Transforming our Attachment Patterns with Eli Harwood

00:00:01    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village and boy, do I have a banger of an episode for you today. I got to hang out with Eli Harwood. She is such a dreamboat. Her Instagram handle, @attachmentnerd, if you're not following already, is a gem. And she wrote the book, Securely Attached. Y 'all, attachment is at the root of how we show up in this world. There is a whole section in Tiny Humans Big Emotions about it because we can't talk about how we interact with kids without talking about attachment, and Eli has an entire book on it and my favorite part of this is that it's a workbook- so she guides you through figuring out what your attachment style is and what's coming up for you, and how your childhood is showing up in your present day and where do you go from there, what do you do with that. This episode was so fun to do and I'm so excited to put it out into the world. Press pause and go snag Securely Attached right now and then come on back and dive in. All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:01:16    Alyssa

Hey there, I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a master's degree in early childhood education and co -creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing  method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans raising other humans, with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:01:39    Alyssa

Hello everyone and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today, I get to hang out with a real dreamboat of a human. I get to hang out with Eli Harwood. She's a licensed therapist, author of Securely Attached, a book that's out right now. So actually press pause and go add that to your cart if you haven't already and check out so they can come ASAP and then come on back and finish this. She's an educator who has more than 17 years of experience helping people process relational traumas and develop secure attachment relationships with their children and partners. Eli has three children, one husband, two cats, and an extraordinary number of plant babies.


00:02:18    Eli

 I love it. You all, she just changed my bio a little bit because as of today, we added a kitten to our family. And that said kitten is currently crawling all over me because she's a little love bug, aren't you? Her name is Henrietta Compass Unicorn Harwood. 


00:02:37    Alyssa

I love it. Four names, four names is a hard, hard thing to carry there, Henrietta, best of luck.


00:02:44    Eli

Three kids, so there were three kind of contributions and then last name, so. 


00:02:50    Alyssa

I love it, I love it. I am so frigging jazzed for your book. 


00:02:57    Eli

Thank you. Me too, it's great. 


00:03:01    Alyssa

It's the cornerstone of life, right? Like attachment, and I feel like it's one of those things that when people are reaching out for resources, I'm like, oh yeah, we have podcasts here or there, but I'm so jazzed to be like, oh no, here's your best resource. Like this book is your best resource. 


00:03:15    Eli

I mean, so I've been practicing as a therapist for around 17 years and my process of therapy almost always involves addressing early attachment and how that created a trajectory in somebody's life. And really when I started practicing, I was like the weirdo in my grad school class who was like, well, that's an attachment thing. Well, that's related to attachment. And everyone was kind of like, okay, like, clearly, that's your gig. But it was still like new in terms of public acceptability. The research isn't new. It's been around since the 60s. But it wasn't a part of the clinical lexicon. And in the way it is now. Yeah. So at the very beginning, you know, Dan Siegel was talking about attachment, you could get like, kind of into the heady, more clinical, more research -based spaces to learn about it, but there wasn't an easy place to go and figure out what your piece of the puzzle was. And now, since that time, you know, there've been a few books written Attached, was written in like 2012. I was actually really annoyed at the time because I knew I was going to write a book someday and I was like, that's one of my titles. Rude. But actually it kind of has worked out because as time has gone on, what I've recognized is what people really need help with is learning how to create and cultivate a secure attachment. Like, yes, people like me want to like delve into the nuances of the four subtypes of secure attachment and the two subtypes of an anxious resistant and know all the different variants and how we talk about this versus the developmental research and the social psychology research. Like there are us, we are the attachment nerd, which is why I call myself that. But most people are like, just tell me how to heal, how to understand this and then how to do it different with my partner and my kids and my family. So, I did a lot of debate on how I would structure the book, and I ended up making it a workbook, because I thought, again, how many people want to just sit and delve into the long text of this versus just need guidance? Ask me the right questions. Help me understand what pieces of this may have affected me. Help me understand in very simple terms what my patterns are and how I make them more secure. So that's the book I wrote, and it's really exciting. 


00:05:40    Alyssa

So jazzed. I'm so jazzed for two reasons. One, I like came into this space as a parent with a lot of work already in the field of early ed, right? And so there were things I like understood, but then in practice as a parent is different, right? And I, the like, that's what I'm so jazzed about with the workbook part of this, that it for me brings the like in practice, which is, I think at the end of the day, what really matters, like what are we actually doing? How are we showing up? And I think that's crucial. I find for myself, I mean, maybe with all things parenting, but definitely with attachment where I'm like, okay, I want a secure attachment for my child. I want him to have that- children. And then in practice, for instance, he starts a new school and he is two and a half and he's going to childcare. And we were so fortunate to send him to a school that we love and I've had the privilege of working with these teachers for years and like, love it. And my child is my husband in so many ways and would love nothing more than to be by himself in a room all day long, not really have to talk to anybody else, definitely not have anyone in his space, the least amount of outside stimulation as possible. And I'm like, here, go into this classroom with six other two -year -olds. 


00:07:18    Eli

Lots of stimulation.


00:07:18    Alyssa



00:07:19    Eli

You would describe him from a temperament perspective as a highly sensitive introvert. 


00:07:26    Alyssa



00:07:27    Eli

So his, his nervous system picks up on stimuli really easily. It's not hard to experience stimulus in the environment, which that's where I describe it highly sensitive. Um, and then he feels energized by being alone or a lot without a lot of that interaction. Another way to say that is interaction feels draining for him. 


00:07:49    Alyssa

Correct. Yeah. Nail on the head, like that is who he is and its who my husband is, and I'm grateful to my husband is in that, like, it's not who I am, but I've had practice with this with my husband for over a decade that when Sage came along, I was like, okay, know how this looks a little bit, right? Like it made a little sense to me. But so for him, like going to school, frankly doing almost anything, even if it's something he's really jazzed about going to do, is really draining. And thus isn't necessarily something he's, he's not the kid who walks in, he's like, oh my gosh, can't wait to go to school. Bye mom. You know, like even - 


00:08:27    Eli

Which is why my firstborn is that. So I like - 


00:08:30    Alyssa

That's me. 


