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An Interview with Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D., on Parents' Reactions To Children Leaving Home

David Van Nuys, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 15th 2010

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Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D.Dr. Sonkin discusses parents' experience of sending a child away to college from the perspective of attachment theory. Just as children may be securely or insecurely attached to their parents, so too may parents be securely or insecurely attached to their children and spouse. Parental separation from children going away to college is stressful for all parents and may be expected to result in some degree of grief and emotional turmoil. However, parents who are securely attached to their children have an easier time coping with the separation and negotiate the separation in a manner which is more optimally supportive of their children and more likely to preserve and strengthen the bond between parents and children at a time when this bond is no longer supported by the convenience of everyone living under one roof.

As Dr. Sonkin conveys, "... secure attachment helps people survive temporary bouts of pain, discomfort, doubts and distress, and helps them reestablish hope, optimism, and emotional equanimity". Securely attached parents are able to protect children from parental grief (by keeping it private between parents), and to offer children their freedom but in a manner that conveys support rather than indifference or anxiety. Insecurely attached parents tend to polarize in terms of their coping, becoming either more indifferent and detached or to deny the importance of the bond, or conversly, more hypervigilant, worried and anxious in such a way as to magnifiy the importance of the bond overly, conveying dependence and a message that separation is harmful to the parent. Parents' secure attachment allows them to both support and to let their children go simaltaneously, whereas their insecure attachment ends up burdening children, either by conveying their unimportance to the parent, or their over-importance.

Childhood attachment patterns reliably predict adult attachment patterns with about 80% continuity. Insecurely attached children will generally grow up to be adults who choose insecurely attached relationship partners (who are either overly distant or enmeshed), not because this is healthy, but because it is familiar. Psychotherapy and other intimate relationships can help break the pattern and enhance healthy relating by working to correct the cognitive and emotional processes that drive insecure attachment, including beliefs concerning what relationships are like and can be like, and practical coping and self-soothing, emotional regulation skills.

David Van Nuys: Welcome to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by Mentalhelp.net, covering topics in mental health, wellness, and psychotherapy. My name is Dr. David Van Nuys. I'm a clinical psychologist and your host.

On today's show, we'll be talking with Dr. Daniel Sonkin once again about attachment theory and how parents can cope with a child leaving for college. Daniel J. Sonkin, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in an independent practice in Sausalito, California. Since 1981, his work has focused on the treatment of individuals and couples facing a variety of interpersonal problems. In addition to his clinical experience, he has testified as an expert witness since 1977 in criminal cases where domestic violence is an issue. He also evaluates defendants facing the death penalty, conducting social histories with a focus on their childhood abuse and its impact on adult criminal behavior. He also testifies as an expert witness in malpractice cases and licensing actions.

As one of the early specialists in the field of family violence, Dr. Sonkin has developed a widely-used protocol for treating male batterers. His book, Learning to Live without Violence: a Handbook for Men, has been published in English, Spanish, and Japanese and is utilized by treatment programs around the world, selling over 300,000 copies worldwide. Dr. Sonkin is also the author of numerous articles and books on domestic violence and child abuse. Over the past 19 years he's been integrating attachment theory and neurobiology into his clinical work with perpetrators and victims of violence, as well as his general psychotherapy patients.

In addition to his clinical practice, he was adjunct faculty member in the Department of Counseling at Sonoma State University from 1994 through 2004, a former member of the ethics committee and as a former member of the board of directors of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. He's the recipient of the 1989 Clark Vincent Award for literary contribution to the field of marriage and family therapy from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and he's also the 2000 recipient of the Distinguished Clinical Member Award from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

So now here's the interview.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin, welcome back to Wise Counsel.

Daniel Sonkin: Thank you. It's good to be back.

David: Yeah. I say welcome back because I interviewed you about domestic violence here on Wise Counsel back in November of last year, and at that time you and I had never met in person, even though you've taught off and on at Sonoma State University. Finally, I was delighted to meet you a couple months ago at a colleague's retirement party.

Daniel Sonkin: Right, right.

David: And it was in the wake of that meeting that I found out about another interview-worthy topic that you've been steeping yourself in, which is looking at the whole process of students leaving for college and parental reactions in the light of attachment theory.

Daniel Sonkin: Right, right.

David: So how did you get involved in looking at this?

