Friday, April 8, 2011

Attachment is Cozy

I think most would assume the point of a blog is to create a space for real feelings, raw thoughts and crazy encounters in life, not writing about what one is studying. Then again I think about what I am studying ALL the time. What I am studying (marriage, family, child therapy) is part of my real feelings, my raw thought life and my wild and crazy life experience. While I should pull myself away from my lengthy textbooks I can't seem to because my textbooks show up in real life. Imagine that! Today I talked to a woman at the park about her career in pharmacy. She laughed when I said, "passion". "Passionate? Riiighhht..." But I actually AM passionate about what I study. It's a good thing too because I'll have my student loans to remind me every day when I graduate! Cheers.

Most recently I have been pondering ATTACHMENT. My roommate and I discuss attachment at great lengths to each other all the time. The idea of healthy loyalty. It's the hug that keeps on hugging. The smile that keeps on grinning. The honesty that breaks the ice. The confidence that empowers one to reach for your hand. This concept first came from a man named John Bowlby who was influenced by psychoanalytic theory and ethology. Attachment is basically an affectional tie from one person to another. It is a lasting emotional bond that one person has with another. According to attachment theory, any new close relationships that form later in life (after infancy) are influenced by those first initial attachments whether that be mom, dad, grandma, a nanny or whoever was your primary care giver.

The crazy thing is that everyone has ATTACHMENT. While some will deny the power of it they do have it. It is more a matter of whether or not you have a secure or insecure attachment that really influences your life and your relationships. Since I "sit around" and nanny all day I observe Owen's development, not only cognitive, but emotional, social and psychological. Owen has a secure attachment to his mom. And over the weeks and months I have come to see Owen develop a secure attachment to me. It is so exciting!

The secure attachment Owen has with me means that he obtains both comfort and confidence from my presence. He feels free to explore the park if I am there. Slide. Bridge. Sand Box. Stairs. But if I wonder off around the corner of a bush to a drinking fountain he notices. He is not entirely distressed. But he notices and he follows me there, like he did today at the park. Someone with an insecure attachment either avoids connection altogether or has extreme anxiety at separation. One extreme or the other. Overly clingy or overly indifferent and avoid ant. 

Today Owen ran in front of me like a goon, down a hilly sidewalk, racing to the playground. He naturally slipped and fell flat on his face. Moms and other kids saw the trauma and looked up. Owen pulled himself up off the ground and immediately began balling his eyes out, tears freely streaming down his face, and started running to me. I crouched down next to him and held him and empathized with his pain. Almost immediately his countenance changed, he relaxed in my arms and became calm and within seconds was escaping my arms, leaping off to the playground yelling, "bye bye boo-boo!"

That is the stellar thing about secure attachment. It appears to empower people to leap off the ground and yell "bye bye boo boo!" to relational wounds experienced that were in fact from insecure attachments. While the face plant on the cement sidewalk may take longer than a couple seconds to recover in real life, the truth is, people can recover.

Secure attachment brings about a confident individual. Confidence in the relationship. Trust in the person they are connected with. A certain level of predictability but also a certain level of exploration and discovery is present. I haven't entirely figured out my attachment style. I do know that it seems to be more natural for me with females over males and this could be due to growing up with sisters. My insecure attachments could be due to moving multiple times growing up and living in 5 different states. Perhaps I didn't feel enough "consistency" relationally even though I grew up in a great family. I know that a lot of my romantic relationships for whatever reason, were not secure attachments. My pendulum would swing from pursuer to distancer. One minute I would be clingy, the next I would be avoidant and dis-connected. I was afraid of losing them. The next minute I was convinced I would be relieved if I left the relationship. I know this makes me sound entirely bipolar but this is a very normal human thing. ME versus THEM. When in reality, healthy attachments are about two people being IN something together, not competing, but fighting for something together.

The most secure attachment I can literally form is with a hero named Jesus. (Trust me I did ponder how cliche this will sound and I decided it's true so I don't care!) Jesus is the one Person I can be guaranteed of NEVER leaving. He is always on my side. In Him I am both free and confident. Even when I lose sight of Him, He is watching me. Even when I distance and avoid Him, He still remains consistent. He is literally the gift that keeps on giving ! He doesn't run out. I am of all people high-maintenance and He has not given up on me yet! I don't have to "be" someone for Him to love me. He loves me fiercely simply because He can and does.

While sometimes I miss it, I see Jesus every day. He is in those around me forming those secure strong attachments. He is in the little hand of Owen that reaches out to hold my hand, so tightly. He is there as Owen mirrors my emotional state after a rough day because of a lame comment someone said to me. Owen says, "I sorry" ever so gently from his car seat in the back as I drive us home fighting my rage and my tears. Owen's eyes show me empathy. They show me a God who does care. I see Jesus in the eyes of someone new. A familiar presence yet still fighting my demons of doubt. I see Jesus in how he pursues me. Giving me more than I deserve but doing so because he simply wants to. His presence is so inviting I no longer will the desire to resist. I see God in my roommate who reminds me again and again that no matter what shocking or horrifying thing I tell her, she still accepts me and says, "I'm not going anywhere, but here."

Attachment. There you have it. A peek into my internal monologue while I watch Owen at the park as he attacks a small child with an over-bearing hug, that nearly knocks the child to the ground. Owen won't let go.

And maybe you shouldn't either.


  1. Heather, this is seriously awesome. Well-written, well-thought out and emotionally real. LOVE it. You almost made me cry and that's a good thing!

  2. I think it is funny that we give credit of "discovering" attachment to some random dude when it is so amazingly obvious. All you have to do is look around... haha. I am pretty attached to you chica (in a non-creepy best friend kind of way)!!!

  3. Hahaha. I know right!? Those theorists want credit. Maybe I will be famous eventually for a new theory on love:
    People want love. By Heather Sherwood. How profound. Hahahah

    I am attached to you too E-beth after what...15 years?!!!

  4. And thank you Carissa! Your emails and writings inspire me mucho! And you are the