00:08:31    Eli

It's interesting to talk, like he is, and there's problems and challenges with that because he is so extroverted that he wants a play date every day. He wants a play date after he's had a play date. Like the kid loves school. He loves teachers. We joke, we call him the mayor because when you go into his little elementary school, he's like, Hey, Ms. So-and-so, what's up, Mr. Ba-da-da. Like it's just how he's wired. It's his temperament. But I have two other children and neither of them are wired in that way. They're wired differently. One is more like your son in terms of sensitivity, but she's a twin. So she, so that's also interesting how all the dynamics play out. Like if she had been an firstborn only child, exactly what you're describing, but because she was a twin, she's had to create like this different adaptation in the world. And her twin sister is not sensitive, and highly sensory seeking. It's really fascinating how all those dynamics play out. Anyway, so you were saying? 


00:09:30    Alyssa

Oh, yeah, no, I love hearing about it. And so when he's going to school and he doesn't want to go. And he's saying like, mama, literally day two, mama, how about we pop into my new school for a second and then we go back in the car and we go home. Like two and a half. This is literally the phrase that comes out of his mouth on our way to school. And he's like, I figured this out. We can pop in for a second and then go home. I was like, buddy, that sounds like an awesome plan for you. I am going to go to work. You're going to go to school, right? Like we went through the whole thing, but for me, I've had this like guilt part of, okay, is this what's right for him? Am I X, Y, and Z? Of course, there's a part of me that's like, I never want him to feel something hard or do something hard or uncomfortable or any of that. Right. Like, and I think we can get this mixed up in secure attachment. And in fact, you just had a post on this. I was like, Eli, I love you so much. This is so perfect. 


00:10:29    Eli

Yes. Literally this morning. How crazy. 


00:10:31    Alyssa

I know. And I was like, this is it like this is it is that we're supposed to feel hard things right it's not that we're not going, and I could wrap him in this little bubble and still prevent him from having to feel these hard things we could make different choices for childcare, I could make different work choices like there are things that I could do so that he wouldn't have to go to school, yet, so that he wouldn't have to be in a space where his nervous feels a little uncomfortable. 


00:10:58    Eli

And if, let's say, if he was at a grand mal level of dysregulation. Correct. You know, if he is like throwing up, he's crying so hard, and he's doing that for weeks and weeks and weeks on end, then we might stop and say, is this the wrong place for him? 


00:11:19    Alyssa



00:11:20    Eli

Does he have a need developmentally that is going to mean the adjustment of your lives? 


00:11:27    Alyssa



00:11:28    Eli

But what you're describing is, I don't want to. 


00:11:32    Alyssa

Correct. This is not my first choice. 


00:11:34    Eli

This is uncomfortable for me. And I think this is such an important piece. One of my favorite psychologists of all times, Karyn Purvis, Dr. Karyn Purvis, if you haven't heard of her and you have adopted children, also pause, go onto the internet and buy her book, The Connected Child. Her research is specifically in children with early childhood attachment trauma. But she, it's fantastic, but she says, 'if you deny a child nurture, you rob them of the chance to feel loved. If you deny a child structure, you deny them the chance to grow.' And what you're doing and saying, we're going to preschool is creating structure. And what he's doing, which is absolutely normal, and actually I would say adaptive, pushing back. He's like, yeah, this is not what I've been experiencing. And so why don't we go back to this other set of boundaries that I like because I understand them, because they're comfortable, right? And your job as a parent is to say, is he safe? Have I picked caregivers that will nurture him? Because a lot of people ask this, well, if I send my child to daycare, won't that affect my attachment with them? And there is some data that says like, hey, ideally you would, you know, definitely that first 18 months, keep your kids with you, that's ideal. However, up to 10 hours a week of them being with another caregiver won't affect their attachment with you. I actually don't think we have a good enough set of data to answer this question, to be honest, but I will speak anecdotally of what I've seen over time and what I've kind of collected and narratives, which is if you create an environment your child goes to where caregivers are nurturing, attentive, and attuned, then it doesn't affect. In fact, all it does is expand their capacity to attach to other people. We are one of the only species that has what are called allo caregiving sets of resources. So allo means other. So we have caregivers who are non -biologically related to us, um, for our children. And that's one of the reasons why we as a species can grow the way we grow is because we can have childcare. Um, so, and I sent my firstborn to daycare when he was eight months old and he went for 10 hours a week. And, and that was perfect for me because I had a flexible job. My husband had a flexible job. could make it work. And then all of my kids went into essentially full-time daycare when they were two and a half. And all of my children adore school and learning. So I have some privilege in that because they they're pretty neurotypical except for being two are highly sensitive. But other than that, like they have been able to adapt to that environment and that's worked. And what it's cultivated in all of them is they have a mom they feel securely attached to. They have a dad they have feel securely attached to, and they have a Mr. Zaid that they feel securely attached to and a Miss Vanessa, right? And like those experiences help their brain go, wow, there are, I can lean on people, not just my mom, not just my parents, not just the people that I am most primarily attached to and create other secondary attachments, which increases resilience. 


00:14:52    Alyssa

I think this is huge because what we're saying, what kids are then able to say is I'm safe, even if you're not here. Right? And that - 


00:15:03    Eli

My parents return. 


00:15:05    Alyssa

Totally. And when they're gone, I am safe. 


00:15:09    Eli



00:15:10    Alyssa

And that it takes time to learn that. Right? And so like, I think that that's one of the things when we are looking at like transition specifically, like this new school, or really a number of transitions that'll come up, is that it takes time to learn like, oh, am I safe still? Or am I safe here? Or am I safe with this person? And that in that in-between of, I don't know yet, it's uncomfortable. 


