comfort. And as I mentioned earlier, parent child is a prototype, right? But we have, we need attachment all throughout our lives. We have attachment figures all throughout our lives. They tend to become peers, you know, spouses.

partners, friends, and, you know, so many different relationships can actually have a, an aspect of attachment, you know, so that some scholars will say, you know, that it's actually better to talk about. Relationships that have an attachment domain or aspect to it. And it's that aspect where you're seeking proximity.

Um, so we need that all throughout our lives. And so when we do become distressed or threatened or, or there's separation, that's when it gets activated and we see proximity. If there is comfort. And what a sense of felt security, Dan Siegel's term, um, then, and that happens repeatedly, right? We, we internalize that in this implicit gut level form of memory.

Uh, and so then that is this felt sense of security or secure base that is. that we hold inside our heart, right? It's internalized, and we're able to use that to comfort ourselves. That's how we learn to regulate our emotions and comfort ourselves. Not that we don't still need people, but we're able to do some of that emotion regulation work ourselves.

If there's not comfort, then we go into these secondary attachment strategies, which are really, you know, as you mentioned earlier, we're talking, there are strategies to help us to cope, right? And so, and they're, they lead to insecure attachment. There's a couple of, you know, forms of that. Um, but basically they're ways of coping and promoting what I call pseudo security, right?

So it's, it's, we're pseudo connection. There's still a need for connection with the parent, but what children do is they work around. the difficulties with attachment, you know, with their parents, so they can get some kind of connection. And, um, so generally those, they, you know, move in the direction of avoidance or anxiety.

Those are kind of the two basic types. And so if that happens repeatedly, there's not comfort, but instead there's neglect. Or abuse or the parent is very anxious and you know, there's a reversal of roles, you know, any of those kinds of things, then the child is going to internalize that and they're going to learn, you know, one of two basic strategies again of either avoiding and withdrawing when they, when their attachment system gets activated, because that led to the best chance of some kind of connection safety, or they're going to become anxious and hyper activate their attachment system because that seemed to do the best job of getting some kind of response.

Thanks. Uh, and so that's all going to be internalized in this gut level form of memory. And that's what attachment three calls internal working models that you

[00:11:41] Cyd: Yeah. And I just want to highlight something that you said where you said the child works around what they're receiving from the parent. And so just that sense that children are so much. more resourceful than we ever give them credit for and all of us as children were very resourceful and so You know, I I mean as I coach people I hear people often say I hate that I do that or why am I?

So incapable of forming deep relationships or why do I have all this social anxiety all those kinds of things that sort of spin up? And so can you say a little bit about how you personally help people? Um, sort of come into a different way of seeing or understanding those things that they say they hate about themselves.

[00:12:27] Dr. Todd Hall: Yes. Right. Yeah. That's such an important point. Sid. It's so I think in, you know, whether it's coaching or therapy, we talked about, we were talking earlier about the differences there and there are differences, but there's, there's definitely overlap. 

[00:12:39] Geoff: before we recorded though. So if people aren't trying to rewind and being like, where did they talk about that? We were,

we were thinking about, Oh, we should do a whole nother episode on the difference between the difference similarity overlaps and how they work together of coaching and therapy.

So I just didn't want listeners to be like, where's

that episode it's maybe it's coming, but

it hasn't been recorded yet. Okay. Go on.

[00:13:00] Dr. Todd Hall: Yeah. So, yeah. So there is, there is overlap there, but I think in any kind of. growth process, we want to help people have a new experience and a new understanding. So part of the new understanding is understanding that these were necessary strategies to cope with, you know, whatever it was.

So maybe it was a loss, maybe it was a, you know, parent that was very neglectful or both parents, maybe it was a parent that was very anxious, or maybe there were, you know, there was abuse, whatever, whatever it was that. You had to cope to, again, maintain some kind of connection and that was necessary. And so, because that's very understandable.

So helping people to understand that can be very healing,

[00:13:41] Cyd: Yeah.

