March 4, 2024

Attachment Theory and Spirituality with Dr. Bill Senyard

Young woman practicing yoga outdoors

Share:

Episode Summary

Welcome back to The Communicate & Connect Podcast with your host, Elizabeth Polinsky. Today, we continue our special series on attachment in relationships with a highly anticipated guest, Dr. Bill Senyard, who brings 25 years of pastoral counseling experience and a deep understanding of attachment theory principles. Before we dive in, remember to take our ARE quiz based on the brief accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement scale to assess the attachment dynamics in your own relationships.

In this episode, we’ll explore the profound questions of “can I count on you” and “am I worthy of love,” as we discuss how our earliest experiences shape our capacity for forming secure emotional connections. Dr. Senyard will guide us through the four quadrants of attachment theory—secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized—shedding light on how these styles influence our behaviors and relationships.

We also delve into the intersection of attachment theory and spirituality, examining how a relationship with God can provide a sense of security and value, aiding in emotional self-regulation. Dr. Senyard shares insights into how spiritual attachment impacts interactions in our relationships, with a special focus on the unique challenges that military families may face.

Through this journey, we’ll confront the fear cycle, understand how to express hurt constructively, and learn the role of pastoral and EFT marriage counseling in fostering secure connections. Dr. Senyard will also introduce his “good enough parent online” program, offering faith-based, scientific parenting tips catered to improving parent-teen interactions, a resource that’s especially relevant to our military families listening in.

Whether you’re looking to strengthen your relationship with your partner, navigate parenting in the digital age, or understand the power dynamics within spirituality, this episode provides guidance to help you out. So tune in as we seek to communicate, connect, and grow together right here on The Communicate & Connect Podcast.

​Guest Speaker Bio

Dr. Bill Senyard is an experienced pastor, discipler, church revitalization specialist, lecturer and conference speaker with over 30 years as a local church pastor. He is the author of twelve books and two on-line experiential paths to help people who struggle with identity, relationships, shame, addiction, loneliness and forgiveness.

Dr. Bill created a FREE online course (15 parent tips sent to participants one a day for 15 days) called “Good Enough Parent.” The phrase “good enough” comes from Attachment Theory researchers who suggest that it only takes 30% of really good interactions with children to be ‘good enough parents”—meaning that your child can likely enter into their next stage of growth more secure, less avoidant and anxious. 3 out of 10 is pretty doable. Parents can easily learn some simple tips that will help their child survive adolescence better. GEP is a blend of the gospel along with the latest in neuroscience and attachment theory. He would love to speak to the young parents in your audience. Bill has multiple graduate degrees. His doctoral work was on the Biblical process of forgiving others. Over 1000 Christians have been through his “Forgiving Path” with very positive results. He has written and spoken on the topics of Attachment Theory for adults and children, shame, forgiveness and of course, the gospel.

Episode Transcript 

​Elizabeth Polinsky [00:00:02]:
This podcast is sponsored by my counseling practice, Elizabeth Polinsky Counseling, where I offer weekly marriage counseling, weekend long marriage intensives, and therapist training in emotionally focused couple therapy. To learn more about my marriage counseling services, visit www.elizabethpolinskycounseling.com. You’re listening to episode 48, attachment theory and spirituality with Dr. Bill Senyard. Close.

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the Communicate and Connect podcast. I’m really excited because today we have Dr. Bill Senyard to talk about attachment theory and spirituality. So not only is he a doctor, but he’s also a pastor. And I think this is going to be really helpful, especially because oftentimes faith is such an important part of a couple’s journey, and there are a lot of couples who are faith based. So I’m glad you can add this in. So why don’t you just tell us a little bit about yourself and kind of your experiences and how you got into attachment?

Bill Senyard [00:01:24]:
Yeah, so I’ve been a pastor for 25 years. I actually been doing my own thing, the gospel app, for seven years after that. And my passion is really to help people frustrated and weary and beat up people actually feel better about themselves. And in my particular case, my leaning would be to make it faith based in their relationship with God. But there’s principles from neuroscience and attachment theory that are universal, and we could be taking advantage of them. So I’m trying to get those out on podcasts like this.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:02:01]:
Yeah, great. How did you get into attachment theory? Because obviously I love it, but it’s, like, foundational to the field of marriage and family therapy. I don’t think I’ve really heard many pastors talk about theory that’s separate from, I guess, theology.