00:15:36    Eli

Yes. And you, so, okay, let's go, let's go back to what are we doing around our, our attachment stuff. And I'm going to tell you why I was a little, um, people have been surprised that my first book is not parenting specific. So my first book at the full title is Securely Attached: Transform Your Attachment Patterns Into Lasting, Loving, Romantic Relationships. The word romantic is in there because publishing. They needed to like pick a lane. But I deeply believe that one of the primary ways we support our children is in recognizing our own story of attachment. So going back, and the first, the first section of my book is literally just processing the past. It's like where you're, where you began, what are your beginnings, And there's all these prompts and quizzes that's like helping you go through like, what was affection like in your home? Was it given frequently, awkwardly, intrusively, conditionally, right? What was the response to tenderness in your home? What did the relationship, you know, with your primary caregiver feel like? Like basically helping you reflect on like, oh, this is why I feel the way I feel about myself, my feelings and my relationships that are close. So those close people, it's, it's different. Like how I relate to, you know, the attendant at 7-Eleven is very different than how I'm relating to my BFF or my partner. Right. Um, and then the second section of the book, you basically look at, okay, so what happened after that? So now you, you have these family relationships and then you were in high school and you created peer connections and then you left that. And then you have all of these adult relationships where you formed close attachments or you didn't, and that affected your pattern. So what's cool about attachment is it can shift. So it can heal, it can also get damaged, right? So you can have a secure experience and then end up in a really abusive relationship and it affect your attachment pattern. But then when you are able to get out of that relationship, you can shift back into a secure pattern again. And then the last section is like, here's how you cultivate secure connections with the other adults in your life. And the reason why I wrote that one first is because I am writing a second book, I'm writing my parenting manual, whatever we want to call that. But if you haven't first engaged your story, it doesn't matter if you know all the tips and tricks, like you can-


00:18:03    Alyssa



00:18:04    Eli

- know them, but you're sitting there and your child is losing their mind about separating from you and your nervous system is going to get activated and how you respond, whether you're dismissive, intrusive, whether you add emotions to that pile, whether you are able to be attuned, that is going to be about, have you put in the work to understand what you went through as a child and what those tender moments activate in you now. So I wanted to kind of put people in the position to know, hey, this is what happened to me and thats why I am the way I am. 


00:18:41    Alyssa

Yes. Good questions. So, totally, a thousand percent agree and Tiny Humans Big Emotions, same thing. Part one's about us as adults, part two's about kids, part three's special circumstances. Like everyone comes for part two, tell me what to do with the kids. And we're like, yep, totally can tell you all that. If you don't do part one, you're not going to be able to apply it in part two. It won't matter. Correct. Correct. And so like fully on board with this, love this, obsessed. So glad that you're writing a second book too. And I say, you're like, yep, I understand where this comes from. I understand what's coming up for me in the moment. And just this morning at drop off, there was a child being like peeled off of mom to go to this. Yep. And it's like, so, and she was like walking away and she was like, God, it's so hard. And I was like, it's so hard, right? Like it's just so hard. And this child is safe and loved and in great hands and all that, right? Like all those things are true and this is hard. And so can you break down the like, okay, understand what's coming up here. And now I, mom, I'm gonna go back to the car and like, now I'm sobbing, right? Like I went through this with this kid and now I'm back in the car and I'm sobbing and like, what does this mean? 


00:20:06    Eli

Yes, well, let's talk, let's dig deep into what a secure transition into childcare looks like. So every kid is different. We talked about this in terms of their temperament. So you are going to have a child who is like, I can't wait to go to school. But in general, children who feel secure with their caregivers prefer their caregivers over a novel environment, a new place that they haven't had a lot of experience with. I always tell folks like visit that preschool multiple times before that day, like three, four times, get to know them, like, um, have some experience so that they are processing the space and the place, not just in that first moment, um, and create some kind of a ritual and go over that ad nauseum before you go to school. So here's what's going to happen. And even sometimes as adults, we forget all the little steps that are involved in an experience, you know? So it's like, well, first we're going to get up, we're going to put our undies on and then our pants. Is that the order we do it in? Oh, right. Yes that's the order we do it in and then we'll brush our teeth and then we'll eat breakfast and then we'll put on our shoes and then we'll get our new backpack and then we'll put our lunch in that backpack and then we'll get in the car and then what will we do after the car? Oh yeah that's right we'll drive and then after we drive we'll pull up and do you remember what color the fence is? Oh right it's a brown fence. I would say it's pretty tawny brown what would you say, poop brown? Hmm. Yeah, probably. Okay. Um, and, and then you're walking them through step -by -step and then who will be there? Okay. Right. And then I will say, I might think I've shared this on my social media, but we always do a hug, a kiss, a hugga mugga, and a high five. And now my children have this very strange habit of, they think it's very funny to push me with the high five, and then say to me, Bobby Gerald poopy, which is a whole inside family joke. Because at some point, Bobby Gerald became a thing. I don't even know where it came from. It was like my seven -year -old in seven -year -old boy mode. So everyone is Bobby Gerald. Like if you said something, he'd go, okay, Bobby Gerald. And then poopy is very funny because we're three and a half. So they say that, I act offended, they think that's hilarious, and that allows our separation, it creates humor in the separation, which is helping their nervous system feel less intense about the separating. So that process is predictable, but it took time to establish. And whenever you go back for a new school year, like if we had a summer break this year, like you're going to have to go through that rigmarole of the separation feeling vulnerable for them and uncomfortable and what you have to recognize is they're uncomfortable and they're protesting separation, which is great. That's what they should be doing. That's a signal. That is a signal that they are securely attached to you, that they trust you will be there for them. 


00:23:03    Eli

But, they need to go to daycare because modern life, because that's what you're doing... 


00:23:09    Alyssa

Because I'm the best mom when I get a break from him.


00:23:12    Eli

Oh, preach. I am the samesies. I was not cut out to be a full -time homeschooling stay -at -home parent. It's not in my DNA. It's in other people's DNA. It's not in mine. 


00:23:22    Alyssa

Yeah. It doesn't bring me joy. 