[00:13:42] Dr. Todd Hall: you know, can sort of loosen the grip on these negative feelings toward the self, right? That there's something wrong with me. Because I, you know, related in these ways and now relate in these ways also continue to, to carry that forward. And that's, that's another part of the new understanding is that the, you know, back to the internal working models, right?

These are models or representations in our mind that operate subconsciously or unconsciously. And so we continue to play those out until they get reshaped and, and healing takes place. So it's, again, it's very natural and understandable. It's just part of what it means to be human. And that's, you know, one thing I.

Say often to, you know, my students and sometimes to clients as well. So it's not that there's something wrong with you. It's that you're, you're human and you're, and you're coping. So that's a new understanding. Then the new experiences, there needs to be new relational experiences that are more secure.

And create your base. And that's more directly what rewires these internal working models.

[00:14:41] Cyd: Yeah. I just want to repeat again, you know, for all those listening, it's not like there's something wrong with you. There's actually something very right with you because you adapted to your circumstances the way that you needed to in order to be able to have the best. connections with people that you could.

But then there also comes this moment of responsibility, right? So it's like, well, okay, now that I can know where this comes from, I can understand where its roots are. I can understand that this was actually an intelligent choice that I made when I was younger. Uh, But that also means that I don't just get to keep doing things the way I've always done and I don't have to do any work to try to change my, as you're saying, a filter, um, but instead, like you're saying, you need new stories, new experiences in order to be able to shift the filter, uh, because once we've seen and felt that relief of, okay, this is, I actually did it.

Thank you. intelligent things. Now, again, the choice is how do I be resourceful now and come up with new ways of being? So, yeah. Yeah, which, which is different than, and I, maybe I'm getting into dangerous water here so you can go ahead and, and smack me back here, but like they, you know, with, with a lot of the sort of, um, popular understandings of trauma in our culture, I think there is sort of a sense of like, well, this is just, I have good reason to behave this way.

So you can't ask me to change. Um, so 

[00:16:10] Dr. Todd Hall: yeah, 

[00:16:11] Cyd: go ahead.

[00:16:12] Dr. Todd Hall: yeah, no, I think I think it's a great point said that it's it's understandable. We coped when you know in childhood and in certain ways. Um, But it's also these insecure strategies are also counterproductive to current relationships and definitely, um, oftentimes are not loving. They're working at, you know, cross purposes with love.

So from a Christian standpoint, when we're in that context, we want to help people grow in love of God and others, right? And so these attachment strategies have to be reworked in order to be able to love, uh, God and others more freely.

[00:16:51] Geoff: So just to kind of review and then to jump into the strategies. So we have like an attachment relationship between a caregiver and a child. Uh, when the caregiver is responding sensitively and timely and appropriately to our distress and needs, uh, longterm, we create like a secure attachment relationship. But if you have a less than timely, attuned, attentive caregivers, you talked about there being a workaround, like students or students, sorry, we're all teachers, so I say students, but kids, um, who are students over their parents will figure out a workaround to, to find, to find, you know, to get what they need. Um, and so, and these do fall into two dominant and then one third, like typical kind of. Patterns, like there's a pretty light and there's, you know, 50 plus years of regular research that shows like these patterns are pretty regular. Uh, so could you kind of go through, um, what some of these workarounds or the attachment filters are the main one of like avoidance and then anxious, like what kind of parental or relational environments give rise to them? And then how does that

make it so that we seem to experience the world differently?

That was a huge question, but where did these come

from? The 

[00:18:10] Dr. Todd Hall: no, definitely. 

[00:18:11] Geoff: of, well, let's do the workarounds first. And then we,

[00:18:14] Dr. Todd Hall: Okay. Yeah, we'll go through the different strategies or styles. And as you said, terminology can, there's a lot of different terms used. We can talk through that before I, before I say that one thought I had that I want to mention is that, you know, these are in the research, they're depicted as categories, but they're really, you know, in reality dimensions, right?

We, um, we don't, we don't just sort of exist in one box. whether that's secure or insecure. Um, and so I think it's important for people to know, even if you're generally have a more secure, you know, attachment, we all have insecure tendencies, especially when we become distressed or, you know, as I was saying earlier, experienced threat or loss or something like that.