Bill Senyard [00:02:24]:
Yeah, I don’t tend to separate them as much as most do. So that’s an interesting statement. I think you’re right. I think your observations are right. For me, it was just necessity. After seminary, I was 35, and I was thrown into a church plant that we started in a very non christian area of southwestern Canada by Vancouver. And the people that started coming were very needy. They were a lot of rape victims, attempted murder had, oh, my gosh, it was in some ways a sitcom, and I had to come to grips with things that I had not dealt with. I would say just straight up, I’m shame prone. And I’ve been to lots of counseling. I could tell you why for the most part, but I wasn’t able to relate that to myself, to my theology, to my identity. I was just, in attachment theory terms, avoidant. And I was sitting in counseling at seminary, at the very end of my seminary experience with a spiritual formation past professor. And right then and there, if I had say it, I had this spiritual moment where my life passed before my eyes and I realized that I had been destroying relationship after relationship after relationship because of avoidance. And what I realized there in that moment was not just that God loved me, I experienced that 15 years earlier when I became a Christian, but that, this maybe sounds strange, but I actually got that he liked me, and I had been in relationship with him, a Christian for 15 years, and didn’t believe that. I thought I did, but I clearly didn’t. And I fell into depression, and Dr. Houston kind of worked with me on the way out, and I had to really come to grips with a lot of things, and neuroscience, attachment theory and the gospel. All three kind of worked together to help me out. So for me, I was in trouble.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:04:23]:
Yeah. And such a personal journey, too. I think all of us who end up in a helping profession of some kind often have our own journeys, as does everybody. But what I’m really hearing is through my own journey and realizing my own attachment style and how that played out not only in my relationships, but also my relationship with God. That was kind of the starting point for your passion around attachment.

Bill Senyard [00:04:52]:
Well, in attachment theory, I was avoidant, which means I’m doing pretty well on my own, and I’d rather not have other people’s problems. And I’m called to be a pastor.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:05:03]:
Yes. Very hard to not have other people’s problems as a pastor. So I could see the conflict there.

Bill Senyard [00:05:09]:
Bit of a conflict.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:05:10]:
So let’s do a refresher on attachment. So how do you typically explain attachment theory to people you work with?

Bill Senyard [00:05:19]:
Yeah, attachment theory always begins in infancy. The work that was done early on by Bolby and such is that infants between the third trimester of pregnancy and year two, their brains developing, and however they are treated is the nature issue, not the nurture. I mean, the nurture issue versus nature issue. However they’re treated, they develop to one degree or another inner working models that affect their ability to self regulate, to form relationships, to hold on relationships for the rest of their lives to some degree or another. And so if they end up after the two year period of infancy, remember, they’re not even thinking at this point. It’s not like they can shape a thought, but if there’s enough attunement between their primary caregiver, typically a mother, but not necessarily, could be any caregiver. But if there’s this intimate attunement between the baby and the caregiver. According to attachment theory, 30% of the instances are interactions. So three out of ten. And by attunement, I mean those intimate interactions where there’s parallel neurons happening, where there’s mirror neurons happening, where there’s dopamine going and oxytocin going, and there’s a strong connection, and the child feels like there’s someone there for them. They will enter the next period, the stage of life being secure. And secure means that they’re willing to explore the world. They think that the world’s kind a little bit. They think that they can trust adults more, and they tend to be happier, they tend to do better in school, they tend to be more socially energized if they are not secure. Here’s a study that was done, I think. I’m quoting Gabor Mate I think. Anyway, infants who are insecure, even by two years old, when they become adults, they have difficulty understanding their own emotions and feelings of others. They lack empathy. A little. A little or a lot, right? Not perfectly. They have limited ability to maintain stable relationships. They struggle to emotionally regulate meaning. When they get blow up, they have a hard time tuning down on their own. They may subconsciously shy away from intimacy or erupt. They may be too clingy or anxious. And they definitely tend to be more addictive as adults. So attachment theory just discovered that that important segment of time was very influential for children. Now our brains have plasticity, so we can change that. We can lean into it throughout our entire lives, particularly during adolescence. And that’s a lot of my work right now, is working with parents of teens and tweens, because during adolescence, the brain is happening again and the neurons are being pruned, and we really are learning that we have a shot to help our children become more secure as they enter adulthood. So basically, that’s attachment theory in a nutshell.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:08:22]:
Well, there’s just so much that goes into it. You’re talking about all the neurons that are firing. Also what it means to be attuned to somebody. You had mentioned internal working models, which, with my clients, I often talk about it as like a template. It’s the template that my brain gets and learns to have about, can I trust people? Will they be there for me? Do I have value? Which then goes on to impact how I feel about myself, how I feel about other people, and how I interact and behave. Well said that emotion regulation piece.