00:23:24    Eli

Right. That's right. Sorry. The cat's on the computer. Sorry. You can't sit there, I'm so sorry. So you're, you're recognizing this is something I want them to learn to do. It's similar to when you are weaning them off the bottle, right? Like they may want the bottle still because that's what they're familiar with. And you're like, here's a sippy cup, because you know, developmentally, they need to learn how to drink from a cup. And so you're weaning them off of that bottle onto the cup. And that's what you're doing when you're transferring them to safe, nurturing, other caregivers. As you're weaning them off of the experience of being reliant only on you as their source of security. And then they can get to a place. One of my three -year -old, the more sensitive of my twins, definitely has a much harder time into this. So my husband always takes them to daycare, because I am more of that primary attachment figure. Separating from him can still be painful for them, but it's not as intense as when they have to do it with me.  


00:24:24    Alyssa

That's what we find. Yeah, actually on like day three, it was like first two days I did it, day three, my husband did it and he had an easier time separating. He had a harder time leaving the house because I was staying at the house even though he was going with Zach, right. It makes total sense. 


00:24:42    Eli

Because he's still having that experience of separating from you. 


00:24:45    Alyssa

Correct. Versus like leaving Zach the prior two days or whatever. He was like, 'peace dad' I'm with mom. And yeah, but then leaving me was harder. It was like pushback and boundaries. And then...but then...


00:24:58    Eli

 Are you going to keep that a routine? Are you going to keep that a routine that Zach takes him? 


00:25:03    Alyssa

It doesn't work for Zach's work schedule. 


00:25:05    Eli

Bummer. Well, you, so just know, okay, this is going to be a little more intense and it'll take us, I mean, I would say at least a few weeks for it to become more internalized and kind of regular, but as you create that routine, you'll get there. And if, if for some reason that's not working, one of the things that I like to ask parents is how much are you projecting your own childhood pain of separation onto your child? Like...


00:25:32    Alyssa

 So this is what I want to hit on is like, I think the understanding of it, and then the regulating of it are different. 


00:25:39    Eli

Yes. Go, say more. I want to hear your thoughts. 


00:25:42    Alyssa

Just like the. So I worked in early ed for a long time. That's my background. And so I've been on the teacher side of it for a long time, and have witnessed this pattern of, okay, the kid is, you said goodbye, right? And like the initiation, like you've gone through the routine. We did a lot of visual aids that would go home to school beforehand where they could like create a routine together, practice a routine, yada, yada, yada. So that when they're coming to school, yep. And so we're then implementing. And now as a kid is having a hard time or even just like saying, I don't want you to go to work, maybe not even crying, just saying, I don't want you to go. And then for the caregiver to be like, I know. And they're like lingering and they're drawing it out. And like, you can feel from them this, I don't want to leave. 


00:26:35    Eli



00:26:35    Alyssa

And I a thousand percent get that as a parent where I'm like, yeah, hate leaving him when he's like, mama, please don't go to work. Yeah. And then I'm like, all right, well, I'm gonna, bye. And so like that, I totally get it. And I have seen the effects on the kids through that process. 


00:26:55    Eli

Yes. Well, so your confidence in the separation is going to be related to your own traumas around separation. How, how have you experienced separation? So folks that have more of an avoidant experience usually don't have a dilemma around separation because they adapted to separation. That was their experience. They actually struggled more around connection. Connection feels more dyregulating, um, so, you know, that avoidant dismissive parent is going to be like, you're fine, buddy. You're fine. And that's not confidence actually, because that's denial of the relational experience. It's just avoidance. On the flip side, if you had more of an anxious resistant growing up, separation feels terrifying to you. And so your child protesting separation is going to activate a trauma response in your body. And so when they're like, don't go, don't go, like you will naturally project onto them what you felt in having inadequate caregiving, which is caregivers who were intermittently available for you. You didn't know which day they were and weren't going to be emotionally effective at soothing you. And so you know you're coming into that moment, you have to be in a place where you're grounded. I am going to be compassionate and I'm going to be confidently calm. I know you're really sad that mama's leaving. I know it's making you feel sad. I know you feel scared. You feel scared? Is that what's happening in your body? You're feeling scared. It can feel really scared to go to a new place. Do you know that Mama knows everybody here? I know them and I made sure and these are my friends and they promised me they're going to take really good care of you and and do you know there's snack time? And puzzles? Right and again you're not dismissing that those feelings at the beginning, so that's a little bit of a subtlety. It's like you know you're saying I know you'll be okay. I know you're feeling sad and scared and I  believe you're going to be taken care of. Not that you won't feel sad and scared throughout the day, that you will be given care in response to your sorrow and your fear. And then just sort of holding on, knowing like, okay, this is gonna be a hard first, I would say like anticipate the first three days are a bit of a dumpster fire. If you're talking, you know, between the ages of zero and two and a half. When they reach three, they have a little more brain development. It's still gonna be a bit of a dumpster fire, but maybe a smaller one. When they reach three and a half and a four, they have far more capacity for mentalizing, for being able to make meaning, for absorbing 'my parents and I go in and out of separation and connection, but they return'. Oh no, did I just turn you off? No. Okay, good. She just landed on the thing and I lost the visual. Okay, there we go. Sorry. You're fine. So we're anticipating three days of a dumpster fire, but if you can hold those patterns and routines and trust those other caregivers, The other thing that's been helpful for me is with my highly sensitive kids, I've been really clear with the caregivers up front, like, Hey, this little munchkin is a lover, also a feeler. It would be very helpful if one of you could be sort of the assigned person to hold her when I'm leaving, because it will be really hard for her to separate from me without someone else co-regulating with her. Not all daycares are going to be open to that. And we've been thoughtful about when we arrive. So we try not to arrive with the rush because if she's in that space and there are seven other kids arriving at the same time, that's not helpful. And so we've kind of adapted to when we come so that when we come pretty much, most of the kids are there. And that is also comforting to her. She can see the other kids. There's not as much chaos in the environment. Whereas my less sensitive kid is she'll have days like that. She will. She'll cling and have moments. But for the most part, she's like, what's for snack? 