And this is still relevant, uh, in that sense, definitely in therapy and in coaching, because. When we become distressed, we're going to generally move in one direction or the other toward avoidance or toward anxiety. Um, and that's because we're human, we're fallen creatures. Uh, we're still on this path of growth, right?

So this side of heaven, that that's always going to be the case. So yeah, it can be, I think it's relevant for all. sort of, um, paths of growth and in different types of methodologies and modalities helping people grow, whether that's discipleship, coaching, therapy, whatever. So back to the, yeah, the, the strategies.

So this is what I call the attachment filter matrix. And it's a little visual I created just to sort of depict these four types. And of course, you know, I didn't create these, these are, as you mentioned, Jeff, um, attachment pattern strategies that, that were developed. Um, yeah, back, John Bowlby was writing the 1940s and then Mary Ainsworth started working with him and, and formulating some of these and did some of the early research.

So, you know, back to the 1950s. So they've been around a while and they're just interestingly now sort of. Rising to, you know, the popular level literature, um, which is, which is really interesting and helpful, I think, um, so there's different research traditions, so we don't need to get into the deep, the, you know, sort of gory details of that, but there's basically an interview tradition around what's called the adult attachment interview that was Ainsworth, and then there's a whole self report tradition of research where, you know, the measures used are self report, where people answer questions, and then, you about their attachment.

That started off with Phil Shaver looking at romantic adult attachments. So he's the one who said, Hey, I think this theory can apply to adult romantic relationships and started off with just paragraphs where people just sort of check off which one applied. And then that was expanded into, you know, more formal measures. Having said that, there's been research that's tried to just sort of pull all this together and sort of consolidate, you know, what are the different types. And when you look at all the different methodologies, um, you, you can still sort of find two underlying dimensions. So this is a research approach that, or methodology that tries to just reduce things down so we can explain them.

So it does simplify things, but it helps us to kind of understand. So there's two underlying dimensions. And so I referred, well, this is, you know, in the, in the literature, one way to refer to them as one dimension is relational engagement. So this is what I have is the vertical dimension in this. Um, so it's a sort of a two by two graph, if you can picture that.

And it's, by the way, it's in this, um, free resource that I think you're going to, um, give 

[00:21:41] Geoff: There will be a link in the show notes to this, uh, to get this PDF with this visual and everything. Yes.

[00:21:47] Dr. Todd Hall: Right. So the vertical dimension is relational engagement on one end, relational avoidance on the other, right? So that's a continuum. And then the horizontal dimension is emotional distress on one end to emotional composure on the other. And so again, what we're talking about here is when the attachment system gets activated, particularly somebody is distressed or, you know, there's loss or threat, this is going to kick into high gear.

And so when you take those two dimensions, you get these four quadrants or four different attachment styles or strategies. The top right one is what we call secure. So that's a combination of emotional composure and relational engagement. Meaning when people have this, you know, generally internalized, again, there's still maybe insecure tendencies, but if they've had enough experiences of security with parents and authority figures, when they get distressed, They're, they're going to be able to maintain some level of emotional composure, and they're going to move toward people, relational engagement for support and help.

Not to the extent generally that they're going to overwhelm people, but they just, they know when they need help and they're able to reach out and be vulnerable. And so on, on the chart that people can download, I've got the characteristics listed and for secure, they are, they include be a regulated vulnerability.

So there's an ability to be vulnerable. But it's regulated, uh, being emotionally close. So they are able to be emotionally close and they value it. That's another important thing. People, some people with other types of attachment that we'll talk about consciously, at least don't value attachment, close attachment relationships.

Um, so secure people also are, uh, as I mentioned, emotionally regulated, they have a balanced reliance on self and others. So they're still able to manage their emotions to some extent and do some of that work themselves. They can also reach out to others when they need help. And we all do that in, you know, healthy relationships with partners and spouses, right.