Bill Senyard [00:09:06]:
Yeah. Attachment theorists say that there’s two subconscious questions that we’re all asking infants. Even though we can’t vocalize it. There’s two questions in infancy. It’s really kind of one. It’s, are you there for me? So an infant that’s crying in their crib, they’re crying and crying and crying. They could be wet, they could be hungry. It could be pain. They could be afraid, they could be lonely. We don’t know. But what their brain is saying. Is there anybody out there? Can anybody relieve, can regulate these emotions when we become adults, when we become adolescents and adults and teens, they break up into two questions. And these are the ones that I work with, adults in particular and teens. The first one is, can I count on you? Is there somebody out there that actually has my back? If not, I’ve got some approaches that I’m going to take if I’m anxious or avoidant, and we can talk about that. But can I count on you? Is there someone there? Even when I mess up, when I screw up, when I get caught, when I have a breakup, in the case of your clients come back from deployment and there’s that awkwardness or breakdowns, is there somebody or something I can count on? The second one is actually, am I worthy of anybody’s love? Is there anybody who just loves me as I am or in my faith, experience likes me?

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:10:26]:
Yeah, exactly. To tie it back to your experience. Absolutely. And so these fundamental questions, what I hear you saying is that even infants have this fundamental question, is somebody there for me? And the way that they internalize the answer to that then goes on to develop either kind of, in a way, like their personality. In this case, calling it an attachment style of either secure or insecure, with feeling like I can count on somebody. That’s the message that I learned in my infancy up till two years that I could count on people. That helps me feel secure. But if I got the message I couldn’t count on somebody, then that would lead to an insecure style.

Bill Senyard [00:11:18]:
It’s hardwired to some degree or another. It can be changed, but it takes intentionality and work and eft that you’ve been dealing. Exactly. That’s the jam of EFT. Right. Is to work on those.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:11:32]:
Yes. To help couples develop a secure attachment between the two of them. Yeah, that’s exactly what we do in EFT couple therapy. Do you want to talk at all about the. You don’t have to, but the attachment styles, because I know you describe that a lot to the people you work with.

Bill Senyard [00:11:52]:
Yeah.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:11:53]:
Especially the insecure ones.

Bill Senyard [00:11:55]:
Oh, yeah. So there’s really four quadrants in the attachment theory. The secure one. Let me tell you what a secure person looks like and feels like. And that would be 40% of the population. That would be middle to upper class, majority population. It would be 60% of that. 40% of those who live in more urban environments who are under stress. Maybe some of your clients who are deployed. But anyway, the secure individual, their identity cup is pretty full. They can focus on the needs of others. They can be more empathetic. This person is great in counseling because they get it. I mean, they’re glad to be there. They’ve developed an ability to emotionally self regulate. So when they get angry, everybody does. They can cool down quickly without blaming. They can make adjustments relationally on the fly. They’re good with differences, relational complexity. They’re comfortable expressing their own needs and wants. Again, they’re great in counseling, and they work hard to repair relationships because relationships have been good for them. One of the insecure quadrants is anxious. And the anxious person, here’s how someone put it. Being in a relationship with someone who is acting out an anxious attachment style can feel like dealing with an angry customer while staffing a support complaint desk. So they still need others to emotionally regulate for whatever reason. And their caregivers and parents didn’t instill that ability. They didn’t help them enough that they picked it up. So they actually use other people in their relationship to emotionally regulate. They worry about being abandoned, dismissed, overlooked, betrayed, fear of missing out. That’s this category. They externalize. They blame others readily. I mean, you can probably picture some of your clients, they tend towards perfectionism. So this would be the person who works really hard to achieve, maybe a person who’s in the seals or the right special forces, because they feel like if they rise up, they will be noticed. And so they’re not doing it for healthy reasons. They’re doing it to emotionally regulate.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:14:05]:
I’ve also heard a lot of my clients where there is someone who had a more anxious attachment style that developed from their childhood, like a strong desire to be good enough. Because on the inside, I’m thinking someone’s not going to be there for me unless I’m good enough.

Bill Senyard [00:14:25]:
Exactly right.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:14:26]:
So working really hard.

Bill Senyard [00:14:28]:
That’s right. They love the out of girls and out of boys. They need credit. They will always try to get credit in a situation. At the extreme, they’re quick to share unfiltered emotions, but it’s usually anger or depression, rarely joy. They are high maintenance. They’re considered high maintenance by their partners, by their soulmates, by their friends, or spouses because they keep bringing this stuff up. And when the fear cycle kicks in, it’s usually fear, the avoidance. That’s me. We fear connectedness. Connectedness. Is there anybody there for me? And I don’t know that I’m afraid of it. But I’ve come to see over the years that I am because nothing has hurt me more than relationships. Nothing has let me down more than relationships. It’s in my inner working model, right. We can be self reliant, which I am. I can be stressed out by relationship issues of others. So if I have an anxious partner, I’m just going to be really tired. In counseling, if they keep bringing this stuff up, I just want to move on. Problem. What problem? We’ve dealt with that we can have a high radar, highly sensitive radar for feeling like we’re being manipulated or used or blamed. We’re filtered emotionally. I am so tired of counselors asking me where do I feel that stress? Liz, I’ve eventually just made something up just to get. Because I don’t feel that in my body. I’m just saying. So I just say my shoulders and they go, oh, yeah. So we move on. I’m avoidant.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:16:00]:
Yes. That is a key feature of somebody who does have an avoidant. Attachment style is to be very disconnected from the emotional.