00:31:01    Alyssa

I have a question. And so we, we're, you know, we're talking a lot about like that childcare separation piece, but I, we know that attachment bleeds into everything, right? This is you in grad school and I don't think that you're wrong. So I, we are having dinner the other night and my mother-in-law who's very involved, they live a mile away from us and so Sage is with my mother-in-law on Fridays, like just like she's super involved, he loves her. And yeah, she can like kind of transfer in as one of us. And he was having a hard time. He was cutting a new molar and refused dinner and then got to like a hangry, dysregulated state. And he's going through his emotion. I'm just sitting near him. He does not like to be touched or frankly talked to in this state, but he does like somebody near him. 


00:32:04    Eli 

I want to clarify this because this is really important in the attachment research: distress is not the same as frustration.


00:32:12    Alyssa



00:32:13    Eli 

 And a lot of people feel worried and concerned when their children in frustration takes space from them and they're like, are they avoidant? Does that mean I'm like, nope, they are, they are regulating. And in fact, what they're doing is trying to prevent harm to the relationship. So like the fact that he doesn't want to be touched and he kind of wants to be left alone, that is not related to his attachment pattern. 


00:32:36    Alyssa

Totally, totally. Actually for him, it's like a sensory regulation. He's highly sensitive and touch for him is depleting. Generally speaking, he's tactilely sensitive. And so in those moments, especially, like it just drains him. So anyway, so this is happening and I'm just sitting and holding space and knowing like, yep, I've seen this happen before. He's going to go through it. He's going to come down from it. And then he's going to afterwards say, can I have a snack? Like this is the pattern and like really feel like I don't, I'm not pumping cortisol, like I feel pretty chill through it and my mother-in-law was like do you want me to take him upstairs and we can just like snuggle in the chair and he can like have time to come down and I was like thank you so much no uh we're just gonna let him move through this a little bit later she's like let me know if you want me to tap in and I could just like feel her, 


00:33:31    Eli 

She was uncomfortable with his emotional state. 


00:33:34    Alyssa

Correct. And he also like not a big crier. In general. 


00:33:42    Eli 

That's not how he processes his feelings. 


00:33:44    Alyssa

No, it's not. And he and so now as it's like happening, it's uncomfortable for her because also, it's not something that she sees a whole lot to be honest. Especially because she doesn't have to push him through a lot of the uncomfortable things like a childcare drop off or whatever, right? Totally. 


00:34:05    Eli 

All of that. Yep. That's where those bigger feelings are popping up more. 


00:34:08    Alyssa

Exactly. And so, but it was just so interesting to witness and to see her reaction to his dysregulation and that need to fix so that she could feel calm again. 


00:34:22    Eli 

Right. Make the feelings better. You know, and I think this is that particular nuance is like black belt level attunement. So attunement is the word we use in the attachment research to describe the ability to accurately pick up on the nonverbal or emotional state of somebody else and receive that feeling without being flooded or destabilized by it. And when you are in an avoidant state, you often either pick up on it and dismiss it or shut it down or ignore it, or you don't pick up on it at all. I know a lot of avoiding people whose avoidance is so well ingrained that they don't even recognize the presence of that nonverbal emotional state in somebody else. And then on the flip side, we would talk like with an enmeshed or entangled kind of perspective would be, this child is crying or they're upset and I am panicking about it and I am uncomfortable with it. And so now I want to rescue them from what they feel. And what you were attuning to in that moment was he doesn't need rescuing. He's feeling his feelings. I'm available to him. You also weren't dismissing him. You weren't like, when you're in a better place, you can have dinner. Right? 


00:35:44    Alyssa



00:35:45    Eli 

Like, oh, you want some space? You're having a hard time. I'm just assuming this is what you're doing. 


00:35:50    Alyssa

Yeah, yeah. 


00:35:50    Eli 

And you're tolerating within your own body the attunement that you have in that moment. I know he's frustrated, mad, flooded and needs food. But I also know that like the norepinephrine has gone off and he's high right now. And I have to sort of ride the wave. When my children have really big emotional surges, I visualize in my head an actual wave. And I remind myself that, that there is gravity for all things in life, including emotions. Like they always come back down. I don't have to do anything to make them come back down. There are things I could do that will keep them up high. 


00:36:27    Alyssa



00:36:28    Eli 

And there are certainly things that I can do that will help create the ideal environment for them to come down quicker or safely. But I'm not in control of how large a surge is. That's some tectonic shit, right? 


00:36:41    Alyssa

That's how like, that's how labor, I like call on this, like my labor a lot in parenthood where I, there were two contractions I can remember where I like fought them and they, I remember them because they were my most painful, hardest contractions. And I, my mantra throughout labor was like, the only way out of this is through it. And it truly, like when I could just be with it and through it and move through and know like, yeah, it's going to come to an end. It's hard right now. And it's going to come to an end. All of these have come to an end.


00:37:18    Eli 

I'm not in control of this. My job is to feel the feeling and allow them and relax as much as I can. 


00:37:26    Alyssa

Yep, exactly. 


00:37:28    Alyssa

And so I pulled that into parenthood, like thankful for that labor. It like comes in hot and parenthood all the time of like, yeah, this is gonna ride its way out. 


00:37:39    Eli 

Yes. And what other people have done with your emotional states, right? This is why we go back to, we have to do our own work because if you grew up in a family that was terrified of feelings, Well, now you have neurons that fire together, wire together, terror and sadness are wired together and your child feels sad and terror enters your body. And that's where we have to kind of parse out, Hey, this is what happened when I was a child, but now I'm the grownup and I can do something entirely different. 


00:38:07    Alyssa

This is huge because I also like in our emotions research, we look at how different emotions will then affect you differently. Right. So like maybe in your household growing up, you were allowed to be angry or there were certain emotions that weren't avoided, weren't pushed away. People weren't anxious about, we see this a lot with fear with kids. That like, if you weren't allowed to feel fear and somebody just always like, oh, there's monsters under your bed, let's make a spray to make them go away so that you don't feel scared. If the message was over and over and over, I don't want you to feel scared. It's not safe to feel scared. And now you have this, and now your kid feels scared about something in that, but so this I think is really key, because I think each of us have different emotions that we're going to have different responses to. That, maybe, so sadness brought it up for me, because this was one in my household where there wasn't space for sadness. And it was, 


00:39:00    Eli 

Why do you think that is?


