Attachment: What it is & isn’t

The word “attachment” comes with many connotations. In my opinion, at times it has been misused in the literature and in social media. This is how it is often portrayed: Over-protective mothers who breast-feed until their children are 10 and co-sleep forever because we are taught that loving your kids will be enough. Now – there’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding (I did it) or co-sleeping. There is so much more, however, than just the “baby bonding” stuff when we want to truly understand the power of attachment. Some of the important people who understand the power of the relationship beyond simply “loving your child” and who have influenced me are theories like the Circle of Security (Cooper, Marvin, Hoffman, and Powell), Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s theories surrounding the importance of assisting children to “mature” in the face of adversity, and Dr. Brene Brown’s concept of vulnerability. All wise contributors to the modern-day understanding of attachment. Most influential in the work I have done with school-aged children and their caregivers is the perspective that Dr. Marlene Moretti has developed in her Connect program (click here for more details).

Although “baby bonding” is very important, the concept of relationships and “attachment” is far more reaching and diverse. Although there are many definitions of attachment, John Bowlby outlined the importance of both a “safe haven” and a “secure base” that serve as the essential “roots” to healthy relationships. In fact, it is relationships alone that are even more necessary for survival than food or water. Relationships remain critical throughout our life and even after death. When we don’t have individuals who can provide a “safe haven” that allow us to explore or feel supported or believed-in, and a “secure base” to land safely into during times of distress, our ability to regulate emotion suffers. Further, if we are presented with situations of abandonment, neglect, abuse, or any other fearful situation, our ability to handle emotional situations successfully becomes even more compromised.

Human connections shape neural connections. Through the relationships that young children have with their caregivers, they begin to develop the “story” of themselves and others around them, and they decide two things: whether they are worthy of love and support and whether they are capable and competent beings.   Children are in constant search of the “bigger, stronger, kinder, wise”; therefore,  they need an anchor. When they have these things in place, they have a much greater chance of developing into strong, healthy, and competent adults.

The good news – and why I do what I do – is that I believe it is never too late to develop these skills. To repair relationships. To regain influence. To develop (or redevelop) strong and meaningful relationships that will influence others to have strong and meaningful relationships.

I’ve got lots to say about relationships and their power. I love to talk about this stuff. If you’re interested in chatting further for a consultation around how I might be helpful to you, your family, or your organization in or around the Olds, Red Deer, or the Calgary, Alberta area, please connect with me.