Over the last thirty years Attachment Theory has slowly but surely come to dominate how we understand an individual’s relationship to others and to the world at large. It also helps us describe the internal mental world of the individual. Attachment ideas have transformed models of therapy and the way clinicians view mental health issues.
In a Nutshell
Attachment theory and research tells us that a human being’s primary drive is to regulate one’s proximity to an attachment figure. Attachment figures provide two vital functions for human beings:
they provide a safe haven during periods of upset and distress, where we can turn to for solace, protection and reassurance and
they act as a secure base from which we can explore and perform with confidence and competence, as a building block for acting effectively in the world.
Over the last thirty years Attachment theory has slowly but surely come to dominate how we understand a person’s relationship to others and to the world at large. Attachment ideas have transformed models of therapy and the way clinicians view mental health issues.
John Bowlby was the father of attachment theory. He made the first big leap in the 1950s and 1960s when he argued that a human being’s primary drive is for the proximity of an attachment figure. This was a watershed departure from the dominant Freudian drive theory of the time that saw human psychology in terms of managing psychic energy and satisfying drives like libido and death instinct. Others in the Psychoanalytic tradition, like Winnicott, were heading in this direction but it was Bowlby who set about developing a coherent new theory with its own research basis (Bowlby, 1988).
This was a game changer for Mental Health and Therapy. Human development across the lifespan could now be seen in the context of a person’s attachment environment. Moreover, mental health issues and symptoms could be seen as either generated, reinforced or ameliorated by a person’s attachment milieu.Continue reading “Me, My Self, And The Other”
I had a client the other day who spoke unconsciously but succinctly about what had brought them to counselling. She said “The ‘cataclyst‘ was…”
It was an exquisite, yet unconscious, joining of the words catalyst and cataclysm. Indeed there was a cataclysm going on in her family. I doubt any of us could join words together so succinctly if we tried. It just reminds me of what a colleague once said: “There is no such thing as a throw away line”.
Even our throw away lines say something about what we are experiencing, often outside of our awareness. Take the line, “Couldn’t be better.” Of course it is meant to be a pithy, meaningless statement – even sarcastic. However, it also has a literal edge to it as well. Often the person saying it actually feels that they couldn’t be better – encapsulating the sense of hopelessness and lack of vision forward that they feel but are not articulating.
The human mind is a marvellous expresser of our emotional state.
How Being Healthy and Happy Goes Hand in Hand with Getting Good at Your Relationships
Everyone wants to be happy – or at least have a reasonable level of contentedness. But we live in a world where there is no clear path to happiness. There are as many theories as there are books in the self-help section of the library. One of the biggest confusions is about whether we find happiness within, or whether we find happiness through other people. People these days are very wary of being co-dependent, but they also want to feel connected with others and to experience intimacy with their loved ones.
Happiness from within and happiness through others goes hands in hand. You can’t get one without the other. Developing individual wellbeing is intertwined with developing effectiveness in your relationships, particularly your close attachment relationships. Continue reading “Agency in Relationships”