00:39:01    Alyssa

It, very much from like my parents upbringing, and my dad specifically, when he was 16, his mom died suddenly from a stroke. And he was the oldest of six kids, the youngest being twin five -year -olds. And like his mom ran the house, like very much the times, right? Like his dad went to work, his job was to provide for the family financially. And then his mom ran the house and the kids. And immediately, like all pictures were put away of her. There was no talking about her. It was just, 


00:39:32    Eli 

There was no room for the sadness with six kids. There was no room. 


00:39:36    Alyssa



00:39:37    Eli 

And like from a practical standpoint, how would they have grieved? They would have had to have a very adept father and community to process that level of a nightmare. What an unbelievable nightmare. 


00:39:50    Alyssa

So devastating. And that's my dad, right? And so then I grew up in a household where just like, you're okay, brush up, you're fine, specifically around sadness. Like that was now, as I've like done more of this work in adulthood, have realized like, oh, sadness is the one that's the hardest for me to personally be with and then to allow in others. And it's a practice. 


00:40:14    Eli 

You've got the least amount of experience with it. Um, when my, when my kids are feeling any feeling, I do feel uncomfortable. So I want to be clear. I'm not like some Zen-


00:40:22    Alyssa

 Oh, totally. Yeah. I'm not like, this is great. 


00:40:26    Eli 

Yeah. But I do have a deeply held commitment to an educational process. And this is why I love your mission of like the future is emotionally intelligent. Like everything you're doing around this is so massive. 


00:40:40    Eli 

I'm just trying to think of something maybe literally yesterday. My son was like having a really hard time going to sleep. And he was kind of sad and he was laying there and he was like, I don't know what's wrong with me. And he's like trying to figure out his signals. He's tired, it's Monday tomorrow,  so the transition from the weekend or whatever. And I'm noticing in my body that, you know, for my own needs, I'm kind of like, okay. You're like, you're fine. Go. You're tired. Go to sleep. And that's what I'm wanting to say. Yeah. I want him to be able to learn to recognize those cues within his own body. And so I like, just like that, I'm like, I don't know, I'm going to be here with you. Let's see if you can kind of listen in or whatever. And like three minutes later, he goes, I'm hungry. I was like, you're hungry. And he's definitely having a growth spurt. He had already eaten like a bowl of stew and two full quesadillas for dinner, which is way more than...


00:41:32    Alyssa

 Incredible. Incredible. 


00:41:34    Eli 

And he's obviously having a leap. And so he's like, I want some more stew, which I'm like, what eight year old asked for stew at that time. 


00:41:40    Alyssa

Done. Like, go ahead. 


00:41:42    Eli 

So I warm up an adult size bowl of stew and a glass of milk, proceeded to eat all of it and drank a full glass of milk within three minutes. Right. So whether your child is hungry, sad, tired, ashamed, and I'm, I'm mixing in hunger and exhaustion into this mix because truly what are emotions? They're internal cues in our body that are driving us to some form of need, right? So hunger is driving us to eat. Thirst is driving us to drink. Attachment is driving us to find proximity. Sorrow is driving us to express loss and process loss. Anger is driving us to address some form of violation that we feel, whether that violation is around our expectations or something someone's done with us. Shame is motivating us to process something that we are afraid will get us kicked out of the community. Right? So it's like, you know, we have to go and that Brene Brown's work around like, this is that's why we have to go into vulnerability and share that. And then fear is hitting on something around danger or threat. And there's so much nuance in every single one of these states, right? Like we all know what it's like to feel like a little bit sad, but moving into that deep sense of grief. Ooh. 


00:43:04    Alyssa

Yeah. Like devastation.  


00:43:07    Eli 

Yes. And someone like your dad, I don't know if he's done more work in the future, but he's probably very afraid that he's going to drown. Like if I let myself feel sad, any form of sad, I'm afraid that will open the floodgates and I don't know if I will ever get out of them. And that is again, a result of not having had, my guess is, is that his mother though, so important, also wasn't secure around this, because he would have had a template for it. She was probably avoidant. And so there's no internalized template for him of, I can be sad, and I will get co -regulation, and it will be okay. And I will tell my story and process my story in the context of others. He doesn't have that. And so he's not sure he can be sad. He's like, I don't know. And so he's definitely not sure you can be sad. That's trickled down and you're the cycle breaker, you're dropping Sage off and Sage is sad. And that internalized generational message of, there is not time for sadness, or we cannot handle this feeling, or this is a dangerous feeling, whatever nuance it is, pops up and you're nervous. 


00:44:16    Alyssa

For me, it feels dangerous. And it also, so I experienced some trauma when I was 14 that then definitely played a huge role in my teen years and early 20 years. And when I look those years of like what emotions in that space were the hardest fear and sadness. And it went into anxiety spirals and then sometimes depression. And so there's a part of me that's like, if you feel sad, you can go back to depression, right? That like, there's a pattern for this because I was growing up in this household. Sadness isn't, there's no space for it. I don't learn how to be sad, what it looks like to experience sadness. I experienced trauma and then there's a lot of sadness and it's overwhelming and I have no toolbox for it. Right. So like it all makes sense as a pattern, but now still when sadness comes up, I have to be so cognizant of that and and just aware of like, oh, that's what's happening here. Like you're afraid that if you feel sad and you let yourself feel sad and now if you let Sage feel sad, it'll feel so overwhelming that it'll be life -threatening. 


00:45:23    Eli 



00:45:24    Alyssa

Right? And it makes total sense and the feelings are real. 


