We are born into this world dependent upon our care givers for our very survival. There is an intimate connection between the baby and its primary care giver that gives the infant a sense of security. According to John Bowlby, the sense of well-being that emerges from predictable and repeated experiences of care creates a “secure base” for the baby. These children form secure attachment with their care givers and develop well in social, emotional and cognitive domains. They have a sense of security about exploring the world, are resilient to stress, able to balance their emotions, create meaningful interpersonal relationships in the future and have the capacity to have a coherent story that makes sense of their lives.
Insecure attachment develops when the primary care givers aren’t able to give the child experiences of connection and security with enough regularity. This is carried forward as internal process in the child that directly influence how the child interacts with others in the future. When the primary care givers are repeatedly unavailable and rejecting of the child, an avoidant attachment may form where the child avoids closeness and emotional connection. When the primary care givers are inconsistent and at times intrusive, an ambivalent attachment may form where the child can’t depend upon the care givers for attunement and connection. This may lead to developing a sense of anxiety and insecurity in the child. A disorganised attachment may form when the child’s attachment needs aren’t met and their primary care giver’s behaviour is a source of disorientation or terror. Repeated experiences of overwhelming, frightening and chaotic behaviours by the primary care givers leave the child in a “stuck” state because there is an urge to turn toward the very source of the terror from which he or she is attempting to escape. High rates of disorganised attachment are seen in children who are abused by their primary care givers1.
Attachment issues can cause problems into adulthood. It’s never too late to create positive change in your life. It’s never too late to move toward making sense of your experiences and healing your past.
Counselling and psychotherapy can help!
1: Siegel, D.J. & Hartzell, M. (2013). Parenting from the Inside Out, New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.