Disorganized Debbie


In the past three posts I have looked at 3 different attachment patterns. We began looking at the Secure Attachment, the type of secure bond all of us desire. It is the type of relational ‘environment’ that others can heal, grow and thrive in.

The focus then shifted to the survival instincts and patterns that come from the insecure environments we develop in. I introduced you to Dismissive Danny and Distracted/ Anxious David.

Let me now introduce you to Disorganized Debbie.


Disorganized Debbie”

At first, Debbie appears to be a stable, reliable and responsible colleague. This is the case until difficult situations arise and she emotionally disintegrates. As time goes on, Debbie’s life is increasingly characterized by emotional outbursts and chaos. It seems like she has an internal magnet to fearful situations, as she is constantly in the middle of whatever crises is at hand. In situations that are threatening to her, she is unable to gain realistic perspective, bringing herself to a sense of calm. Instead, she is quite reactive. She is not easily able to receive the help she needs, and cannot relate in a way that is helpful to others. Verbal reassurance does her no good. She loses focus of her personal preferences and values during the times she is disoriented and internally disorganized.

Description of Upbringing:

Disorganized Debbie grew up in a home fraught with fear. The parents to whom she needed to go for security were the very ones who bought her fear. Her mother was a very anxious lady whose emotions flowed out to her children when she related to them. She was constantly certain that danger was lurking, their house would be broken into, Dad was hurt in an accident if he was late getting home from work, and the children would get hurt when they played and climbed.

Debbie learned from her mother that the world is not a safe place to live. Debbie also lived in the terror of her father coming home at the end of each day. Would he fly into a rage? Was tonight the night that he would enter her bedroom and violate her? Would he again smash mom against the wall? Yes, it is certain to Debbie that the world is unsafe, not organized or reliable, and will not offer her love and protection.

Developmental Outcome:

Debbie, who grew up in a very chaotic and fearful environment, she has internalized the chaos and fear. From her mother, who lived with a constant sense of dread and anxiety, Debbie learned the world is not a safe place and something ‘bad’ is going to happen. Due to mother functioning in a disoriented manner, Debbie has no constancy to build a secure view of her world. Dad was ‘scary’ due to his outbursts of rage and abusiveness, which added to Debbie’s internalized belief that the world is unsafe and unreliable. Her parents, a source of comfort, were also a source of danger and fear for her. This left Debbie frozen in a stance between avoidance and tracking all fear inducing situations. As life progressed, Debbie struggled with emotional, social and cognitive difficulties. Her internal disorganization will impair her future interactions with others and inhibit her ability to function well. She will have a poor coping capacity and a marked inability to regulate emotional responses, stay focused, and ‘on track’ in life.

Relational Connection with God:

Debbie experiences her relationship with God as tumultuous and confusing. Internally, she lives with fear and certainty God is scrutinizing her and tracking her failures and is disappointed or angry. This keeps her in a disorganized relational stance with God, wanting His love and care while simultaneously afraid of going close.

What is needed for repair?

What is it that Disorganized Debbie and those with similar stories need? They are caught in disorganizing shifting of perspectives and wide mood swings and ‘broken trusters’. At times they are living from a hyper alert and instinctual heightened anxious stance. Then they experience an internal sense of overwhelm and shut down, needing to minimize the threat and feelings. There is a chaos of shifting and rotating in a dance of dismissiveness and anxiety. Or they may experience paralysis as a result in being caught between the two. They are in need of stability, and constancy and consistency.

What these struggling souls need most significantly is a secure person and a safe community to come around them for the long haul of life! The trauma and disorganizing internal pattern was created in the context of dangerous people. While terrifying for them, it is vital for them to experience the presence of safe people. They are in need of a person who is mature, who is stable and can bring their calm into the turmoil rather than stir up the chaos more. This person must live primarily from a foundation of confidence so that they do not need the one in turmoil to get to a good place in order to provide relief for them. Someone at mostly an elder level of maturity is needed.

At times the needs will be too much for one person, so it is important for there to be a community. Others to step in to help both the one caught in the disorganizing pattern as well as the main care-giver. What is needed is Secure Attachments! People who can attune to the immediate survival stance of the moment, join them where they are at, and offer what they need.

With this in mind, let’s go back to review briefly what is needed for each pattern. For a more comprehensive understanding, please go back and read the practical ideas I shared for the Dismissive and Distracted/ Anxious patterns. I will give a succinct summary here.

Dismissive Attachment Pattern:

  1. It is important for the person to recognize that everything matters! Make mountains out of mole hills. Use the practice of mindfulness to bring attention and validate the significance of their life. In doing so, we restore the dignity and value bestowed by God on their existence.
  2. By the way they experience the relationship, they can grow in the experience that relationships are more important than rules or needing to ‘be fixed’.

Distracted/ Anxious Attachment Pattern:

  1. It is important to learn how to get back to a place of internal calm when upset.
  2. Focusing on grounding techniques, including deep breathing and settling self through experiencing appreciation are practical ways to bring a sense of internal calm.
  3. Mindfulness can be used to bring ones attention to the present rather than being caught in rehearsing the past or the future predictions that bring them fear.

Within secure relationships, those who identify with Disorganized Debbie will be better able to develop many brain skills. Three important ones are;

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Regaining Calm
  3. Building joy vs. tracking what is scary.


If we are able to understand the dynamics of each of the insecure patterns, hopefully we will develop an increased sense of compassion for ourselves and those with whom we are in relationship with.

Understanding our own life story and how it impacts who we are today is the first step towards healing and growing. SELF AWARENESS & REFLECTION is the most powerful way towards a Secure Attachment.

Then we can heal and grow towards an increasingly Secure Attachment Pattern. We can deepen our own foundations with awareness of our intrinsic value to God and others. We can develop the ability to trust others appropriately and have our needs met. We can develop skills to get back to internal calm when upsetting situations arise. We can grow in our ability to relate in ways that will be helpful to others we journey with in life.



  • I see myself in the Distracted/ Anxious Attachment Pattern, even though you label this one as “Debbie”! These article are so good and helpful. Thank you so much for sharing them with us!

    • You make me laugh, Debbie!! Thanks for reading my thoughts and responding, dear friend!


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