June 11, 2020

The Surprising Connection Between Racism and Attachment Disorders

attachment and racism

Parents, our job is extremely important as we seek to improve the direction of racism in our nation. Exploring the way you were raised and making changes to your parenting style can have a significant impact on the world in which we live.

What does parenting have to do with racism? A lot from what research has found. When one has an inflated sense of self, obsession with dominating others, and the inability to recognize and relate to how others feel, these tendencies point to narcissistic personality disorder. According to the National Medical Association, racism is a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder. 1

What does narcissism have to do with parenting? According to psychology today, narcissism is a result of attachment disorder—namely, anxious attachment patterns and avoidant attachment patterns.

According to healthline.com, anxious attachment disorder can often be traced back to how a parent responds to their child:

A parent with inconsistent parenting behaviors may be nurturing and attuned at times, but insensitive, emotionally unavailable, or antipathetic (cold or critical) at other times. Parents may also be slow or inconsistent in responding to signs of distress in their baby. For example, not picking up a crying baby to avoid “spoiling” the child may actually lead to the development of anxious attachment toward the caregiver.2

How are avoidant attachments patterns created? According to hotline.com:

Parents who foster an avoidant attachment with their children often openly discourage outward displays of emotion, such as crying when sad or noisy cheer when happy. They also have unrealistic expectations of emotional and practical independence for even very young children.3

You see, at the root of the issue of these two attachment disorders, which may lead to narcissistic personality disorder, is a child who is emotionally deprived. These children are denied freedom and a safe place to explore their emotions, and thus, they experience a disconnect with their emotions, which results in the inability to relate to other people’s emotions, and lack of empathy.

Why is empathy so important? Empathy allows one to be so internally connected with another that one reacts to support the other as if the other person is an extension of himself.

There are parents out there who simply are imitating how they were parented as a child, even if it was not the healthiest way to be parented. There are also parents out there who are drained and simply do not have the energy to be emotionally available for their child.

This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect in responding to your child 100% of the time. According to Wallin 2007, misattunements happen – and happen often even in secure attachments. So this is not a call to perfection, it is a call for parents who truly want to make a change in this country to become self-reflective in how they respond to their children.

If you feel like your tendency is to withdraw from your child during a time of emotion or need, please consider reaching out for support and help from trusted, evidence based resources.


If you seek to create a more empathetic culture in your family here are three ways you can do that:

  1. Offering a presence of Peace and Safety in a hurricane of emotions. In the height of strong negative emotions; fear or anger, is our first primal impulse to regress inward to a purely self centered state. The reason we react this way is because we have a strong need to for a communication of safety with others. This is why even parents respond negatively to strong negative emotions in their children. Learning how to cope with feelings of fear or anger from both ourselves and others; to smile when a stranger looks grim; to soothe when our child is screaming, to slow down and soften our speech when a child needs to calm down, is the very beginning of how safety and empathy are fostered.4 When we are able to learn to regulate our own feelings and respond to distress in our children and offer a presence of peace and safety , we’re activating positive memories lodged deep in her limbic systems of times when she was a baby and it was mommy’s or daddy’s reassuring touch or voice that took away the fear. A child is not only calmed this way but, once calmed, will seek to reengage and eventually to extend empathy as well as receive it. 5
  2.  Fostering an environment of restoration and calm in your home. If your child is struggling with physical distractions, anxious about school or family tensions, upset over a tiff with a friend, or overwhelmed by academic demands, he is going to find it hard to focus on the big picture and others’ needs. When your child is exhausted and as a result has become highly irritable and irritating, what he or she needs is to lie down and restore. By providing an environment in your home in which a child can feel safe and recover and restore, your child is then able to shift effectively from the me-centered moment to a we-centered one. The more practiced your child is to reduce stress, calm themselves, and restore the better your child will be at “flipping the switch,” to a more expansive awareness  to his “better self”-most empathetic self-in just a few deep belly breaths.6
  3.  Viewing behavioral struggles as an invitation to nurture empathy. As Dr. Stewart says in his book Self-Reg ‘If a child behaves in ways that expresses his struggle but we misunderstand and attribute to bad character or bad genes, we have abandoned him to the very isolation and suffering we had hoped to steer him away from.’  This is to say that far from being a journey of learning how to “control his inner nature,” the journey the child must make is more accurately one through which he learns through how to cater to his innermost needs. These innermost needs include responding to the needs of others which is the most beautiful part of human nature. 7

Edited by: Beverly Hosford, an instructor, author, editor, mom, and exercise and adult sleep expert.

References:

  1. Bell CC. Racism: a symptom of the narcissistic personality disorder. J Natl Med Assoc. 1980;72(7):661‐665.
  2. Julia Pelly. September 27, 2019. What is Avoidant Attachment? https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/anxious-attachment#causes
  3. Jacquelyn Cafasso. November 14, 2019. What is Anxious Attachment? https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/avoidant-attachment#what-causes-it
  4. SHANKER. 2016. Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life. https://www.ebooks.com/en-us/book/2605251/self-reg/shanker-stuart/
  5. SHANKER. 2016. Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life. https://www.ebooks.com/en-us/book/2605251/self-reg/shanker-stuart/
  6. SHANKER. 2016. Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life. https://www.ebooks.com/en-us/book/2605251/self-reg/shanker-stuart/
  7. SHANKER. 2016. Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life. https://www.ebooks.com/en-us/book/2605251/self-reg/shanker-stuart/

    Myra Hartzheim

    Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

    Leave a Reply: