TU59: Are You Cool or Just Disengaged? Dismissing/Avoidant Styles of Relating in Adulthood

by | Apr 3, 2018 | Attachment, Brain Science, Emotional Intelligence, Episodes, Neuroscience, Personal Growth, Relationships, Therapy

Show Notes

Dismissing/Avoidant Styles of Relating in Adulthood

Today's subject, Dismissing/Avoidant Style of Relating is an important part of our work – and goes with the next two episodes, 59, 60 and 61 hang together.

Sometimes you feel secure but really have just learned to cut off from important life-giving emotions. This episode is especially for those “talk to the hand” kind of people or those that love them. You know, the uber-independent, rational, left-brain, excel spreadsheet person that sees others emotions as needy and weak.

Co-hosts Sue Marriott LCSW, CGP and Ann Kelley PhD translate decades of research and clinical experience into easy to understand usable points to help you improve your understanding of why people appear so irrational at times. They talk about how internal working models of the world are formed outside of our awareness in our early life and how they get passed forward over time, sometimes causing relationship trouble.

Early stress responses and relationships create a pathway, and how we talk not what we say are clues to which pathway we may be on. This episode specifically focuses on the blue side of the spectrum, which you may be familiar from research as Dismissive or Avoidant.

Hosts also discuss how an individual can move towards the secure middle of the spectrum and why it is important to integrate logic with emotion.


Breakdown of attachment types, the attachment spectrum, internal models of attachment

How do we form our internal working models? Parents/caregivers connecting to and communicated with less vulnerable and less developed brains in children. First primary relationship is blueprint for all following relationships

How secure attachment (green), insecure avoidant (blue) is formed between parents and children


Illusion of insecure avoidant people as confident just because they keep to themselves

Dismissive attachment as people who shudder at thought of asking for emotional help

Response to stress secure vs. insecure, turning your back but keeping close proximity, staying close to people through zipping up

Couples where one partner avoids the other one being upset to maintain their own happiness

Working on ability to need other people and connect to other people, falling on defensiveness and learning to admit insecurities

Integrating intellectual/rational with emotional


Deactivated attachment system: the idea of needing a relationship in an interdependent way becomes too threatening

Dismissive attached feels threatened by a loss of self

Dismissing vulnerability as being needy, moving across the spectrum

Auto-regulatory state responds to any change with defensiveness

Having an idealization of yourself, past, relationships


If on blue side, really work on expressiveness

Connect to person you consider most important in your life by imagining if you lost them. This taps into dismissive attachment assumption that people around you are always there. Recognize their need.

Attune to your partner’s emotions, not a bad idea to invite your dismissive partner to couple’s therapy

Wrap up and outro

Resources for this episode:

John Bowlby: A Secure Base The father of attachment! Mary Main, Mary Ainsworth both primary researchers with Bowlby.

Mary Main and the Adult Attachment Interview  Good summary, check it out!!

Assessing Adult Attachment A Dynamic-Maturational Approach to Discourse Analysis (2011) Patricia Crittendon and Andrea Landini, Book that updates the previous attachment literature specific to clinical populations.

Attachment Disturbances in Adults Treatment for Comprehensive Repair (2016) Brown and Elliott – New book that is a MUST HAVE for clinicians interested in attachment.

Clinical Application of the Adult Attachment Interview Steele and Steele – Excellent edited book on using the AAI in various clinical settings – we use it to learn what is important clinically that the AAI is getting at re: best practices for treating adult attachment.

Your Brain on Love Stan Tatkin – this is our favorite to refer to clients. Stan Tatkin is a guru at making the complex ideas of interpersonal neurobiology understandable to the public. Check out any of his books as recommended!


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