When we're upset or distressed. Right. You, you come home from a difficult day of work, either one of you, right? And you know, Sid, you, you talk to Jeff and you, you sort of download what happened in process It or Jeff. Jeff. You do the same with ssid, right? And you sort of help each other kind of work, work through that without overwhelming each other hopefully. So that's the balance, right? And then there's a genuine sense of confidence. Um, and a, um, reflective stance toward one's own experience. So that means that the person is able to process, think about their feelings and their experiences and sort of step outside them and, and have, take perspectives of other people and different perspectives, and that helps them kind of process their.

emotions and they don't feel, you know, sort of trapped in their, um, in their emotions, which can happen. So that's secure. Um, we'll pick up the pace here a little bit. If we move to the top left in this quadrant, it's that's anxious attachment. And so that's when people get Their attachment system gets activated.

They do move toward people, so relational engagement on the top quadrant, but there's emotional distress on that left side, right? So there's a lot of anxiety, um, and dysregulated vulnerability. They can sometimes become emotionally clingy or even demanding. People can experience them as demanding. Um, and so this is You know, when the attachment system gets hyper activated or, you know, really kicks into high gear, they're emotionally dysregulated.

There's a, um, over reliance on others to manage their emotions. And so that's part of what creates a negative cycle sometimes, right? They reach out, they, they're, they demand that other people, um, manage their emotions, and then other people tend to withdraw. And so it creates this negative cycle, which is, that's another important point about these insecure attachment, um, strategies is that they create these negative cycles.

So I call them cyclical protection patterns because they're designed to protect us, but they're, they're cyclical and they, because they sort of are self defeating and repeat themselves. With anxious folks, also there's a lack of confidence, oftentimes the anxiety, um, and there's oftentimes a fear of abandonment.

And so that sometimes blocks their ability to sort of tap into their own confidence. So I've had, you know, a number of clients with this kind of attachment tendency, um, who oftentimes were, you know, very bright, very competent people. But still very anxious because they're, they have difficulty tapping into that.

And so they would get really anxious and upset if something happened at work, for example, with the boss and, and to the point sometimes of fearing they're going to get fired when in reality they're, they're very competent, they're not even close to that. So, um, and then in terms of stance toward experience, they have an embedded stance toward their experience.

So meaning they sometimes feel trapped by their experience. Like they can't get outside of it. They can't sort of. take perspective and think about it. So that's the, the anxious. And so those are the two kind of basic directions, if you will. There's this third

[00:26:34] Cyd: Before we go there, before we go there, I just want to mention, like, when I talk with people about this, I think a word that always, like, really stands out and people, people feel like describes their experience is the word hypervigilant. Um, so that sense of like, if you, if you have this sort of anxious, insecure attachment, there's this sense of always being on guard, always watching every environment.

And that feels like a way of. That that anxiety sort of shows up in that sort of hypervigilance, uh, toward the world, like you can't ever relax or let down your guard. Right.

[00:27:06] Dr. Todd Hall: Right. Right. Right. Yes. That's such a great point, Sid. Definitely. That's very descriptive that, yeah, because there's been abandonment in the past. Um, people not meeting their, um, their needs, uh, consistently. So they grew up having to be hypervigilant. And that's where the term in, in the adult attachment interview, this is called preoccupied attachment.

And it relates to that because they're preoccupied. With their attachment figures, because they never know if they're going to be responsive. So they're always having to watch them and be hypervigilant. And then that carries forward. So that's a great descriptor. So the other main direction is avoid an attachment in the adult attachment literature.

That's called dismissing attachment because they dismiss the importance of attachment. And, uh, so that is, um, there's emotional composure, although that's kind of on the surface. If you dig beneath that, there's. There's still, you know, there's a lot of, um, emotional pain and, um, uh, that composure will, will disappear sometimes, but on the surface there's composure.

And then, and then relational avoidance is what that quadrant is. So when they become activated, distressed, they tend to move away from people. But on the surface they're, they're staying composed. So they tend to struggle to be vulnerable. They're not very vulnerable. They're emotionally guarded, disengaged.

They rely too much on themselves, especially when they're you know, something distresses them. That's when they, and they need people. That's when they withdraw. Um, And, and become more self reliant. And so there's this kind of pseudo confidence and a disconnected stance toward their experience. So that's avoidant or dismissing attachment.