Bill Senyard [00:16:10]:
Very disconnected. A little strong. Little strong.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:16:15]:
But that is something that is learned. And so actually, in eft couple therapy, oh, my goodness. We help people get reconnected with those emotions.

Bill Senyard [00:16:25]:
Believe me, I’ve been through EfT and needed, oh, my gosh, of course. I’m a big. Could be. I’m here passive aggressive. But I don’t think the, those are the categories. So when you get an avoidant. So, for instance, every rom.com that has ever been produced by Hollywood is an avoidant. And an anxious personalities. The anxious are playing games and the avoidant just can’t make a decision and move forward until they finally do. In the meantime, the anxious person is trying to make the other person jealous and all the other things. Right. That’s a rom.com theme, but it’s played out in most living rooms in the country.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:17:10]:
Yeah. We do know from research that oftentimes couples an anxiously attached person will partner with an avoidantly attached person.

Bill Senyard [00:17:23]:
Yeah.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:17:24]:
But I will say that movies sometimes are like on steroids. They’re a little.

Bill Senyard [00:17:32]:
I should introduce you to my friends. No, that’s true. Yeah. They exaggerate to make a point. That’s exactly true.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:17:41]:
Yeah.

Bill Senyard [00:17:42]:
But it’s not uncommon to have an anxious personality. Extreme anxious personality, have an affair. And subconsciously, and the avoidant spouse is sitting back there going, why did they do that? And the avoidant spouse is going, see, that’s why I’m closed up. That’s why I can’t share with this person. And the anxious spouse is going, why can’t that person open up to me and love me? If you can sit down with them as a counselor and say, so, which of these questions did you try to answer? Is there somebody there for me or is there anybody there who actually loves me? And if you can help them identify which one is which, you can quickly identify which one’s avoidant and which one’s anxious and give them something to talk about.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:18:31]:
That is a really good example of when the affair is done. Like, it’s the anxious person who went outside of the relationship. Avoidant attachment styles can have affairs also, but for them, it’s more about, do you see me as good enough?

Bill Senyard [00:18:48]:
That’s a good point.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:18:50]:
Yeah. So I just don’t want anyone listening to be like, oh, you must be anxious because you cheated or worried now that if they’re partnered with someone who’s anxious, that that means they’re going to cheat because it can happen with either style.

Bill Senyard [00:19:07]:
Oh, my goodness. Yeah. I mean, two avoidance, their relationship dissolved very easily and quickly over time. Yeah, totally. Right.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:19:18]:
So we’ve covered kind of like the background of what attachment theory is really about, this kind of like, personality development in early childhood and the different styles that develop and how those relate to those two core questions that people are asking. So help us connect the dots for me on attachment theory and spirituality and how you see them going.

Bill Senyard [00:19:48]:
Answer. So spirituality, effective and good spirituality would be talking about this relationship that one has with God, in my case, Jesus. And in that relationship, those two questions are answered positively and experientially. So. So for me, I have learned that I have one relationship where I can actually say, there is somebody there for me. I’ve experienced him. I’ve experienced him when I’ve messed up. I’ve experienced him when I needed somebody.

Bill Senyard [00:20:19]:
And there’s somebody out there who actually loves me. The theologian John Calvin. He’s not known for this. He should be, but he says that the Holy Spirit, the secret workings, it sounds like a spy novel, but the secret workings of the Holy Spirit within the inner being of a Christian is to make christians feel that love of God, that two fold love of God, because we’re in the same world that everybody else is, and we get beat up the same way and our inner working models, or put it differently, our critical inner voice says, you’re not lovable. There’s nobody there for you. You’ve screwed up, you’re ugly, you’re overweight, you’re old, you’ve screwed up that relationship. You should have. You should have said that. All of those things. So I have faith based people really do have one relationship they can lean on. And the idea is if we can get our emptied cups, our leaky cups filled a little bit with enoughness and connectedness that comes from that, we can actually overflow into other relationships, we can be more secure.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:21:24]:
I’m following, and so I don’t remember if I mentioned this already, but I don’t have a faith base myself.

