Sometimes people ask me:
“Am I crazy?
How crazy am I?
How much farther to go until I’m normal?
Am I healed from my past trauma?
Where am I on the journey towards healing from an insecure attachment?”
We all strive to be healthy and we all have this desire to be normal. We all want to be done with the effects past trauma and insecure attachment has had on our physical health, mood, and behaviors.
Yet, how do we measure our health or measure the progress we have achieved when it comes to recovery from trauma and insecure attachment?
We need a way to help us measure our degree of health, our craziness, and how to monitor change over time so we know if we’re actually healing.
It’s true that if we’re conscientious about our recovery, we’ll see progress over time. This is a journey where we accomplish steps of healing along the way toward our ultimate goal of mind and body healing.
There is no overnight fix with attachment trauma recovery. And it can be hard to know how to help yourself heal, or if what you’re doing is even working.
Being able to monitor this change over time, within reason, can keep you on the right path, direct you toward the right treatments, and keep you encouraged.
There are specific things to look at in order to be able to measure your degree of health, mind-body health, and integration after a history of attachment trauma.
These 3 measures are actually used to measure the degree of health, with or without any kind of past trauma!
Three Tests for Measuring Health in Trauma Recovery
Normal people do 3 things well: work, love, and play.
All kinds of diseases will impact your ability to work. Physical, mental, and emotional issues will affect your ability to work well.
If you’re physically ill, you’re unable to work as fast or as long, and you may be unable to performing some jobs at all. Many forms of physical symptoms and disease related to a history of attachment trauma will impact your ability to work.
Stress, poor or inadequate sleep, and poor diets are all factors that play a role in worsening physical illnesses related to attachment trauma and further decrease your ability to perform all aspects of your job well.
It may be that your current job isn’t a good fit for you! It may be that the job causes more stress, disrupts your sleep, and doesn’t allow you to eat well, resulting in your symptoms to constantly flare up.
However, the same is true for mental and emotional wellness as it relates to work.
If you’re mentally or emotionally struggling, you won’t be able to work well with others, your tolerance to handle stress will be a lot lower, and you may find yourself depressed and/or irritable at work.
Other patterns of imbalance in your work life may appear. You may find yourself overworking or struggling to keep jobs for very long.
Do you work well with others?
Do you have a hard time taking instruction or feedback?
Do you have a hard time with motivation?
Do you have problems with work ethic or staying within the limits?
If you answered yes to any of these questions it shows the remaining areas of progress to be gained in recovery from attachment trauma.
Perhaps you don’t have an actual job and are staying at home or retired.
No matter what your situation with work is, the same applies. “Normal people” do productive meaningful activities every day.
It’s normal to want to be a meaningful productive member of society and your social group.
Retired people often go through a period of adjustment, but if they’re healthy, they look for and create ways to continue to contribute to the world in other ways than being paid to do a job.
Love is another big area that can be used as a barometer for health.
“Normal people” have meaningful, happy, and healthy relationships.
With love, we naturally think of romantic relationships, but love also includes friends, family of origin, strangers, ourselves, the general world and all living things.
How are you in your romantic relationship? Do you treat the other person with respect and kindness at all times? Do you experience fluctuations in boredom, irritation, then profound love and admiration?
Do you deny them love and appreciation at times?
Looking at the quality of friends, how are your friendships?
Do you keep friends for a long time or do you keep bouncing to different friendships?
Do you have a good mix of casual friends and close friends, or is everybody in your life either only superficial or super intimate.
Are you able to support your friends’ autonomy, do you lose yourself in the friendship, or do you expect them to always conform to what you want to do?
Do you find yourself getting into drama of other people’s lives?
Do you see patterns of getting angry and losing friends after a certain amount of time?
Then, how do you treat strangers? Do you tend to get angry at them? See them as annoying or inconvenient?
Do you see a general goodness in people?
These are general questions to get you thinking and aware of your health in relationships and the patterns that you have. Sometimes, it takes the right question for the curtain to pull back so you can see things about yourself or a relationship you had never seen before!
If you want more information on managing relationships, if you or the other person has an insecure attachment, you can check out this blog.
Play is the other barometer of health.
This is because “normal people” play. Normal adults play!
Normal adults work and play in their life and maintain a balance between the two.
Normal people don’t have to take substances in order to relax, socialize, or play.
Normal people are able to play in a variety of ways.
Normal people can go back and forth between work and play, can mix the two, and can even play with those with whom they also have a work relationship.
Some questions to ask yourself in this area to measure your health are as follows:
When was the last time you played and just had fun?
Is it uncomfortable to play? Would you rather focus on work, being productive all the time and making money?
Are you able to see yourself as valuable even when you’re just playing and not being productive?
Or when you play, are you competitive and find you only want to play if you can do it well or even the best?
Can you turn your mind away from work and worries to play?
Are you so mindful of how you look that you find it hard to play and relax with people that also see your professional work?