The other third type is fearful attachment that came about in the self report literature. So that's this bottom left quadrant. That's a combination of avoidance and distress. So. It's kind of an interesting one because it has some features of preoccupiers of anxious and some of avoidant. Um, and it, it doesn't really exist in the, in the interview literature.

There's a, there's a, another type of attachment called unresolved for loss or abuse or disorganized for the children. So there's some similarities, but it doesn't exactly overlap with fearful, fearful attachment seems to be, uh, situations where people, they've had some sense of connection, but it's associated with emotional pain. And so there's this desire for connection and distress when they're, when they don't get it, but behaviorally there's this avoidance or, or maybe sort of a back and forth, right? I might start to reach out because I want that connection. But I'm a, it's associated with, with, you know, emotional pain, maybe abuse.

And so I back up and withdraw. And so there's a lot of emotional dysregulation. Um, and this again, desire for connection, but, but fear of that very same connection. And sometimes there's sabotaging of connection because of that dynamic. So that's the fearful attachment. So those are the basic kind of styles or strategies,

[00:29:57] Geoff: strategies,

or filters. So then why do you call

them like filters,

Like why? Because like when you think, I think of a coffee filter, you know, I want the hot water to go through the filter. Uh, I want the

hot water to kind of take some of the coffee flavor with it, but I don't want the grounds in my coffee.

So that's like filtering some things to get through. Not everything, like all the coffee beans and not all the water got through, right? So that's

what I think of as filter. So why did you use the word filter? Is there, do these different quadrants, process or experience? This is a very leading question, obviously, but

[00:30:34] Dr. Todd Hall: Yeah. Yeah. So I call them filters because it describes the function they serve, which is again, this, this gut level implicit form of memory is filtering our perception of reality and especially, you know, relational experiences. So as you put it, Jeff, that's a great analogy, right? Some things get through the filter and some things don't.

So the things that don't get through are the things, the experiences that are not as consistent with our past experience, right? So if somebody is anxious, Attachment. That's kind of their dominant, you know, filter tendency. And they start seeing Sid for coaching or therapist, and you're providing a lot of security.

Some of that doesn't get through very easily because it doesn't. Map match up with their past experience. And so what does get through more easily are things that are consistent with the past experience, and it actually filters their perception. So they tend to perceive people as more similar to their past attachment figures and experiences.

So if they've experienced abandonment, right, it's that, that fear is just operating hypervigilance, as you put it, said all the time, you know, you may be saying things that sound good, but. I know you're going to abandon me because that happened in the past. So I, so I feel that it's just part of my present experience.

It just filters the way I see the world, the way I experienced the world. So that's part of why I refer to it. 

[00:31:57] Geoff: So in That sense, um, because of your past experiences, um, you're filtering out maybe the uniqueness or the difference of this per, we'll just say your spouse, right? So ssid, my wife, you know, like I could see her. As if she were my mom, but, and that's filtering out the ways in which it's not acting at all like my mom, it's only filtering in like the one or two ways in which she's triggering my, Oh, I hate it when my mom does.

She's treating me like my mom. She's I'm not a child. I'll show her.

I'm not a child. Right. And it's just like this. Uh, you know, and actually the reverse happened a little bit where she would treat me like her dad, but I let her share that story if she wants to. But so you're filtering out like the unique situation of the present, uh, through this past.

And now all of a sudden you're like, Oh, I knew it. It's just like the past. Now I know how to respond when it's like, actually, you're responding very poorly in the present because the president's not like the past.

[00:32:49] Dr. Todd Hall: Right. Right. Exactly. Right.

[00:32:52] Cyd: And that just one of those things that, that we've talked about, you know, an example for each of those is, you know, we've talked about how the, if you're in sort of an anxious, um, attachment strategy, it's easy to sort of hallucinate or make up signs of rejection, even if they're not there. Um, so that's even adding something that's not even getting filtered in or out.

You're just sort of imagining something that's there when it's really not. And then on the other side of the, you know, the avoidance is like, well, even if people are wanting to connect with you, you're sort of blind to it or you're missing it because it's not getting through because you don't expect it.

