Attachment Part II

1. What matters most (in terms of attachment) to a young child is the perceived ability of his or her caregiver to be a source of safety. A child needs to know that his or her parent(s) is available and able to – in a good-enough manner – meet and soothe both his or her physical and emotional needs.

2. If on the whole the child’s needs are met in a calming, safe, soothing and attuned manner then the child develops what is called a, “secure attachment”. The child learns that he or she can and will be safe in the world, that he or she can explore, can interact with the world and tolerate the experiences he or she will have. This deep sense of safety and security is much more of a gut sense, a, “felt security” than it is a logical or verbal understanding or belief. In other words this is something that arises out of experience not out of logical thought or rationalizations.

3. A parent provides his/her child with a safe and secure attachment when the parent focuses fully and completely upon the child, as if the parent is a mirror to the little one’s internal world. The central message communicated by fully attuned parents (communicated both in verbal and non-verbal ways) radiates with unwavering love and expresses belief in the child’s unconditional worth; there is an implicit understanding that the child is a distinct and separate being whose emotions & thoughts are valid, matter and can be in direct opposition to the parent’s. Such attachment allows the child to learn that he or she can be tolerated as he or she is and that even when in trouble, when being disciplined, receiving consequences, etc… his or her internal worth and autonomy are not in question or diminished.

4. A poetic way of understanding attachment is to think of the by-gone maritime days when wooden ships sailed the open sea. When these ships were close to land and a storm arose, the ships were often in danger of being dashed against the shore – and if it was a craggy shoreline, the ship, cargo and sailors were in danger of being obliterated. In these situations, ships would look for safe harbors: bays that would allow the ship easy entrance and provide protection from the dangers of the storm. Lighthouses also functioned in such a protective fashion, sending out beacons of light to either warn the ships of the coastline or guide the ships into harbor.

5. Every child needs an adult to be such a safe haven, such a beacon of guidance and light. When the child receives a, “good enough” amount of attunement as well as repair (every relationship – including a parent, child relationship – has moments where the bond is ruptured; this is a normal part of relationships and matters less than how the rupture is repaired and healed), then the child will be able to enter the world with the ability to have a healthy relationship with him or herself and a healthy relationship with others.

 

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