The journey towards healing is a process, not an overnight destination!
There will be relapses along the way. You may have been doing really well in work, love, and play only to find yourself back in a flare up of your physical disease or an emotional funk with negative behaviors.
Yes, you can have relapses in attachment trauma as well. This is when you end up back in the crazy, negative behaviors and mindsets where you’ve been before.
This is the same with any disease of the brain and certain situations or illnesses that create an imbalance in the brain chemistry.
You know all too well that you can be back in crazy thinking and acting without even realizing it.
Some of these behaviors and internal states can be so subtle and tricky, because when it’s your brain that’s telling you that it’s the right thing to do, it can be hard to recognize that it’s a crazy thing to do.
Your body may go into old pain pathways or self-destructive autoimmune pathways, shutting down, isolating, or lashing out to hurting others.
Using these barometers of work, love, and play help to recognize your patterns of relapse (yes, there are predictable patterns to your relapse) and also shows the progress in how long you stay in your relapse and how severe they get.
With time and work, your relapses will get farther apart, less intense, and not as long.
Stay encouraged through the relapses by showing your three measures have made progress. For example, remind yourself that this current relapse is better than the relapses you were having a year ago!
Here is a link for information on preventing relapses that can be helpful!
Sneaky Deception in the Health Measures
One of the weaknesses of these health measures is the deception that you think you’re fine when you’re actually not.
It is really easy to not see certain things about yourself, and it can be easy to imagine how you would be in certain situations rather than looking at reality.
Take the category of work, for example.
If you don’t have work, it can be easy to think that if you did have work, you would be fine.
You check that as “I’m good there!” when in reality, you aren’t working. Why aren’t you working? What would be considered your work if you don’t have a “real job?”
Are you frustrated with your home responsibilities and think that if only you had a “real job,” everything would be so much better?
Similar to the work category, if you aren’t in a romantic relationship, it can be easy to think that if you were, you would handle it well while feeling secure and having a healthy inter-dependency!
Check! I’m ready for a relationship it’s just that life hasn’t brought me “the one.”
The true test of health in attachment disorder is dealing with real life and real people.
The Choice Test for Children and Adults
The choice test is a test I have parents use when measuring how healthy their child is who has trauma and attachment issues.
It’s used at the beginning of the healing journey, when you’re deciding how much to apply the structure and nurture of a therapeutic attachment parenting program.
The choice test is so simple, and yet it is real life so a great measure of where they are in their healing!
I give the child two choices of equal value, things that normally at the beginning of the intense attachment parenting program, they would not have.
For example, would you like to wear the blue shirt or red shirt today?
Would you like to play with the Legos or building blocks?
Would you like Lasagna or pasta salad for dinner tonight?
For normal kids, they have no problem with these choices!
However, for a child with attachment disorder, they really struggle with accepting your authority to impose any limitations in their life. This is real life and real people for them!
If they’re healing, they’ll accept your authority, as well as the limitation of the two choices, and pick one of the two.
If they aren’t yet healed enough to move to the next phase in parenting, they’ll say something like, “I want the green shirt. I want to read a book. I want Mac and Cheese.”
For us adults, we rely on life to give us these types of choice tests.
Do we tend to stay within the limits presented us, or are we always questioning the limits, looking to find ways to get around the limits or rules, and hoping we don’t get caught or get angry when there are consequences?
Tools to Move Forward In Healing
Using these three measures of health and how you deal with limitations and choices in life, you may be thinking that you haven’t made as much progress as you think you should have.
Perhaps you have not, or perhaps you have and just can’t see it.
Talk to someone else who knows you well and is willing to tell you the truth. They may see progress that you cannot see.
Saying that, it’s very possible to become stagnant in the healing process and need to change it up and jump-start it!
It can be difficult to know whether we should stick with something for the benefit of the stability (which we can find boring and want to jump ship) or if we truly aren’t making progress with a certain therapy or therapist.
There have definitely been certain therapies that have created a significant jump in healing from attachment trauma, but that has been because so much work was done before the specific therapy.
Trauma-specific therapies that have been creating the right environment in your life, can create extraordinary results in a short time.
I encourage you to look into group therapies as well. Because you have to deal with more people, these get a bit more real. Those group therapies will incorporate more of a relationship dynamic that can take you to the next step in your healing. You can find group therapies through a therapist, and you can attend group meetings like Adult Children of Alcoholics and Other Dysfunctional Families or Al-Anon.
Healing from attachment trauma into your healthy self and relationships is super hard.
It’s good to be encouraged by your progress and it’s good to know when to change things up when you aren’t making progress.
I encourage you to look at these three areas for your barometer for health. Measure your physical, mental, and emotional health! Track it over time so you can be more aware of and engaged with your recovery process.
Recovery is a journey. It takes work and it takes time. Having these three measures (as well as the choice test!) can be an encouraging way to keep track of progress.
I wish you healing and recovery, and all the health and happiness that comes with that.