[00:33:27] Dr. Todd Hall: Exactly. Exactly. You just don't, you don't see it. Yeah. Yeah. There's fascinating research demonstrating some of this said that, you know, one, so one example is, um, studies where they, so men who have been diagnosed with antisocial tendencies and they show them pictures of faces. that most people would see as neutral, and antisocial men see those faces as, perceive them as

aggressive. So they just literally changes your perception. So there's a, uh, Gerald Edelman wrote this book called the, the remembered present, which captures this idea beautifully, right. Is that the present moment is always partially remembered. Um, and our perception is, yeah, it's filtered by all of our past experiences.

And so sometimes, yeah, you don't see bids for connection that people are making, or, or you experienced the, you know, the anxiety and that kind of thing. So, so it is filtering. I mean, I think it's also important to point out. It's not. Doing that 100%, right? So new experiences can get in. We can change. 

[00:34:30] Geoff: And it has to do with, uh, 

[00:34:32] Dr. Todd Hall: against the grain. 

[00:34:33] Geoff: probably how strong the attachment relationship is and how distressed you are in the moment. If you're not distressed, then those filters aren't going to be as strong and that new experience will get through, or you won't read

into the, you know, the whole reading between the lines or over reading someone's, you burped. Uh, Um, and so when you're at low stress and, you know, and it's a new stranger and you don't really know them and you don't care what they think about you that much, then you're like, these filters aren't as active, but when it's like your spouse, when it's your parents, maybe some siblings depending or a boss, you know, and you're stressed out because the project's way behind and your kids are all sick and then it's just like, these things are right at the, at the top and it's very much controlling your perceptions.

[00:35:18] Dr. Todd Hall: Exactly. Right.

[00:35:20] Cyd: So you made a point just there, you know, you said things do get through. It's not like nothing can get through the filter. So how would you cast some hopeful good news to people? You know, like the first time people hear this kind of thing, it's like, oh, I'm relieved that I understand why, but oh my goodness, what do I do about it?

So what would be some hopeful good news for,

[00:35:41] Dr. Todd Hall: Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, I think that the headline there said is 

[00:35:46] Geoff: Time to preach the gospel.

Come on, Dr. Todd, preach us the good news.

[00:35:51] Dr. Todd Hall: change is very possible all throughout life. You know, I mean, just from a neuroscience perspective, I know you guys are, you know, really kind of, um, integrating that right into what you do. I mean, that's something we've learned about the brain in the last 50 plus years or so, right?

Is this idea of plasticity that the brain can change and grow, um, the soul we can change and grow all throughout life. And so there's always that possibility and Yes, we do need other experiences, so we are dependent on other people, but there are things we can do to actively, um, be involved in this, you know, growth process.

And so, part of that is just embracing that I need to grow, that I do have a responsibility in that process, and then figuring out, you know, what are some of those steps I can take. And in a general sense, I would say that's putting yourself in the conditions and environments that will promote growth. So some of that's community, spiritual communities, can be some other communities, but you know, within a Christian context, church, spiritual community is very important, right?

And then also that could look like, you know, certain friendships, reaching out. Spiritual direction, coaching, therapy, you know, all of the above can be very helpful, um, in different ways, maybe at different times. So there, yeah, there's always, we always have a responsibility to take action in the growth process and putting ourselves in these conditions and reaching out.

And then part of why this. can be so helpful understanding attachment is understanding these cycles we talked about, right? So if, if you understand that you tend to move toward avoidance and not see the signs of people reaching out and, and, you know, withdraw and become self reliant, you know, and that's your core, you know, sort of cyclical protection pattern, then, you know, there are certain steps you can take and need to take to move in the other direction and rewire that, you know, so to speak.

So that might look like. reaching out and being vulnerable in a way that you don't tend to do, right? With, with anxious attachment, you know, it might look like. Trying to, you know, get, develop some resources to manage your emotions a little bit more before you, you know, reach out to someone or, you know, developing them.