Bill Senyard [00:21:33]:
You seem okay anyway, though.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:21:34]:
Well, thank you, I guess. Yeah. I don’t even try to dip into that world. I’d much rather have people who are trained, who have a faith based to guide people on that. And so what I’m hearing is that the relationship with God is also an attachment relationship, where on the inside I can develop a sense of security, an internal knowing that someone’s there for me, aka God, and that I’m valuable, that.

Bill Senyard [00:22:15]:
I’m lovable, that I’m like, yeah, okay, that’s exactly right. And in an attunement sense, I talk about spiritual attunement. I can actually begin to learn how to rely on God to help me emotionally self regulate.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:22:30]:
Okay. So from that security, from that security in the relationship with God, that actually helps calm overwhelming emotions. Following the theory would actually help change. My internal self critic would help me modify how I’m interacting in relationships. So from that secure bond with God that can overflow into the other relationship.

Bill Senyard [00:22:55]:
He’S imagined him, to us as our parent. Yeah, that would be a good enough parent, one who actually attunes with me. So, yeah. And I’ve experienced that and it has worked for me. Now, for somebody who doesn’t have that relationship, I have a quote from Yuri Bronfenbrenner of pretty well known child psychologist. I think this is fantastic. And it says the same thing, but just in a non faith based way, every child, and this would include adults too. So I’ll say it, every adult needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:23:29]:
That’s so sweet.

Bill Senyard [00:23:31]:
Isn’t that great?

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:23:31]:
Yeah, I like that. Yeah.

Bill Senyard [00:23:34]:
And the idea is I don’t just need it once. I actually need that repeated to me over and over and over. So I’m reaching my midbrain and neuroscience I’m not reaching my prefrontal cortex. I’m reaching my midbrain, which takes. Think of addiction. I need to form a new addiction. So I need somebody, if I’m insecure, anxious, or adult or fearful. That last category we didn’t talk about. But if I’m any of those, I need someone, a real person who can regularly be that adult who’s irrationally crazy about me. And they verbalize it. They physically show me that they’re there with me, particularly in the bad times. They’re not judging me. They’re not critical. And from a brain size perspective, I need that three out of ten interactions during the day. So ideally, that’s a spouse. But sometimes spouses relationships are so fragmented and fractured, that’s hard to come by. But we need that relationship somehow, or else the inner working models will just become critical suggestions over and over and over.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:24:44]:
Yeah, I’m following. I’m still kind of, like, reeling from that quote I teared up even.

Bill Senyard [00:24:52]:
I know it’s a gym. I know.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:24:55]:
Yeah. Okay.

Bill Senyard [00:24:58]:
Good thing to ask your clients, is there anybody who is it in your life? Is he rationally crazy? From a pastoral perspective and working with people in pastoral counseling, I would tell you that a lot of people would say, I just don’t have that person anymore, or maybe I never did. It’s sad.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:25:17]:
It is. Yeah, it absolutely is. I think from like an EFT marriage counseling perspective, that is what we’re creating in marriages.

Bill Senyard [00:25:26]:
Oh, yes, it is. That’s right.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:25:29]:
Yeah. But from the pastoral, I guess, perspective, that’s what you are working to create in the relationship with God.

Bill Senyard [00:25:38]:
Okay. Yeah. I try to be that for people that I’m working with. Do the best I can, but I’m avoidant, remember?

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:25:47]:
Yeah. Well, ultimately they’re not forming an attachment with you. They’re trying to form an attachment with God. Yeah.

Bill Senyard [00:25:55]:
Not so clear all the time.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:25:57]:
Yes, I believe that. I believe that you would sometimes stand in and be seen as a proxy for God in that way.

Bill Senyard [00:26:08]:
That’s been one of the major failings of churches, is one person gets in that position and how can I put this? They don’t let God be God.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:26:20]:
Yeah. This goes into a whole different conversation that would be much longer around power dynamics and things like that.

Bill Senyard [00:26:30]:
Exactly right. Exactly right.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:26:33]:
So when you think about, we’ll go back to God, attachment and spirituality, we’ll avoid that.

Bill Senyard [00:26:39]:
Let’s do that.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:26:40]:
Yeah. When you think about how thinking about attachment also as a spiritual endeavor and in some ways. Okay, how do I say this? I had a couple that I was really close to when I was growing up, and they were faith based. And they would talk about this book, which, goodness, I don’t think I can remember it. But one of the things that they said there, because they were sort of like the role model for a marriage for me. And gosh, I’m not going to be able to remember what the book was called, but they said marriage is supposed to make you wholly not happy. And I thought that was really interesting. Again, I’m not so faith based that I’m going to take that, but I do think that there was something in that quote that through my developing a secure attachment with my partner in a marriage, it is a personal growth process and I’m imagining a spiritual growth process to do the hard work, to develop security with another human as an adult.

