2 Things Attachment Theory IS NOT
Why focusing on parenting and personalities gets us off track when we want to think about spiritual formation.
I have invested hours and hours (really, days and months, and years) in learning about attachment theory and attachment research.
I’ve been learning how attachment theory builds bridges between, developmental psychology, affective and cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary biology, psychoanalysis, and more.
And I think it is essential for helping us develop in our spiritual formation, in growing our ability to love God and love others.
So I’m going to give you my top 4 Reasons (+ a bonus reason) why attachment theory is essential for spiritual formation.
BUT FIRST I need to clarify the 2 THINGS that I’m NOT REFERRING to when I talk about attachment theory.
What Attachment Theory IS NOT
The attachment theory and research that I’m talking about IS NOT Attachment Parenting NOR Attachment Personalities.
1) Not Attachment Parenting
I don’t want to make a judgment either way about the merits or failures of attachment parenting.
I just want to point out, along with many experts, that what is called “attachment parenting” is only loosely connected to attachment theory and research.
That Baby Bs of “birth bonding, breastfeeding, baby-wearing, bedding close to the baby, belief in the baby’s cry, balance and boundaries, and beware of baby trainers” are fine for some people.
But these practices don’t necessarily produce a secure attachment ()
Attachment research investigates the causes and results of what is called a secure or insecure attachment. Only then does it make tentative, culturally-sensitive recommendations for parenting (and really, rather than recommendations, it is more of a rubric for sensitive, timely, and attuned parenting).
So, if you have had a bad association with attachment parenting, please don’t let that color what I’ll be proposing in the next post.
Learn about the ATTACHING TO GOD Beyond Anxious and Avoidant Spiritualities Learning Cohort (new ones forming soon).
2) Not Attachment Personalities
When we (Cyd and I on the podcast, and me in these posts) talk about attachment theory and research, we aren’t talking about “attachment personalities” as if they were your personal destiny.
The idea of “attachment styles” as a component of your personality developed when attachment theory (which first came out of child observation and developmental psychology) was introduced to social psychology and personality theorists with an interest in how attachment theory might help us make sense of our romantic relationships.
On a popular level, however, these ideas of attachment styles and attachment personalities can make people feel like they are trapped in an attachment destiny.
But thankfully, as Faith Hill notes,
The reality of the theory is more complex than that. Your attachment style is not so much a fixed category you fall into, like an astrology sign, but rather a tendency that can vary among different relationships and, in turn, is continuously shaped by those relationships. Perhaps most important, you can take steps to change it.
You don’t have an attachment personality.
You have an attachment personal history.
You don’t have an attachment style.
You have an attachment strategy that you developed to survive.
So, while books like Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep - Love are really helpful, don’t fall into the trap that “this is just they way I am” kind of thinking.
Thankfully, attachment theory and research shows that we can update our attachment strategies and move from insecure to secure attachment. Yeah!
Attachment Strategies Can Be Transformed
And this transformation of attachment strategies is an essential part of spiritual formation.
So, next time I’ll give my 4 reasons (+ a bonus) on why attachment theory is essential for spiritual formation.
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Learn about the ATTACHING TO GOD Beyond Anxious and Avoidant Spiritualities Learning Cohort (beginning April 18th).