Thoughts on Feelings (Part 2): You can't have too much attachment - So give and receive fully!

We're bound to have heard at some point in our lives that being too attached to someone can cause many individuals to be constantly dependent on the person they are emotionally attached to.  It's interesting because to some individuals hearing this...it's okay, whilst for others, it's a major issue.  Well, it really depends on our quality of attachments with people in our lives, in the first place.  

Winnicottian psychoanalysis described that an individual starts off life already being dependent on the mother for many things including care and nourishment, and has no semblance of self-soothing.  The infant would be wholly and desperately in need of his or her mum to be able to provide adequately so that one day that little person may internalise the good stuff (and sometimes the bad stuff) from mum, and itself believe that separation and thus, individuation can occur.  Sometimes the process of separation and individuation is a rocky road for a variety of reasons, but essentially, we require others to help us with self-regulation.  If we look closer, actually, many of us go on in life struggling with this process because we're either too quickly told to be independent or we've never had another person build that confidence in us.  And this may instead, build massive anxiety - an anxiety that we can't manage alone.

There is no such thing as a baby ... if you set out to describe a baby, you will find you are describing a baby and someone.
— D. W. Winnicott (1947)

There has been research clarifying that we may have ambivalent relationships with some people in our lives, whilst having more avoidant ones with others.  However, it has been shown that in general, we internalise a particular style of relating to our friends, partners, family members, in prototypical ways that remain consistent till the day we die.  Some authors have called it - Learning to love from your mother to your lover's arms, or, our patterns of relationships from womb to tomb.  In other words, we carry these patterns and replay them over and over!

Nevertheless, we can't get too much of that love and connection with the significant people that impact us most.  And they are typically our primary caregivers, or family members, most likely our parents.  We may see that most of the time, children begin their journey learning from their adult role models, and these role models would show them how is it like to experience others, beginning from home.  It follows that, if you receive consistent love and attention, you learn that connecting and receiving care is rewarding and it leads to seeking that same care over and over again, until you learn that others can be reliable and predictable in their display of care for you.

On the other hand, when you don't receive that care or attention when attempting to get it, the individual or child begins to either intensify their attempts at getting that same attention, or head the other way - clam up and claim that people are just not dependable.  These two possibilities just aren't the sort of way it should be if one's goal is to have lasting and satisfying, meaningful relationships.  Go figure!

Research has shown that if you provide the individual or child emotionally expressive, healthy and connected ways of being attached to someone, you actually increase the likelihood that this person progresses on to being emotionally confident and secure in their styles of attachment.  You will see this in their individual lives, or when being with others.  The converse is also true that the more you deprive someone from being attached to you, you decrease the likelihood of feeling secure, and increase the likelihood that this may create emotional insecurity in the other.  This leads to significant and frequent attempts at trying to get at being more connected and requiring increasing amounts of attention - quite the opposite of what is desired sometimes.  Therefore, in order for us to help create real healthy independence (and not avoidant self-reliance), go on, give and receive freely and respond when someone else needs you.  The worst that could happen is that this person finds you reliable and dependable.  This would in turn, create confidence in the person and assist with the development of independence!

Have a look at the suggested reading below, written on website Motherly, for a bit more on this topic.

For more on Winnicott's writing, check out his range of books here.