Bill Senyard [00:27:58]:
Yeah, it’s hard work because we’re working with subconscious center working models that often trigger, that often cause me to emotionally not regulate. So, yeah, there’s a lot of issues involved. It is a lot of work. I’m not sure I would totally buy that statement as the biblical model for marriage. Actually, I’m writing, my first book was written on this old book in the Old Testament called a song of songs, which talks about the biblical model for this relationship with God and for spouses. And it’s filled with delight, it’s filled with joy, it’s filled with mutuality, it’s filled with respect. There’s zero misogyny, there’s zero patriarchalism. There’s this intense mutuality and desire. So I’m rewriting that book, actually, that was twelve years ago, and I’m rewriting and digging a little bit deeper and using some of the neuroscience and attachment theory. So I think the model is supposed to be eventually more delighting. But it does take work because we are stuck with these habits, we’re stuck with addictions. We’re stuck with. And then teens come along and everything goes out the window. So it is a lot of work, I think we have to do self checks. And again, if I had somebody alongside of me who was irrationally crazy about me, I would probably do it all a lot better.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:29:30]:
Yeah. So again, this is why I don’t dip into these things, because I’m going to not get it right. But I guess I was thinking there is a personal growth that happens.

Bill Senyard [00:29:41]:
Oh, my goodness, I hope so.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:29:42]:
And like, most likely a spiritual growth that takes place. And so do you have any thoughts for military couples who are. Maybe they have different attachment styles or maybe they’re newly starting out and they want to develop a secure attachment with their spouse or even just thinking about how to incorporate their spirituality into how they go about attachment.

Bill Senyard [00:30:11]:
Yeah. I want to tell you what we have online, but we also have developed a prayer for individuals and couples, and this is one we did for parents. But anybody could take this. And my suggestion is you’re preaching the gospel to your critical inner voice. You’re preaching the gospel to your inner working models. So it’s a drip, drip, drip, drip. It’s something that I suggest people do twice a day, three times a day. It reflects what you just asked for, these gospel tips.

Bill Senyard [00:30:43]:
So can I just read it? It’s very short.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:30:44]:
Yeah, go for it.

Bill Senyard [00:30:46]:
All right. So Jesus follower, parent, guardian, strictly because of what Jesus did for you 2000 years ago, God actually loves you. So there we go. We’re actually getting into that irrationally crazy. He loves you with all of his heart. As much as the father loves the son and the son loves the father, he can’t love you any more or any less than he does right now. Whether you think you’re a good enough parent or not, or husband or not, or spouse enough, he loves you as you are, not as you should be or could be. You can’t add to this love or take away from it. Now I get it. It often feels like you’ve messed it up or need to do something so that God would like you better not. So how do you experience it more now? And here’s the tip. Simple. Good news. There is something you can do and are invited to do biblically, you can take daily baby steps to ask the spirit inside of you to make you know. And the make you know is important to make you know experience and feel just how much God loves you right now. Just ask again later today, ask tomorrow. And make it a spiritual habit. You can hear the almost addiction language in there where we’re relying on a higher power, so that no matter whether I’m anxious or fearful or avoidant, if I can begin to feel that one person, since it’s faith based, I have a spirit in my inner being. Paul says in Ephesians three, if I can feel that God is irrationally crazy about me, I am going to lean towards the secure quadrant a little bit and it should be noticeable. It should make a difference. It would be the same thing after an EFT session where one of the spouses felt open to be emotional and was openly emotionally vulnerable with their spouse. You know, that sense of relief and aha. And the connection that’s eft, right? I mean, that’s the thing. That’s what we’re shooting for spiritually. It is effective, and I have seen it work. I’ve seen it work for addicts. I’ve seen it work for people who have been abused, attempted murder victims. I’ve seen just that repetition be extremely helpful for people.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:32:55]:
So I like to repeat a lot. So bear with me. It helps me keep track.

Bill Senyard [00:33:00]:
You are a counselor?

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:33:01]:
I am a counselor, yeah. It’s ingrained in me, number one, but also helps me keep track.

Bill Senyard [00:33:06]:
It’s a beautiful thing, Liz. It’s a beautiful thing.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:33:08]:
Okay. So for people who do have a faith base, they can use that prayer. But the key aspect of that is that if I’m understanding, I guess, the theology of it is that the Holy Spirit should help me feel more securely attached to God, and I can ask God to help me feel that. And over time, that should develop from a spiritual.

Bill Senyard [00:33:34]:
Preach it, girl. Preach it, girl.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:33:36]:
Yeah. Thanks.

Bill Senyard [00:33:37]:
The passage for people who want to look for. It’s ephesians three, one of the letters in the New Testament. Ephesians three, verses 14 to 21.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:33:46]:
Okay, great. Any other tips you have or any tips you might have for anybody who’s not faith based?

