Have you ever wondered why sometimes we lean into relationships and sometimes away? The way we attach to others, animals and even material objects can be traced back to how our main care givers attended to us when we were mere babies. As a baby we needed to depend on the big people around us to survive, indeed we literally searched for them to ensure that they were available to us when we needed them.
When a parent or care giver is attuned well to the needs of their baby, the child learns that adults are dependable and grow up with a sense of security in the world. On the flip side if the child's parents or primary caregivers did not respond to the child's needs adequately, the secure base is shaky and can lead to the child growing up with a less than secure sense of the world. Please keep in mind that babies don't need perfect parents but good enough ones who respond with love to their child.
Attachment theory was developed by British psychologist John Bowlby who wanted to learn more about how babies respond to separation and the apparent distress from their parents or primary caregivers. To add to this research Mary Ainsworth developed three main categories describing a baby's sense of attachment including secure, anxious avoidant and anxious ambivalent.
For the children who were upset when their parents left but connected easily when their parents returned, these children were categorized as secure. Some children from the experiment didn't seem to care about being separated or being reunited with their primary caregivers (later research determined that these children were able to mask their distress), they were categorised as anxious avoidant. And the last set of children who were classified as anxious ambivalent, clung to their parents and displayed extreme distress when they were separated from their parents and even when their parents returned, they were difficult to calm and even displayed anger towards their caregivers. Where do you fit? As we grow up our inner child remains with us and continues to reach out when there is a fear of separation from loved ones or some type of distress. What do you notice about yourself in these moments?
The good news is, that our attachment styles are not fixed, we can develop a more secure attachment style through developing relationships with those who are more secure. Furthermore, as Christians we can grow more secure as we trust in Christ for a firm foundation rather than the things of this world. We can also work with a counsellor in learning how to form a more secure relationship with ourselves through remaining connected rather than disconnected.
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