Sieff, Daniela F.

Maternal ambivalence, early relational trauma and insecure attachment trajectories – insights from a modern evolutionary perspective DVD] Presented by Dr Katherine Holden - London, Tavistock Clinic, 2013 - 1 video disc (approx 80 min) - Scientific Meeting of the Tavistock Centre and Portman Clinic 11th March 2013 .

Copyright Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. Copying of this recording is striclty prohibited. Daniela Sieff has a D. Phil from Oxford University in Biological Anthropology. Her academic research, with the semi-nomadic cattle-herding Datoga of Tanzania, explored human behaviour through the lens of evolutionary anthropology, and has been published in peer reviewed journals. She has explored psychotherapy through many avenues. Her publications within the psychotherapeutic realm include interviews with Margaret Wilkinson, Donald Kalsched & Marion Woodman. She is currently working on a book of interviews that explores childhood emotional trauma & its healing from the perspectives of depth psychology, neurobiology & evolutionary anthropology.
For more detailed biography see:

It was whilst working in the Tavistock that John Bowlby realised that to understand attachment we need to understand the evolutionary forces that have shaped human bodies and minds. However, Bowlby formulated his paradigm-changing theory when evolutionary studies of behaviour were in their infancy, and so the empirical research and the theoretical ideas that he had to draw on were somewhat limited. During the last half century evolutionary understanding has advanced considerably. It can now contribute important new insights to clinicians who work with (1) mothers who are struggling emotionally, (2) patients who are wounded as a consequence of early relational trauma and (3) people who suffer from having followed insecure attachment trajectories.

This presentation will draw on recent research in evolutionary anthropology to address questions such as: is unconditional maternal love written into our bodies and minds, or has it evolved to take account of a mother’s physical and social environment? Why have human infants evolved to be so exquisitely tuned-in to the emotional world of others and so sensitive to hints of abandonment? What does this mean for our understanding of early relational trauma? Can our evolutionary heritage help to explain why the quality of a mother’s commitment has such a central effect on how an infant come to see the world and the pathway that they then follow throughout their life? Are patterns of insecure attachment—and the way that they can define an entire life-time—a by-product of how human brains are wired up when we are young, or is there some other reason why the effects are so long-lasting?

One theme running through this presentation is that psychotherapeutic work can be enriched by an awareness of what humans have inherited from the deep history of our species’ evolutionary trajectory.

Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust Library, 120 Belsize Lane, London NW3 5BA.

020 8938 2520