Daniel Sonkin: Our only child left for college last year, so when she left to go to school, it was really, really - we're a very, very close-knit family, the three of us - and it was a real difficult - she was excited, but it was hard for her in some ways too, but mostly exciting for her. And I think for my wife and I - my wife is also a psychologist, a child psychologist and neuropsychologist - and we knew it was going to be difficult, but we had no idea how intense it was going to be - the feelings.

And so we each got prepared for it differently, and one of the ways I got prepared for it was by writing this article on it called "She's Leaving Home: the Transition to College." And in it that's where I was talking about understanding the transition to college from the parents' perspective. Because that's what I do: I write. Writing is a way of kind of channeling my energy emotionally.

David: Yeah, that's definitely a way of working it out, and I -

Daniel Sonkin: Yes.

David: If it's okay with you, I'll post a link to that article on the website so that people can find it.

Daniel Sonkin: Sure. Great. I'll send it to you.

David: And you mentioned "the three of us," so I gather this was your only child.

Daniel Sonkin: Yes.

David: And so is it different, do you think, for parents of a single child versus multiples?

Daniel Sonkin: Yes. As I mentioned in the article that if you have a spare at home - that's what my sister calls it - it's nice when you have a spare at home. It kind of postpones the inevitable of that empty nest. So we went from a threesome to a twosome. Most families might go from a foursome to a threesome to a twosome, or from a five or a six - there were four kids in our family growing up, so my parents went from a sixsome to a fivesome to a foursome to a threesome to a twosome.

So I think it's a little bit easier. I think also the second transition might be a little bit easier for parents than the first transition, but it just kind of depends on the child. Some parents may feel more relieved that the second child leaves home because the first one - because of the unique characteristics of that child. So it just - you know, it's all over the place. I mean, sometimes the first transition is harder. Sometimes it's easier. It just depends on the circumstances.

But when you look at the research on the transition to college, the vast majority of studies are looking at children and what makes for smooth transition for the children. And what you don't see very much is what makes for a smooth transition for the parents.

David: That's fascinating. Well, before we get more into the research, how long has it been since your daughter's been away at college?

Daniel Sonkin: Well, she's back home now for summer.

David: Oh, that's right. Good point.

Daniel Sonkin: But she left last August, and then she came home in May, which actually is a whole 'nother article to write about - what happens when they come back.

David: Okay, well maybe we can get into that at some point here.

Daniel Sonkin: Yeah.

David: I know when I went away to college, my mother cried - reportedly she cried for weeks when I left for college.

Daniel Sonkin: Yeah.

David: So you suggested that attachment theory is a useful lens through which to consider the phenomena around a child leaving for college.

Daniel Sonkin: Right.

David: Yeah, well, tell us about that.

Daniel Sonkin: Well, attachment theory really, in its essence, is an attempt to explain how people develop secure attachment, and how secure attachment helps people survive temporary bouts of pain, discomfort, doubts and distress, and helps them reestablish hope, optimism, and emotional equanimity. And the transition to college is a period which would be characterized by pain and discomfort and doubts and distress, but how is it that people go through that grieving process or that emotional process and kind of move back into a place of emotional equanimity.

And so that's something that my wife and I really kind of looked at - was not only how painful it was, but what was it going to take to get us back to a new good state, emotional state. And more importantly, the sooner we would get beyond that grief, the better we could get back to dealing with this new transition, because don't forget: going to college - you know, parenting doesn't stop when a child goes to college. And, in fact, in some ways there's new challenges because the person is not under your roof if they're living at college. And so it presents all new challenges for parents. How do you stay connected with them? How do you still be there as a secure base for them and be a source of comfort and support as well as information and structure and all that stuff.

David: How did you address some of those issues?

Daniel Sonkin: Well, like I said, the first thing was to really kind of get through the initial transition which was the grief and the loss. One of the ways that my wife and I did it was by being incredibly supportive of each other and listening - being able to cry with each other and talk about the loss with each other, and not overplay it and not underplay it. I mean I think that that was what was helpful for us, is that we talked about it a lot. I mean I think that a lot of times people don't really realize what a transition it's going to be until the day it happens.

And I think one of the ways in which we prepared for that day - because we knew exactly what day she was going to be moving into the dorm - we talked about it a lot. We imagined what it might feel like; we prepared ourselves for that. And we didn't kind of use our daughter; we used each other. In other words, we didn't tell our daughter how much we were going to miss her, and we didn't kind of - because one thing you don't want to do is make the child, who's very excited about the move and scared themselves in some ways, you don't want them to feel guilty about going away to school, right?

