The theme of attachment is inseparable from both psychological theory and practice and throughout my years of experience in the field of psychology, attachment and the array of emotions or processes that comes along with it has been intertwined with my work.
The word attachment itself can be looked at as a connection or a bond between two or more people who each contribute to the relationship and the strength of the attachment is dependent on the level of contribution. Without attachment, the meaning of such intense human experiences such as love, friendship, hate, grief, loss would all be lost. What physiological or neurological procedure takes place within an individual that compels him/her towards attachment to someone is still vague to us but what is clear is that even in the clinical field, pathology is at times the direct result of false or unhealthy attachments or even lack there of disorders such as ADHD, Autism, Eating Disorders, Addiction, sexual disorders and emotional irregularity, inability to cope with anger or hostility all seem to be somehow related to attachment to someone or something at a very sensitive developmental phase in our lives.
In Focus Family Therapy, which I am using as a tool to work with my client, the theory is focused on relationships within a family, which again would be meaningless without attachment. Attachment Narrative theory, as the name suggests, is predominantly focused on the role attachment plays within Marriage Family Therapy. The therapeutic relationship itself, the transference or counter transference between patient and therapist is again an agent of attachment. In most psychological theories within Marriage Family Therapy, an individual’s maturity level is often assessed based on how well he/she has been able to form a mutual bond with another person and respect reciprocity within a relationship.
The developmental phases in which early attachments with caregivers are formed, as well as the way those attachments are formed are often the framework for the mental health of an individual in adulthood. During those early infancy attachment leads the way for trust vs. mistrust, for the possibility of an adult who perceives the world as a place where needs are met and safety is ensured. The lack of adequate attachment on the other hand can be detrimental to the schema and cognition of an individual’s perceptions. The themes of abandonment, negligence, and a well-established self-esteem are all developed during those early years of attachment. John Bowlby was the pioneer of the attachment theory and began studying the role of attachment while working with animals, which led to the laboratory experiments by Mary Ainsworth to prove the theory through the Strange Situation scenario.
Mothers who have symptoms of Aspergers or either Autism, who themselves have attachment relevant issues, are also at risk of being unable to transfer an adequate sense of safety and security to infants and form clear attachments with them.
In my practice, working with couples or families, I have often seen that when a couple’s sense of attachment/bond is lost they often regress to childhood behaviors of tantrums or cries, in forms of becoming aggressive or demanding. How this regression is understood is that an adult that feels loss of love from a partner, or betrayal or loneliness, when an adult feels that they have been abandoned or their emotional/physical needs are not met. If attachment in early childhood was not adequately developed, they will often regress to a place of hostility and aggression due to the emotional immaturity
Mothers, who suffer from depression after pregnancy, or have a child due to unplanned pregnancy, are culturally pressured to have sons rather than daughters, often suffer from an inability to transfer an adequate sense of attachment to their infants, which could result in emotional irregularity in the child in the future.