It might be therapy or coaching or some, you know, some, a friend, some resources, some relationships that can help you manage that a little bit. Um, so you're not doing that all over the place with, with everybody, um, helping you to cope and also just, you know, spiritual disciplines. There are some. particular disciplines that can help with anxiety and avoidance. Right. So just being tuned into like, what do you need to move 

[00:38:28] Geoff: Well, what really, uh, briefly just to finish then what would be some of those spiritual disciplines, you know, since we are a podcast focused on neuroscience, a neuroscience informed spiritual formation, what would, you know, just off the top of your

head or hmm. 

[00:38:43] Dr. Todd Hall: Yeah, I think, I mean, just generally, uh, you know, Christian forms of meditation can be very helpful just to calm and soothe, um, uh, you know, if there's anxious tendencies and then, you know, if there's more dismissing or avoidant, I think, um, meditating on scripture, for example, right. So to let that really.

sink in, or, you know, what I talk about in my books is, you know, feeling an idea, right? So people with avoidant attachment tend to know a lot up here and sort of operate in their head, right? We all need this, but in particular, if you have those tendencies, you need to feel the idea that God loves you. And so meditating on scripture can help you to do that.

[00:39:28] Cyd: Yeah.

[00:39:30] Geoff: Well,

[00:39:30] Cyd: Can I just close with one really quick quote? This is, this is from, not you, I'm sorry, it's not from you, uh, but it's from Roberta Bondi in her book, To Love as God Loves. And she just says, real freedom comes from being able to see what the actual choices are in any given situation, and then to be able to choose and act on the choices.

And so, and she's sort of coming off the work of the desert fathers and mothers and their work with passions and all that. But just that sense of like, we can learn to see, um, and have our perception be a little more accurate, right? So, um, that we can grow in our ability to see what the actual choices are rather than just the ones we've filtered through.

And that in that comes great freedom. So I just wanted to put that out there too, as a, as a hopeful message. Yeah.

[00:40:22] Dr. Todd Hall: that's a great, great quote. Yeah. Yeah. And I think, I think all growth and healing involves more freedom in the sense of, um, being able to love, you know, not, not just being able to make different choices. That's part of it, but really more being

[00:40:38] Cyd: Yeah. That's her very next. That's her very next sentence. Freedom means freedom to love.

[00:40:43] Geoff: I love it.

[00:40:44] Dr. Todd Hall: you go.

[00:40:45] Geoff: We're all drinking out of the same well here. So,

uh, thank you for spending a little bit more time with us again, for those listeners, maybe this is their first episode in the show notes, we will link to past episodes, uh, with Todd Hall. Uh, for those who are looking for books, cause we're all looking for more books.

Uh, his relational spirituality is really great. If you're looking for more of a, like a master's level or a somewhat more academic kind of presentation of all these things, if you're like, no, I don't want that, uh, his, the connected life, um, is a much more popular, super accessible version, uh, please check out both those books and where can, uh, people find you online, um, and what are, are any other projects or things that you want to share with us real quick?

[00:41:29] Dr. Todd Hall: Yeah. So the, yeah, the connected life, uh, book, there's a, there's a website with, um, where they can go check that out. So it's connected life book. com. Um, and so they're, they can. There's some info about actually both books, connected Life and Relational Spirituality, and a way to contact me there. And then for that free resource, I think you're gonna put out it's, it's go do relational

Uh, and so that's just, you know, a little bit information where they can enter information and then get this free, uh, P D F resource with the attachment filter matrix and some tips for, um, for coaching from this perspective. Um, and that, yeah, in terms of work I'm doing now, um, working on a next book on transformation and deep growth.

And then also a coaching program, kind of bringing this relational spirituality framework into coaching. So I've already started that run a cohort through probably run the next cohort, um, in January.

[00:42:22] Geoff: Great. Well, thank you so much for taking time. And, uh, and all of you listeners should be praying for him. He's getting a sabbatical next year, so pray for,

[00:42:32] Dr. Todd Hall: Yes.

[00:42:33] Geoff: whatever it is that he needs on the sabbatical. So, well, we'll talk again, hopefully sometime, uh, in the not too distant future.