David: Right.

Daniel Sonkin: So we used each other as secure bases, my wife and I, to talk about our feelings about the upcoming transition and to not put that burden on our daughter.

David: Do you think that the knowledge that you and your wife have of attachment theory helped you to cope with this transition?

Daniel Sonkin: Yeah. Well, you know, that's one of the reasons I fell in love with my wife was because she was a child psychologist and she really - she had a great relationship with her own mother, and I just knew that she was going to be a great mother. And so just I've really kind of depended on her over the years as to managing my anxiety when things happen with our daughter in such a way that doesn't burden our daughter.

I think children - one of the things about insecure attachment is that it either gives children the message that parents can't be there as a secure base during a difficult time, or it puts extra burden on the children during transition times because the parent is so anxious and so nervous that the child feels like they have to take care of the parent. And what secure attachment does is it's more of a balance: they know that - the child gets the message that - from the parent - that they want them to take flight and go off and be in the world, but also the simultaneous message is that we're here if you need anything. We're here as a secure base for you.

And I think that - there's a wonderful article that was written by a sociologist, David Karp at Boston University, and it's called that. It's called "Of Roots and Wings" and talks about the transition to college from a parent's perspective, and this idea that you want them to maintain their roots, but you also want them to spread their wings; and that securely attached adults - the parents are able to do that because they're managing their anxiety and their feelings in a really adaptive way.

And in the article, I write about how insecure attachment makes it difficult to do that. You're either insecure - like I said, insecurely attached parents are either giving the message "We don't care; just go off and you're on your own at this point," or they're so anxious and so fearful of separation that they make the child feel bad about leaving. And neither one of those are good for children because the first year of college is a major transition for a lot of kids.

David: Well, it's interesting that you refer to insecurely attached parents because when I think of attachment theory, I'm generally thinking of it from the end of the child - you know, is the child securely attached or insecurely attached.

Daniel Sonkin: Right, right.

David: So, how can a parent be securely attached or insecurely attached?

Daniel Sonkin: Or insecurely attached. You know, there's a whole new field of adult attachment now.

David: Really?

Daniel Sonkin: Yeah. It's been the last 20 years or so. People like Phil Shaver at the University of California at Davis has really pioneered this field, but also Mary Main at Berkeley as well. This idea that attachment - you know Bowlby, John Bowlby, who is the founder of attachment theory, talked about it and said that we have close attachments from cradle to grave, and that how people attach in close relationships for the most part is determined by early childhood experiences. And now there's these studies where - like at the University of Minnesota - where they followed people from 12 months of age into their 30s, and they're looking at how they - what kind of attachment, the quality of attachment that they had in childhood. But what's the quality of their attachments in adulthood? And of course the major attachment we're talking about in adulthood are our intimate relationships - marriage, things like that - and then of course relationships with our own children.

So there's this whole new field of adult attachment, and just like children have a particular attachment to their caregivers, even when they grow up, those attachments can be very similar. So, for example, if a child grows up with a parent who is very cold and distant and unemotional and doesn't really - is not very good at soothing their child, when that child becomes an adult, that child is not going to turn towards - unless something has changed in the relationship - that child is not going to turn towards that parent for soothing and caretaking because they know this is not somebody they can turn towards.

And unfortunately the way it works is that it's not unusual that a child who grows up with a parent like that, one or two parents like that, may also choose somebody who is like that as a partner because they're not used to being in a relationship where there's a lot of nurturing and emotional communication and so on; so it's a foreign concept to them. So unless they've been in therapy or unless they've had another experience with somebody else that really shows them the benefits of being with somebody who's really warm and open and available emotionally, that may not be in their kind of repertoire of behavior.

So you have adults who have insecure attachment with each other in close relationships, and you have even children who are adults who still continue to have insecure attachments with their parents.

David: Well, that's fascinating. So it sounds like it kind of gets passed down through the generations unless something -

Daniel Sonkin: It does, yeah.

David: Unless something extraordinary happens along the way.

Daniel Sonkin: Right. And that's what the research shows. There's about 80 percent continuity, so the bad news is that there's about 80 percent chance that whatever attachment you have to your parents as a child, if it's secure, you're going to be more likely to have secure attachments as an adult, and if it's insecure, you're more likely to have insecure attachments as an adult.

