Attachment TheoryUnderstanding how childhood woundings are caused, and what good parenting is.
Attachment Theory is a fundamental explanation of the emotional needs of small children and babies. Above all else, they need security and safety. If these are not available, deep emotional wounds can be caused which manifest in later life in many ways. Attachment Theory is not a therapeutic approach in its own right, but provides a framework for theory, research and clinical practice to meet.
Annie finds herself explaining Attachment Theory to many clients with low self-esteem, addiction issues, or deep-seated feelings of anxiety or depression. It’s also important for helping couples to understand the childhood woundings that attracted them to each other. Together, using the principles of Attachment Theory, she works with clients to help them understand themselves, and to repair and heal.
Attachment theory is focused on the relationships and bonds between people, particularly long-term relationships including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners. At its core is the theory that our earliest relationships affect all later relationships, and our mental health as adolescents and adults.
What is Attachment?
Attachment is an emotional bond to another person. Psychologist John Bowlby was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.”
Bowlby believed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. He suggested attachment also serves to keep the infant close to the mother, thus improving the child’s chances of survival.
The central theme of attachment theory is that primary caregivers who are available and responsive to an infant’s needs allow the child to develop a sense of security. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world.
Why Attachment Matters
Researchers have found that attachment patterns established early in life can lead to a number of outcomes. For example, children who are securely attached as infants tend to develop stronger self-esteem and better self-reliance as they grow older. These children also tend to be more independent, perform better in school, have successful social relationships, and experience less depression and anxiety.
People who were securely attached to their primary caregiver(s) as babies and small children feel able to depend on others and have a good sense of self-worth. They grow into adults who are confident, resilient and be independent and successful. They have happy, healthy relationships. Children that do not have a primary care figure, such as those raised in orphanages, may fail to develop the sense of trust needed to form an attachment. Second, the quality of care-giving is a vital factor. When caregivers respond quickly and consistently, children learn that they can depend on the people who are responsible for their care, which is the essential foundation for attachment.
Problems with Attachment
What happens to children who do not form secure attachments? Research suggests that failure to form secure attachments early in life can have a negative impact on behavior in later childhood and throughout the life. This can manifest in many ways, from addiction issues, inappropriate relationships, and lack of resilience.
However the problems of poor childhood attachment can be rectified in the therapy room, although it usually takes time. Intermittent therapy is often best for attachment issues: that is, coming to see Annie for an initial 6 to 10 sessions, and then intermittently as required over months ahead. The work in the therapy room is processed by the unconscious, which can happen in a flash or slowly. Everyone is different.
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