Loyalty is an experience you have with other people. It is more than an idea. It is a common human virtue you value in the home, at work, and in community organizations. It is something that most people hold dear to their hearts, and completely understand when it is absent. From a clinical perspective, people will often express many symptoms of emotional pain associated with experiences of betrayal with friends, professional colleagues, romantic partners, spouses, and business partners. It is not easy for people to articulate these feelings at first. It takes time for people to identify abandonment, rejection, and loss. Of course, the most profound and long-lasting effects of abandonment & rejection occurs in people whose primary attachment was insecure.
Attachment theory has been researched for years. It underpins most interventions that work to repair deep-seated experiences of fear and anxiety created by inconsistent responses used to nurture the baby in order to reduce distress. There are several studies that demonstrate the importance of your parent-child attachment in the first two years of life. Insecure attachments have been correlated with poor outcomes, even more so than angry attachments. Attachment has more to do with the quality of emotional connection you establish with your baby, than the number of hours you spend with your children.
There are some fundamental assumptions that underlie attachment theory that are contestable in some circles. It places responsibility on the parent, usually a mother for setting a responsive nurturing pattern with a baby. How a parent responds to a crying infant is one of the key indicators of attachment. Of course, early days caring for an infant creates emotionally and physically exhausted parents. Having two mutually supportive parents during this early stage is associated with better outcomes, especially where the primary parental connection is loving, strong, and respectful. Single parents are certainly working harder than two-parent households. It is during these early days that a baby learns whether the world is a safe and nurturing place, or not.
An angry attachment happens whenever a baby cries for help, and the parent responds with frustration, tension and anger. The baby’s temperament shapes this primary relationship as well. Some babies are truly fussier than others. The infant whose parent responds with an angry style learns to self-soothe and usually falls asleep. Insecure attachments occur when an infant is unable to predict the primary parents’ response, which may include both nurturing and rejecting styles. It is this unexpected response style that creates anxiety. A nurturing parent consistently responds to the child’s needs first; assessing what or when to intervene, reading the child’s emotional cues for pain correctly, and working to protect and care for the baby.
This secure attachment style has the best long-term outcomes and often leads to emotionally resilient adults who demonstrate stick-with-it-ness with loved ones when trouble happens. They grow with the people closest to them. They create a loving and mutually nurturing style of negotiation on big decisions in life like exclusive coupling, moving in together, getting married, going back to school, changing professions, investing in a home or the market, having a child together, and more. People with secure attachment styles are emotionally present for one another through serious acute and chronic illnesses such as cancer or depression, job loss, grief, and even deceit including extra-martial sexual affairs.
Adults with secure attachments seek emotional support from close friends and partners. They turn to one another, not on, or at each other. They lean on one another and decide next steps together. Of course, people with secure attachments decide to end marriages or to uncouple. However, this decision is usually addressed openly and honestly. It may include a mature conversation where one partner expresses the need to move on, feeling unhappy, emotionally or sexually unfulfilled. This decision to separate is painful, but true friends want people they love or loved in the past to be happy, even if that means moving on without them.
Loyal friends and couples are generally happy people whose love and respect for one another grows over a lifetime together. They are not threatened by their partner’s need to grow and are open to enjoy the journey together. They problem solve together. What have your reflections about your primary attachment with your parents revealed for you? How do you actively work to address or repair your own need for experiences of secure emotional attachments with people? Do you feel confident about co-regulating your clients’ anxieties around the reasons they are seeking therapy from you?
#wellness #healthy #secureattachments #bestoutcomes #resilient