But then you might ask, well, what about that 20 percent? Well, that's the good news, is that there's - you know, things can change. People change, and so you could start off with an insecure attachment but situation happens that you develop what's called "earned secure," and you become more securely attached. And when we're talking about secure attachment, essentially what we're saying is that you're good at emotion regulation. You have - you're very good interpersonally with social relationships, and that you have kind of a positive view of yourself and others.

David: Yeah. In fact, in your article you say that there's both an emotional component and a cognitive component.

Daniel Sonkin: Right, right.

David: Yeah, take us through each of those a little bit.

Daniel Sonkin: Well, the emotional component is how do you essentially regulate attachment distress. I mean everybody in close relationships - I mean you can't be on the same page every minute of the day. And so, sooner or later, in any close relationship, you're likely to have difference or you're likely to be distressed and your partner's not there, or whatever. But something's going to happen that is going to distress you, and the question is how do you regulate that. Now, do you regulate that by kind of positive means, like talking about your feelings and maybe trying to problem solve your feelings and maybe doing some physical aspects like getting exercise or getting involved in creative activities or meditating or mindfulness? In other words, how do you calm yourself down? In other words, how do you get back to a state of emotional equanimity and hopeful optimism, emotional equanimity?

And people who have secure attachment just have a much easier time doing that. People with insecure attachment, as I've already mentioned, they kind of characteristically do it one of two ways: they either try to deny anything that they're in - and we all know that when you deny pain, it just kind of keeps building, building, building, and eventually it just kind of blows up in your face or it can have a big impact on your health, on your body. Or the other way that insecure people manage pain is that they get so anxious and so overwhelmed that they become very needy of others to help calm them down, and they're not very good at kind of calming themselves down and kind of doing constructive things for themselves that brings down all the anxiety.

David: Would that sort of involve the cognitive component? In other words, what are they telling themselves?

Daniel Sonkin: Well, that's the emotional - yes, yes. Well, let me tell you what the cognitive component is. So this is the emotional component: how do you regulate stress, emotional distress. The cognitive component of attachment theory is related to something I've already mentioned, which is what are your - ? Bowlby called them, John Bowlby called them internal working models, but you can use attitudes or beliefs. But it's really about what are your beliefs about close relationships. Do you see other people as generally benign and likely to meet your needs? And what do you believe about yourself? Do you believe that you're generally a worthy person who is - when turns for - other people are going to feel that you're worthy of giving support to? So internal working models of self and others - how do you believe and see yourself as a person in a close relationship, and how do you see others in close relationships. And that's the cognitive component to it: belief systems about close relationships and yourself.

David: Now, you talk about something called the reflective function.

Daniel Sonkin: Yes.

David: What's that? And why is it important?

Daniel Sonkin: Well, reflective function is really important in any transition because it help you do two things: first of all, it helps you understand why you're - what reactions you're having and why you might be having the reactions that you're having. But it also helps you understand the other person too, and I'll give you a good example: is that parents who are missing their children need to balance their needs for connection with their child's need for a certain amount of freedom. So a parent has to be really aware that although they're feeling missing, their child may be feeling excitement, and the last thing the child needs is the parent laying on them any kind of guilt or bad feelings about going out in the world and being happy.

So a parent may need to understand that a child needs a certain amount of space in order to grow and learn and explore their new environment, and if the parent is constantly kind of telling them, "Oh, I miss you; I wish you were here," the child is eventually going to probably stop wanting to call and be in touch with the parent because the child is going to feel like there's this kind of subtle guilt trip going on, or that they feel bad that they want to go away and want to be in their own world.

So the reflective function not only helps you understand how you're feeling, but it also helps you understand what's going on with your child and what your child is needing at this particular time, and what your child is not needing. So for example, when our daughter went away, I was thinking, oh, I'll email her a lot; I'll text her and all that. And my wife was saying, no, you need to give her lots of space. And I did that, and as a result, she actually wanted to be around us more.

You know there's a Buddhist saying, David: if you want to keep your sheep, give them a bigger pasture. Sometimes we need to do just the opposite of what we think we want, what our impulse is to do, in order to get what we want. And that's exactly, I think, what the college transition is: is that parents - again, I'm not saying abdicate all parental responsibility, because there's still a certain amount of parenting that goes on, but I think parents do need to kind of give their kids the message: your new life is beginning and you need to kind of not worry about us. We'll manage.

David: What's it been like having your daughter back? Have there been any issues around that?

