What Is Attachment?
Attachment is the term that has been coined to describe a deep emotional bond to another person. Our attachment experiences with our care giver/s in infancy create a blue print which is the building block for subsequent relationships throughout the life cycle.
Attachment speaks about the importance of human relationships. It emphasizes that we need each other to survive. When attachments go wrong in early childhood or in adult life our survival is threatened and we may find it hard to cope with our lives.
What Is The Evidence Base?
The roots of research on attachment began with Sigmund Freud’s theories about love. John Bowlby shared the psychoanalytic view that early experiences in childhood have an important influence on behavior later in life. He and other early pioneers, including Mary Ainsworth carried out extensive research demonstrating that our attachment styles are established in childhood.
Mary Ainsworth’s groundbreaking ‘Strange Situation’ study revealed the effects of attachment on behavior through observing the responses of infants when they were briefly left alone and then reunited with their mothers (Ainsworth, 1978). She identified three major styles of attachment: secure attachment, ambivalent attachment and avoidant attachment. All these attachment styles are adaptive ways the infant maintains proximity to the care giver. Later, researchers Mary Main and Judith Solomon (1986) added a fourth attachment style called disorganized attachment, which is thought to occur in situations of severe trauma.
These findings have been supported by subsequent outcomes of many other studies as attachment theory has gained momentum. It is now generally accepted that those who have been securely attached in childhood tend to have good self-esteem as well as increased opportunities to experience healthy, happy and lasting relationships.
What Are The Implications?
Fortunately, research indicates that our attachment styles are not fixed and even if it was not our childhood experience we can learn to have a secure sense of ourselves and others described as ‘earned secure attachment.’ Evidently this can only be realised through a secure relationship with another person. However, this may present something of a challenge if we have learned coping mechanisms designed to protect us from past harms by keeping people away.
How Can The Attachment Consultancy Help?
The Attachment Consultancy provides a range of services offering relational and attachment-based approaches to working with people. Whether through counselling, psychotherapy or group work the goal is to provide opportunities to mourn past losses, gain more understanding and control over repetitive, destructive behavior patterns and integrate new ways of being and relating.
All our support services incorporate an understanding of the ways that trauma, abuse, dissociation and loss can disrupt attachments. Attention is also given to the impact of power differences, exclusion and how the experience of attachment interacts with aspects of identity including race, culture, gender, sexuality, class, age and disability. In our work with professionals we are also concerned to address the impact of secondary trauma to safeguard both workers and clients.
To contact Christine Blake to discuss any of our professional services please call 020 8670 4085. Or click here to make contact by email.