00:45:28    Eli 

Yes, but not all feelings are facts. So, 


00:45:32    Alyssa



00:45:33    Eli 

All feelings have a basis in a factual perception, right? So like, for instance, in your story, these feelings are based on the fact probably, we haven't talked about your mom, she's there's a role there too, but,


00:45:48    Alyssa

Whole bunch in there, yeah. 


00:45:50    Eli 

But with your dad, in the very least, we can look pretty directly in one to one and go, Oh, yeah, wasn't a lot of room in his life, lost his mom in a terrible traumatic way, and he was the oldest child, having to take care of everybody, having to make sure that everything is okay, so they could survive. I mean, losing the mom is a survival mode that all those children had to go into. And so we know that that's what's lingering in your body, but it's not your story. It's his story. And there's like the fact that that happened to him is not related at all to dropping Sage off at childcare, but they are correlating because the feeling states are related. 


00:46:28    Alyssa

Correct. So these things aren't connected, right? Like my dad's mom dying and me dropping Sage off at childcare, two separate things, but that link between them of the sadness, then this is where I feel like attachment is so huge of like my attachment that I received from my dad specifically around this emotion now bleeds into coming up into these situations where I'm the parent and my child's sad, and what happens inside. Feelings are not facts. And I believe that they're, all those experiences are real, the like experience of what you're feeling it like the literal, if we look at like the interceptive system of like, what are you feeling? Not the emotion necessarily, but what are you feeling inside? That's all real.


00:47:13    Eli 

The physiological,  chemical experience in the body, thats always real. So what I do with myself is when I'm in a big feeling state, um, I'm asking myself, do, does this feeling state belong exclusively to this moment or that belong partially, or even potentially exclusively to another moment? Um, and there's a metaphor I use when I'm working with my clients, which is that, so if I'm in the forest and I'm hungry and I eat some berries and it turns out those berries are poison and I vomit and I diarrhea all over the place, the whole nine yards. The next time I come upon, um, a set of red berries, I might feel nauseous and they might be an entirely different set of berries, but my body is designed and my brain is designed to say, that looks like the thing that almost kills you, that smells like the thing that almost killed you, have a reaction to it, just in case it is the thing that almost killed you. 


00:48:14    Alyssa



00:48:14    Eli 

Well, now add that into relationships. Well, what is it? 


00:48:19    Alyssa

It's your classic doozy. It's your classic doozy. 


00:48:22    Eli 

So like, I felt abandoned by my parents because they didn't respond to my sadness. That's very young. That's young material. You learned that so young before, probably before 12 months of age, you had already internalized. No one wants me to be sad. Isn't that wild? 


00:48:37    Alyssa



00:48:38    Eli 

There's data about that. So you've internalized this. And that was a, that was a berry. That was a berry that made you feel yucky and made you feel scared. And you did not like that. And so you come to this stage as an adult, and your child is feeling the thing that felt dangerous to you. And you're like, he's eating the berries! I just scared my kitty, I'm so sorry. I didn't know. You know, he's eating the berries, he's eating the berries. And what you need to do is stop and take stock. Is he eating berries? Are they poisonous? How do I know? Oh, wait, okay. Everyone else is, no one's throwing up. People are eating these berries. Okay. Now my job is to calm my nervous system. I can be a little cheesy. I mean, I'm a shrink, so you can anticipate this probably, but I will like talk to my inner child. Like I'll imagine little Eli, cause I have, I have lots of separation trauma. My family tree is just like one big cascade of mental illness, addiction, domestic violence. It's beautiful. So I will talk to little Eli and say like, Hey, you're big now. It's okay. You're through it. And  you're really loving and kind and supportive and you're the parent and you can do this. And by doing that, I can kind of step out of that childlike reaction my body is having and then enter that adult part. My husband sends his inner child to Hawaii. That's his whole tip. He always wants me to tell people about it. He's like, this is the best thing I've ever done. He like, if the kids are annoying him, he's getting flooded. He'll go into the hallway, he'll stop, he'll close his eyes and he will like literally take his younger self, put him on a lawn chair, give him a Virgin Pina Colada and a book, and then he'll enter, re -enter his adult part and let the kids be the kids. So that now his adult self is interacting with the children instead of that, um, avoidant, he had an avoidant experience. So he gets into a dismissive mode when he's triggered. I far more get into an entangled or enmeshed mode when I'm triggered. Um, and by the way, people that are avoidantly attached and people that are anxiously, resistantly attached tend to find each other and get married. 


00:50:48    Alyssa

Sure. Yeah. 


00:50:51    Eli 

It's an adaptation, right? That other person has an adaptation you don't have and a skillset you don't have. And we tend to be drawn towards people who can add to our survival. 


00:50:59    Alyssa

Totally. But I think so this is, oh my god, I could do this forever with you. So it's so fun. I love being able to be nerdy. I think what's huge is that a lot of us are now because also attachment's in the zeitgeist in a way that, as you had pointed out, like it hadn't been. And so I think a lot of us are like, yeah, I want this. And then things like attachment parenting pop up, which isn't about secure attachment, and then - 


00:51:31    Eli 

It's not based on the attachment research. 


00:51:32    Alyssa



00:51:33    Eli 

It's based on one doctor's perspectives. 


00:51:37    Alyssa



00:51:38    Eli 

Misguided in many ways, not in all ways, not all are off course, but many of them are off course. And a lot of the claims are off course and they're not based on the data. So anyway, yes, that's fine. 


00:51:48    Alyssa

So like these, but these things start to surface, right? And I think of a connotation of like the word Montessori in early ed were like, if I actually asked our parenting community, what is Montessori education? I'd wager a guess that they don't really know, but it's now become so buzzwordy that they're like, oh yeah, I'm going to get this Montessori toy or I'm going to have this, whatever. And it's now just a part of the zeitgeist. And so I think attachment similarly has really come in to that space where we're talking about it more. And I think there's been a pendulum swing in parenting from like, I'm now aware that I was not in a securely attached relationship with my parent or caregiver growing up. And now I want that, but the swing goes a little far. And now we're like, actually, I'm repeating or maybe swinging to like a different attachment style in an effort to try to get to a secure attachment. But I still haven't done this work, which is why I think your book is so freaking key. I still haven't done this work on my end to say, what is coming up for me in these moments? And who am I and what am I made up of? So that in these moments, I can attune to this child and say, yeah, you know what? This is really annoying that he's melting down when I know he's hungry. It would be lovely if this wasn't happening. It's not convenient and I'm not scared of it. Right? Like, and I can be with it. 