Daniel Sonkin: Yeah, well, first of all - so after a year of freedom, where she really didn't have to do anything, so the first week she's back, the first or second week, she was like three things she wanted to do, and all three things we thought, "Oh, no. Uh, no, that's not such a good idea. Oh, well, maybe not." And we realized at that point - and we were talking about this before she was coming home, because my wife even said this. She said, "We're going to have to renegotiate with her around the freedom that she's had all year."

And so, again, there's a good example of when you're prepared for it, you can kind of better handle it when it comes up. So it just came up like in the first or second week. She wanted a car to drive really far away. She wanted - another thing was she wanted to go someplace at night that was not very safe, and meanwhile she had done stuff, a lot of things that we probably wouldn't have approved of, all year, but she didn't have to get our permission to do it because out of sight - out of mind.

So the first thing that happened was - so after the third thing that she brought it up, she's saying, "This is really - I'm really upset. I feel like you don't trust me." And she stomps off into her room, and I realize this is what my wife was talking about, about the renegotiation. So I knocked on her door, and I went in the room, and I said, "I'd like to talk to you." She says, "What?" And I said, "Look, I totally understand what you're feeling. Here you had - it's like you had this incredible year of freedom, where you really didn't have to run much stuff through us. And now all of a sudden you come home, and already you're feeling like you have to run stuff through us and we're even telling you we're putting the brakes on some of it." And I said, "And I can understand why it feels like we don't trust you, but it's not it. It's not that we don't trust you; it's just that we're all going through a transition again. You're going through a transition being at home, and we're going through a transition having you at home again. And it's just going to take us a while to figure this out and figure out ways of kind of trusting each other again." And, well, it's not even trusting; it was just about working out these differences.

David: Well, that sounds really good to me. How did it go over with her?

Daniel Sonkin: She was great. She was great about it. She said, "I understand." I think she appreciated my coming in there and saying I could see why it sounds like we don't trust you; I could see why that you would feel that way. And I think when I said that, I think she really felt like I had heard her.

David: Yes.

Daniel Sonkin: And so we've been working stuff out. Like so, of the three things, I think two of the things she got to do. The third thing we said we just didn't feel comfortable with, and she agreed with it. So the funny thing is about the third thing that we didn't feel comfortable with, she said - I said - she made some comment, "Well, I already did it. I did it when I was at school." And I said, "Well, when we don't know about it, I guess you get to do it. But because you asked about it, no way." And so she went along with that, you know. But she got two out of the three things that she wanted, which was - I thought was good.

But I think it's difficult, because first of all, we've had all this privacy, and now we have to think about her being in the house again. She's had all this freedom, and now she has to think about us wanting to veto things again. And it's not an easy transition, but I think we talk. One thing I really like about my daughter is that she's very psychological and she's willing to talk about her feelings, and she's open to us as well, and so I think so far it's going smoothly.

David: Well, that's great. I think you're a good role model for probably for many of our listeners, and you've given some advice, I think, as we were going along. To sum it up though, what sorts of recommendations do you have for parents who are nearing the brink of a child departing for college or who are perhaps in the midst of that transition still?

Daniel Sonkin: Well, I think the parents need to support each other and not turn to the child for reassurance. I think that's one thing. I think talking about the feelings as soon as possible, like months ahead of time. I mean don't wait to the day that it happens, but start talking about it ahead of time how you imagine it's going to be like. And then I think finding, depending on the needs of your particular child, finding that balance between giving them wings and hoping that they maintain a certain amount of roots. So how do you stay connected, but also know that they're growing up and they're wanting to make decisions on their own and may not need to be around you as much as they used to.

And I think managing that transition will just depend on the unique aspects of each family and the needs of the child. Some children need actually a lot of help during the first year of college - kids with learning disabilities, things like that, and kids with maybe some emotional issues. They may need extra support.

And then, I guess coming back, realizing that once again there's a new transition and that is the child's had all this freedom and now they're coming back to their home; and the parents have had all this freedom, and now the child is coming back into the household, and so there's going to be a change in that dynamic as well.

And then the only other thing that I can think about is that is find - for the parents to find constructive ways to deal with the transition for themselves, not just being a support to each other. I was mentioning I wrote this article, which was a way of channeling some of my energy. I started doing more workshops, which was a way of channeling my energy. I was getting more into my photography; so hobbies. My wife got into a lot of hobbies this year. So kind of finding new ways to kind of fill that gap that was once filled with active parenting I think is also a really good way to handle things. So those are my ideas.