Bill Senyard [00:33:54]:
Yeah, I think the idea is to find a counselor or communicate to your spouse that you need that kind of affirmation on a regular basis. So the way I actually tell parents now, and this might be suitable for, and I do want to talk about the online good enough parents.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:34:16]:
Yes.

Bill Senyard [00:34:17]:
But the idea is you can blow up. We do. We will trigger, it has to do with our amygdala and the fear cycle, and we will go into fight, flight, or freeze. We just will. We can’t stop it. If you can stop it, something’s wrong. But the idea is when you come back, you can sit down after cortisol is worn off, which takes three to 5 hours, and say what you said, what you did hurt me. But I still love you. I’m not going anywhere. I am your husband, wife. I’m your friend, I’m your father, son, whatever it might be, I am still here. We are going to work this through. Because I am your biggest fan. I support you. I would buy stock in. You can hear the language, right? Yeah, but I’m not saying what you said didn’t hurt me. It did hurt me, and it made me feel this way. But we’re going to work through this. And after the cortisol, forget counting to ten. The cortisol takes three to 5 hours but if we can develop those skills, we do better.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:35:18]:
Yeah. Great. So I like these tips. You mentioned the thing that you have for teens, because obviously, parenting is one of the top conflicts that couples come in to marriage counseling for, and it’s one of the top challenges that face couples. So talk a little bit about your program and how you help parents with attachment with their teens.

Bill Senyard [00:35:46]:
Yeah. It’s called good enough parent online. Good enough parent. Just one word. Good enough parent. And the good enough remember is three out of ten interactions need to be this attunement. Adolescent attunement, I call it. So, good enough parent online. It’s free. It’s been fully funded by gracious people, and they just want to get it out there. So anybody can go to good enoughparent online and sign up, and you get 15 tips short, ten minute tips, faith based, and you get one a day for 15 days. And we do scientific before and after surveys, so we can show you pretty quickly where there has been movement. So, so far, the averages as a result of the 15 tips, am I a good enough parent? Goes up 21%. That’s a win. Do I understand what’s going on in my child’s brain? Goes up 46%. How do I feel about my child’s spiritual formation using some of these tips? Goes up about 18%. So we’re seeing positive movement from frustrated and weary parents. We really build on the latest neuroscience where, I mean, you know, this, being a counselor, teens prefrontal cortex, where they have long term restrictions, where they ask the question, is this a good idea? Where they worry about strategy, where they say, no, it’s not. Probably not a good idea to smoke that. That’s not developed until they’re 20 for a girl or 25 for a boy. And so one of the biggest mistakes that parents make is they try to be reasonable with their children, with their teenagers. And the teenagers can’t be reasonable. They think they are, but they’re not. So, again, back to this. Every child needs an adult who is irrationally crazy, is. Through these 15 tips, we try to give parents some ideas. How they can, in between the explosions, how they can begin to change the pattern that they speak to their children with. Like I said earlier, I’m your biggest fan. I’d buy stock in you. I think you can change the world. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not leaving. I’ll always be your mother, your father. That will never change. But by the way, what you said hurt me. And, no, you can’t go over to Johnny’s with no parents. All of that’s true. And the idea is through this, developing this pattern of, I’m your biggest fan. I love you. I love you as you are. You are good enough for me. I am here always. We want to get the explosions from here to here. It’s not down to zero. So at the beginning, we basically say our ultimate goal is so that your teenager will become your best friend by the time they’re 30.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:38:33]:
Yeah, I like that. When I think about military families, I feel like this would be really relevant because sort of like going back to the attachment theory as a parent, when my kid’s brain is not fully developed yet, I am how they emotionally regulate my ability to make sense of what’s going on to be. What did you call it? Irrationally.

Bill Senyard [00:39:03]:
Yeah, irrationally. Crazy about them.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:39:05]:
Crazy about them. That helps them learn how to regulate their emotions.

Bill Senyard [00:39:11]:
That’s exactly right.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:39:13]:
And military kids, or kids of military service members, they have so many more up and down emotional things going on. Of course, they have the regular teen crazy hormone stuff and the brain development. But parents going to deployment and coming back got to be hard moves.

Bill Senyard [00:39:38]:
Changing schools, losing friends, abandonment issues, daddy issues, mommy issues. It’s got to be off the charts.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:39:45]:
Yeah. And so thinking about using attachment and your program covers, like attachment and how to use that with your kids as a way to help them navigate those changes, I think it’s going to be really helpful.

