Our first attachment is consciousness to life:
Three questions that determine if you are securely attached
Attachment theory was first postulated by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth in the early sixties. (Bowlby, 1969; Bowlby, 1988; Krumwiede, 2001).
Their model developed from observations of how the infants reacted when their primary care giver exited from the clinical room. The infants they defined as securely attached cried for a moment when their mothers left the room, but then quickly adjusted and often were able to be comforted by a stranger. The securely attached babes were able to trust that their mothers would soon return, and they were quickly comforted when the mother returned. The infants they defined as insecurely attached cried for longer periods, sometimes hysterically when their mothers left the room. They took a longer time to calm down after their mothers returned. Also most interesting, the insecurely attached babes would often punish the mother when she returned by crying, turning away and resisting the hugs that their mothers tried to give them. They appeared to be angry that their mothers had returned although moments before, they were deeply distressed when she was gone.
Attachment theory states that a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical to personal development. This theory postulates that our first attachment as new born babes is to our birth mothers, and later to our fathers or other primary care givers. This attachment is the most critical relationship of our lives, and underpins of all our future relationships (Tatin, 2011). The nature of this first attachment influences such factors as our ability to trust, form healthy relationships to others, take the perspective of others, and forms the basis in our adult lives of morality, efficacy and forming healthy boundaries.
Much is laid at the feet of the birth mother, so much that many individuals in counselling or after reading one of a myriad of self-help books that ascribe to this model, develop contempt and anger for their mothers, and all care givers in their early years. They blame their suffering upon their mothers and other caring adults in their infanthood for their inability to care for them with faultless presence, affection and responsiveness. But in fact, no mother or care giver can be perfect; can always be attendant of their children with selfless devotion.
The proponents of attachment theory therefore put another crown of thorns on the heads of women and child caretakers, along with all the other beatings at the hands of Caesars who demand submission of care givers to uphold the capitalistic market system. The dominate culture proposes that if you are unhappy (depressed, anxious, unable to maintain long term relationships, joyless) it is because your mother (Primary care giver) wasn’t attentive enough. This lets the global human community off the hook for environmental and sociopolitical factors which are equally or more relevant.
There are many individuals who defy this model of development. For example, people who had almost nonexistence attachments to mother, or whose care givers were burdened with addictions, ancestral trauma and other mental health issues. But somehow these individuals mature into secure, compassionate people. Conversely, there are people who have had wonderfully secure attachments to care givers and who never the less develop severe mental health concerns, especially in recent times, who suffer from intense anxiety and depression.
Often in my private practice, clients return to memories of infanthood in states of regression. They will ask me to hold them like a baby or infant to help them to re attach more securely to their inner Mother. Once the biographical attachments are repaired, a deeper and more essential attachment yearning arises. Over time, I’ve noticed that this yearning is to re attach in deeper and more spiritual ways. This yearning is a transpersonal attachment to the meaning and significance of their own individual lives.
We yearn to re attach to the original soul purpose of why our consciousness attached into this life. We yearn to fulfill the purpose of why our consciousness attached into matter which we call ourselves and our bodies. Matter derives from the Latin for mother-mater. So when consciousness first enters the cells of the newly formed fetus or babe, this is the moment of first attachment. We yearn, not only for the comfort that a mother or primary care giver can give us, but more deeply and more significantly, we year to re attach to the original purpose of why our consciousness attached into this life in its first nexus.
If there is not a transpersonal container which can hold this sense of soul purpose, then the first most essential disruption develops. This disruption is not fetus or babe to mother, but consciousness to life, which is the entering of individual consciousness into the body, into human flesh and mater. Later, when the baby is born, with its attendant need for food, comfort and protection, inter personal attachments develop. But those needs are secondary to the first needs of consciousness into matter, the need for us to fully attach to our original soul purpose of this life.
The quality of this first attachment is also in a wider sense, attachment to Gaia, who is our fundamental mother, environment, and the living systems that Gaia provides for us-breath, body, bone, flesh, blood. It is also attachment to the wider spheres which we live in of human social environments-political, community and global safety, justice and well-being. If these environmental influences, including the more-than-human environments of air, water, earth, other life forms of the plant and animal worlds, are not secure, then we naturally develop an attachment disorder. The babe senses at a deep level that she is not securely living in a system that is safe and nurturing. . If this first attachment is secure, then, as we mature into adults with adult responsible, we can be a steward of the world, of Gaia and of others, including the more than human worlds.
This is why currently we are seeing so much anxiety and depression. Our first attachment to mater is disrupted. As a counsellor, I am meeting an increasing number of young people and children who are securely attached to their primary care givers, but still sense a deep unease about their lives. This is because; their attachment disorder is much deeper and nascent than the inter-personal attachment to mother, father and /or other care givers. It is an unease, dis-ease of sensing dis-attachment of consciousness to life. This is where we need to focus our attention when we are trying to heal ourselves, our clients and loved ones.
The goal of effective psychotherapy therefore, is fundamentally the healing of our first attachment of consciousness into life. Our path towards this first and embryonic attachment ought to be towards discovering and supporting a sense of soul purpose, rather than diverting our attention with whether our primary care givers were loving and preternaturally present for all our needs. Then we can form more fully secure, joyful attachments to the interconnectiveness of life.
Three questions to ask yourself to determine if you are securely attached
· Can you take purposeful, meaningful action in your life?
· Do you have compassion towards others, including the more than human world?
· Can you live with a big picture, spiritual, or transpersonal perspective?
Attachment Theory ( 2018) Downloaded from https://www.psychologistworld.com/developmental/attachment-theory#references
Bowlby, John. 1969. Attachment and Loss. Pimlico;London, UK.
Bowley, John (1988) A secure base: Clinical applications of attachment theory. Routledge, New York, NY.
Hazan, C. & Shaver, P. (1994) Attachment as an organizational framework for research on close relationship. Psychological Inquiry. 5 1-22.
Krumwiede, Andreas. (2001) Attachment Theory According to John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. German National Library.Takin, Stan (2011) Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a secure relationship. New Harbinger Publisher; Oakland CA.