00:53:23    Eli 

It's part of development. It's part of life. 


00:53:26    Alyssa

Right. And I'm not, yeah, I'm not like, can't wait for this to happen again. This is so fun. But that it's that reality of like, and he's going to move through this and I can be present to it and whatever versus the like, when he feels sad and inside my fire starts to rage and I have to actively be like, you're safe, Alyssa, and he's safe. He's safe to feel this. You weren't safe to feel this when you were little. He is safe to feel this as a little kid. 


00:53:55    Eli 

Yes. One thing I want to just like bless you with personally is that it is far easier with your second child. So with your first child, you're figuring it all out. And again, even if you're a developmental expert, every kid's different. And every kid's developmental process is different. 


00:54:12    Alyssa

These damn kids. Yeah. Everyone is different. 


00:54:16    Eli 

Well, one of them, but, but by your second, you at least have some sense of like, oh, that was hard. I remember that. Oh, but it passed. 


00:54:26    Alyssa

Yeah. And here's who I am and what I've learned about me in that process. Right. I think so much of the like beginning parenting journey is who am I and how do I feel about this thing? 


00:54:38    Eli 

Yes. Who do I want to be? Absolutely. Which again, is why my first book is please go do your work to heal your own attachment stuff. Because even if you do the opposite of what your parents have done, if you haven't healed your stuff, you will do it with an energy that still translates as anxious. 


00:54:57    Eli 

So that's what I'm saying. Is that like, it's this intention to do it differently, but-


00:55:00    Eli 

 Let me give you an example. Someone had a parent that was withholding of love. So the insecure experiences, my parent doesn't tell me they love me. They don't show me affection. I don't feel loved. And it makes me feel anxious and insecure. So then they have children and they're like, I, my kid will never go through that, but they don't actually do the work to heal it. And so what they do instead is they constantly are showing their child. I love you. Do you feel loved and checking in with their child? Do you feel loved? Do you feel like, which cultivates a different type of insecure experience for that child, because it's still not grounded and attuned. And then that child grows up and is like, oh my gosh, that was so intense, and so intrusive, I don't want to be intrusive with my child. So I am going to really let my child take the lead on when they want affection. And then that child feels like, why doesn't my mom kiss me, touch me, talk to me, whatever. And so then it can affect your nervous system status. So if you have not reconciled what happened to you as a child to your adult self and gotten to a place where you are free. In some of the research, the adult secure style is called free autonomous attachment. 


00:56:14    Alyssa

I like that. 


00:56:15    Eli 

And it doesn't mean you don't need people anymore. It means you're free to feel secure to live your life, to explore, to connect without that constant questioning of yourself or confusion of what am I doing? So I want everyone to do that. When my second book comes out, I'm going to give you a lot more lessons, but that will still be one of the lessons in the book. One of my chapters is if you don't heal it, they will feel it. That's like what I'm talking, we're talking about right now. And you, you intuitively get that right on where it's like, Hey, you can follow all the tips and tricks, but if you haven't grieved how painful it was in your nervous system to feel unloved by a withholding parent, your child will inherit that grief. There's a woman on the internet, her name is Stephanie Wagner. I've tried to find her. I can't find her. She's a therapist, but she said this beautiful quote, something along the lines, I'm not going to get it completely right, but it was Like 'generational trauma passes from generation to generation until someone in that family is ready to feel the feeling'. And so that's what we're talking about, getting that release cathartic process or lots of different language around it. And then, yeah, you're going to show your children affection, but you're going to do it in a way that is not anxious. And when they push you away, cause they don't want affection, you're not going to feel rejected or panic. 


00:57:38    Alyssa



00:57:38    Eli 

And you're not going to constantly check in with them to make sure they feel loved because that's anxious and they feel that, right? 


00:57:47    Alyssa

Oh, I love that example. Thank you. Where can people get your book, please? Where can they follow you? All the things Eli, I would like, it's just like a standing chat with you. This is so fun for me. 


00:58:00    Eli 

Oh, I love it. I'll come back whenever you want. So I'll tell you all of the things I have available for parents. So the book you can get anywhere that books are sold pretty much. Um, if you go to any of my socials, I have links to the Penguin Random House page, which is who my publisher is. And you can kind of click through there and find all the different retailers, but it is on Amazon and it's on Amazon all around the world. So anyone on Amazon there, and if you want somewhere else like Powell's or it's supposed to be at Target, it's not there yet. Anyway, blah, blah, blah, go to my socials. My socials are Tiktok, Facebook, Instagram, and Threads @attachmentnerd. And I am always running my mouth talking about both attachment in terms of how we parent and also in terms of how we get our needs met in our attachment core relationships with our besties and our partners. And then I have a website where I give longer classes and courses on attachment. And I have lots of different guides and there's a village kind of like what you're doing. There's a village option where people can come in and connect. So you can hop on for a month, hop on for a year, whatever it is that really makes sense for you. And on that website also are live events, free virtual events, trainings for therapists. So that's really kind of your hub is go to And in the meantime, I'm just so loved hanging out with you. You're just very much my people. Thank you for having me. 


00:59:27    Alyssa

Oh my gosh, thank you for joining me. You are also very much my people.


00:59:31    Eli 

So excited for your book. 


00:59:34    Alyssa

Thank you. 


00:59:35    Eli 

Well done. 


00:59:36    Alyssa

Thank you. Thank you. 


00:59:37    Eli 

Forward to the emotionally intelligent future we go. 


00:59:41    Alyssa

Thanks for helping me create it. 


00:59:43    Eli 

Of course. 


00:59:45    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the 'Gram, and tag to let me know your key takeaway! If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans. 


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.