Bill Senyard [00:39:59]:
Yeah. We give parents tools to identify their own attachment quadrant and their teens attachment quadrant and then what to do with it. But I think the best part is the tips we give on how they can, in their context, whatever their context is, change the way they’re. So let me see, teens right now. You mentioned right now teens. Well, it’s not just now, but particularly now with social media, with other influences, parents are less and less the source of that trusted adult who’s irrationally crazy. It’s a dopamine thing, right? So it used to be if you’re on a farm and you’re the only person for miles, you get your dopamine hits where you can get them, and it’s probably your parents. But now social media is just designed to give, particularly teenagers and tweens, dopamine hits, and parents are falling way behind. So that drip, drip, drip is there and it’s ethically barren. It doesn’t necessarily have the best interest of your child. It appears to be irrationally crazy about your child, at least until it’s not. So, parents, it’s almost like we have to go into high gear to once again become that source of dopamine hits for our teens.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:41:20]:
Yeah, this opens up so many thoughts for me, and I haven’t done, like, a parenting specific series, but I’ve been playing around with the idea of doing one in the future, so I might have you back on down the road if you’re interested.

Bill Senyard [00:41:35]:
I’d be honored. I’d be honored.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:41:36]:
Yeah, we’ll see. I’m playing around with the idea right now. I’m focused on couples. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Do you have any last, final words for the audience or how people could find you if they wanted to?

Bill Senyard [00:41:51]:
Yeah, that’s a good point. People can contact me. I’m very available. Bill@gospelapp.com They can contact me if they have questions, particularly faith related, but not necessarily faith related, as I said. Oh, I think I told you in the pre interview, we are creating a good enough parent that’s scrubbed of faith. It’s secular. It’s agnostic. We hope to have that out.

Bill Senyard [00:42:17]:
For local school districts, particularly here in Colorado, suicide ideation is. Between 2010 and 2020, suicide ideation went up 62% here. It’s just brutal. So the school districts are just screaming they can’t get enough counselors, and so having something that they can send home to the parents might be feasible. So we’re trying to scrub it. It’ll probably be ten tips instead of 15.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:42:48]:
Yeah. Well, I love that you are making that for them. I will include links in the show notes with how people can contact you and the link to the good enough parent program. And whenever you have the secular one, you can send that to me, too, and I’ll add it to the show notes even.

Bill Senyard [00:43:06]:
Okay, thank you. Early next year.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:43:09]:
Yeah, great. All right, great. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast. It was lovely having you.

Bill Senyard [00:43:15]:
It was fun. Thank you so much.

Elizabeth Polinsky [00:43:25]:
As part of this special series on attachment in relationships, I created the ARE quiz. This quiz uses the brief accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement scale, which I used in my own dissertation research and I use with each couple when I start working with them in couples counseling. This quiz helps you and your partner know how secure your relationship is, the level of distress you’re in, when you should be considering marriage counseling, and what sort of behaviors you both can work on to help promote the security of your attachment bond. Make sure to check out the show notes to download a copy of the quiz. While I am a therapist, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not considered therapy, and it should also not be a replacement for therapy. If you think you need a professional of any kind, you should definitely go find one. Until next time.

     

Join the Communicate & Connect Newsletter

Join our bi-monthly newsletter with tips for improving your relationship. The newsletter is part of The Communicate & Connect Podcast which focuses on military and veteran couples; however, much of the information is applicable to civilian couples as well.  

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Favicon-liz-polinsky.webp

    About Author

    Elizabeth Polinsky is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist (EFT) providing EFT marriage counseling in the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. She also provides EFT training and supervision to therapists looking to become certified in EFT Couple Therapy. As a military spouse, she has a special passion for working with military and veteran couples, and is also the host of The Communicate & Connect Podcast for Military Relationships.

    DISCLAIMER:

    My podcast, blogs, videos, newsletters, and products are general information for educational purposes only; they are not psychotherapy and not a replacement for therapy. The information provided is not intended to be therapy or psychological advice; and nothing I post should be considered professional advice. The information provided does not constitute the formation of a therapist-patient relationship.

    I cannot answer questions regarding your specific situation; you should consult your doctor or mental health provider regarding advice and support for your health and well being. If you are experiencing a medical or mental health emergency, you should call 911, report to your local ER, or call the National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

    The podcast, blogs, videos, newsletters, and products are not a request for a testimonial, rating, or endorsement from clients regarding counseling. If you are a current or former client/ patient, please remember that your comments may jeopardize your confidentiality. I will not “friend” or “follow” current or past clients to honor ethical boundaries and privacy; nor will I respond to comments or messages through social media or other platforms from current or past clients. Current and past client’s should only contact me through the professional contact information provided on the website.

    ​Lastly, accounts may be managed by multiple people. Therefore, comments and messages are monitored by staff and are not confidential.