Attachment: A Bridge Just Far Enough

Attachment: A Bridge Just Far Enough

So here’s a story, and it’s a true one, the very best kind. It’s about monkeys, baby monkeys no less, adorable and playful…and very intelligent. This makes them a good study for human babies. In the fifties, a study was done using these monkeys. First, the scientists rigged a chicken-wire “mother” with feeding apparatus. The monkeys went wild! Fed to their hearts’ content. Then they removed her, and in her place, another “mother,” this time warm, fuzzy, making soothing noises and with many nooks and crannies to crawl up into and sleep. The babies loved her, too. Then they reintroduced the feeding “mother.” And sat back with their notepads and observed, begging the question, which would the baby monkeys prefer?


Time’s up. If you guessed the feeder mother….buzzzz. Wrong. Even when the monkeys lost weight through their preference, most chose the loving, comforting mother.  And while it’s not conclusive, it does point to attachment as essential, arguably more so than food.  Here’s a ten-point synopsis of attachment, used by Dr. Sue Johnson and others to explain succinctly this crucial element of life:  attach.php

More than holding, attachment in its healthiest form is expressed through what’s called “attunement.” Now for a trip back in time. When was the last time you felt truly seen, heard, and understood by the person sitting across from you? When was the first? Did you have a loving mother or father, or teacher or grandparent, who made room for you, noted your sadness, your anger, your joy, and reflected it back to you kindly and without judgment, then invited you to say more?

There is a kind of listening I call resonant, and it springs from the experience we have when we speak in an empty or near empty room. Our voices are louder, the tones rounder, unmuffled by debris. When we speak with a resonant listener, with someone pushing their inner debris aside to make room for what we say and show, we notice our own voices differently. More. It might frighten us. It might ease our throats as we find ourselves communicating more openly, vulnerably. And when we speak feelingly, not just about our emotions but through them, and receive a response that is both receptive and compassionate, those emotions are allowed movement, and if needed, release.

In a relationship of close friends, intimate partners, long cherished and cherishing family members, a bridge is formed. At one end, both your personal truth and your resonance and at the other, your beloveds. In between, not only a two-way exchange of energy but something more, a third vibrating entity that takes on a life of its own. Next time you sit across from someone you hold dear, check in with yourself. Are you aware of both your mind and the sensations in your body? At what point are you then also aware in your senses of what she or he is experiencing? And then, are you dimly aware of the energy between you? Is it warm and soft, bright and lively, dark and careful?

While attachment is not always pleasurable, it is always nurturing. When we practice this new way of communicating, it can feel at first like juggling four or five kitchen implements! And yet, from this bridge we create, in mutual attunement, come foundations for the new: ideas, relationships, ventures.

And I wish for you a veritable Venice of bridges, and a surfeit of love.

Next, the impact of trauma on attachment.

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