David: Those are great ideas that I'm sure people can work with. Dr. Daniel Sonkin, it's great having you on as a guest again. Thanks so much for being my guest today on Wise Counsel.

Daniel Sonkin: Thanks, David, and you're doing a great job with this program. You really have done some really interesting interviews, so hope you keep it up.

David: I hope you found this interview useful, especially if you're on the threshold of having a child off to college or leaving home for some other reason. Now, here's where you can find the paper that we've been discussing. It's on Dr. Sonkin's website, and the URL for the paper is www.danielsonkin.com/leaving_home.htm. If you've not listened to my earlier interview with Daniel Sonkin or an even earlier interview on attachment theory with Dr. David Wallin, they both make excellent companion pieces to this interview, and you'll find both right here on the Mentalhelp.net site.

You've been listening to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by Mentalhelp.net. If you found today's show interesting, we encourage you to visit Mentalhelp.net, where you can add a comment or question to this show's web page, view other shows in the series, or simply page through the site, which is full of interesting mental health and wellness content. Access the show's page and show archive information via the podcast box on the Mentalhelp.net home page.

If you like Wise Counsel, you might also like ShrinkRapRadio, my other interview podcast series, which is available online at www.shrinkrapradio.com. Until next time, this is Dr. David Van Nuys, and you've been listening to Wise Counsel.

 

Links Relevant To This Podcast:

About Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D.

Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D.Daniel Jay Sonkin, Ph.D. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in an independent practice in Sausalito, California. Since 1981, his work has focused on the treatment of individuals and couples facing a variety interpersonal problems. In addition to his clinical experience, he has testified as an expert witness since 1977 in criminal cases where domestic violence is an issue. He has also evaluates defendants facing the death penalty conducting social histories with a focus on their childhood abuse and its impact on adult criminal behavior. He also testifies as an expert witness in malpractice cases and licensing actions.

As one of the early specialists in the field of family violence, Dr. Sonkin has developed a widely used protocol for treating male batterers. His book, Learning to Live Without Violence: A Handbook for Men has been published in English, Spanish and Japanese and is utilized by treatment programs around the world and has sold over 300,000 copies worldwide.

Dr. Sonkin is also the author of numerous articles and books on domestic violence and child abuse. For the past nineteen years he has been integrating attachment theory and neurobiology into his clinical work with perpetrators and victims of violence, as well as his general psychotherapy patients. In addition to his clinical practice, he was an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Counseling at Sonoma State University from 1994 through 2004, a former member of the Ethics Committee (1989-1998) and is a former member of the Board of Directors (1998-2000) of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. He is the recipient of the 1989 Clark Vincent Award for Literary Contribution to the field of Marriage and Family Therapy from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and is the 2000 recipient of the Distinguished Clinical Member Award from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    Wow.... - Buttons - Aug 15th 2010

    That was an amazing interview, and exactly the type of information I've been searching for.  I finally left home at the age of 23.  I had had a great job for several years and it was time to move on.  When I announced that I was looking for an apartment, perhaps hoping for some help from my parents, all I remember is my mother getting very angry at me and acting as if she was hurt by me leaving her.  For next few months of apartment hunting, I received no support from my parents.  When it was time for me to move in, my father had accepted it and helped me with a lot of the preparation.  My mother still, 1.5 years later, has not forgiven me for moving, calls me constantly, and panics when she can't reach me.  I have been seeing a psychologist on and off for a little over 2 years now, and we have explored a lot of issues that I have with my mother.  He has told me that she is breaking me down and not being fair to me.  Essentially, she is selfish and only looks after her needs. She is also paranoid of our relationship falling apart.

    This podcast really opened my eyes to what's going on here.  She is insecurely attached to both of her children, as she fits every example given in this interview.  The only thing I am confused about is where I stand.  My therapist has been encouraging me to distance myself from her little by little, and to eventually cut all ties (she has done a lot of damage to me over the years, and continues to).  However, I can't seem to cut ties, for fear of hurting her.  I'm also holding onto the relationship, also in fear that it will disolve. Does that make me insecurely attached to my mother??  I seem to fit the bill for that as well (needing others to support me emotionally, being emotionally withdrawn in relationships...)  I'm just wondering now what I need to do to break this cycle. I would hate to impose the same issues on my future children.

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