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ATTACHMENT THEORY

Most people think of fear as a running away from something, but there is another side to it. We run TO something, usually a person... It is screamingly obvious, but I believe it to be a new idea.

- John Bowlby

JOHN BOWLBY (1907 — 1990): Founder of Attachment Theory
MARY AINSWORTH (1913 — 1999): Designer of Strange Situation Protocol
MARY MAIN (1943 — 2024): Designer, with collaborators, of Adult Attachment Interview

Attachment is the neurobiological evolutionary behavior strategy employed by the human infant in service of survival during the first years of life and becomes, through implicit memory, the template for all other learning and metaphoric expression. The caregiver's (parent or daycare person) interactions with the infant, either sensitive or insensitive, attuned or unattuned, regulate the infant's homeostatic and affective states - and become the embodied mind of the child. These patterns last a lifetime.

 

If the caregiver is successful, the infant will reach her fullest birthright and potential: the ability to relate, connect, feel sympathy, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and love for another living creature, plus the ability to experience herself as an initiating agent in the world, with competence, integrity, freshness of insight, awareness and joy of curiosity, and the discovery of Self and the Other. The individual will be able to know intuitively and think relationally, being flexible and balanced in life.

 

If caregiving is unsuccessful, the True Self is conflicted between the inherent desire to trust and relate to an other, and the learned strategy of avoiding trust, faith, or belief in an other. The individual will experience unregulated anger or numbness and conflict with Self. In unconscious protection by the False Self and the terror that initiation of action will destroy herself - or others - the person becomes either passive or reactive in the world.

We are here concerned with nothing less than the nature of love and its origins in the attachment of a baby to his mother…acquired in the course of interaction…and the feedback he experiences as a consequence of his actions.

 Mary Ainsworth

It is not the content, but how the person constructs their answers that allows the Adult Attachment Interview to surprise the unconscious.

 Mary Main

[Developmental trauma is the result of parents who are] frightened, frightening or dissociated.

— Eric Hesse

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