Exploring the 3 Core Attachment Questions Shaping Our Lives (Episode 057)
DESCRIPTION: Whether we are aware of it or not, we are constantly living from the answers to three core attachment questions.
Join us for a conversation on the three default attachment questions deeply embedded in our nervous systems and implicit memories:
are other people available to me;
will this distress be alleviated;
and, can I use my agency for good?
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We explore how our answers to these questions inform our behavior and how a process of rupture and repair helps us gain insight.
We also discuss the significance of secure attachment during our formative years, and how our caregivers' sensitivity and attunement can lay the foundation for our sense of agency and security. However, an inconsistent care environment may lead to insecurity and impact our expectations from the world. Discover how our answers to these questions affect our ability to use our agency in moments of distress and our role in the Embodied Faith journey. Don't miss this enlightening discussion on the power of attachment and its profound influence on our lives.
Geoff: Welcome back to the Embodied Faith podcast with Geoff and Cyd Holstglaut. Today, And for a couple of episodes in this season season four we're going to be talking about some core concepts within what we're calling Embodied Faith. We're actually going to spend a couple of episodes just talking about what is Embodied Faith, But first, today, we're going to be talking about the three attachment questions that will shape your life.
This is Embodied Faith, which is seeking a neuroscience-informed spiritual formation brought to you by Grassroots Christianity. Alright, so this is the episode where Cyd pretty much flies the plane And I am the color com. She's like the play-by-play and I'm the color commentator. Usually, it's the other way around, where sometimes I'm kind of the producer leading the way. So I'm going to give it to you, Cyd.
Cyd: So we want to just talk about these three core questions that are embodied for us. The answer is to. These questions are embodied in a very implicit way in our nervous systems, and I want to talk about how those questions get there, what they are and how the answers to those questions end up shaping and forming all of our behaviors, our thoughts and our experiences throughout our lives. So it starts with the. We're going to sort of talk about the one, two, three of attachment And this is Geoff's one, two, three, by the way. He's not talking about it, but that doesn't mean he wasn't involved in coming up with it. So the one, two, three of attachment starts with. We all have this one fundamental desire, and that is to have joyful connections with God and with one another. And so we've talked in another episode about joy and how joy is so important and what joy is, and joy being foundational in the way that we have a sense of identity and a sense of self. And so those joyful connections are meant to be shaped and formed during our early years with our caregivers, and we can talk more about that in a minute, but I'm just doing an overview here. The, depending on what kind of foundation of joy and how strong that foundation is. In our early years we end up growing in two different dimensions, and one of those dimensions is intimacy, and we'll just think of intimacy as the capacity to be close, closely related, in close relationship with other people. And then the other dimension is independence, and independence is that capacity to be able to go out into the world and to have what it takes to do things and to get things done, and sort of that confidence to explore and to engage. So, depending on how we grow in that intimacy and independence well, as we grow in intimacy or independence, or both, we're designed to grow in both we will end up running into ruptures in our relationships or in our ability to move about in the world. And through a process of relational repair and through rupture and repair, we end up having these three core questions that become answered for us, depending on how consistent our processes of rupture and repair are. So, just again, one desire for joyful connection, two dimensions of intimacy and independence, which leads to rupture and repair, which then leads to these three questions And the three core questions.
Cyd: The first one that we gain developmentally is about other people And that question is are other people available to me. So are they available in a consistent way? We're designed to have a yes answer to that, but depending on how those processes of rupture and repair happened for us, sometimes we wind up with a maybe. Maybe people are available to me, maybe they're not. Sometimes they are, sometimes they're not. Other times we end up with a no answer No, people are not available. I am pretty much on my own. So that's the first core question that shapes how we view other people. That will largely go with us in an embodied way throughout the rest of our life.
Cyd: The second core question is will this current distress that I'm living in or experiencing, will this distress be alleviated? That's all about that. When I'm hungry, will I be fed? when my diaper is wet, will I be changed that? will this distress be alleviated? This ends up shaping how we view the world, how we interact and engage with the world, what we expect from the world, whether that stress will be alleviated or not.
Cyd: Then the third core question that we end up asking throughout the rest of our lives is do I have agency to do good or to make things happen in a way that will actually bless and flourish the world around me How do I get to use my agency? Do I have agency and can I use it for good? The three questions again are people available, which forms our view of others? Will this distress be alleviated, which shapes the way that we interact with the world? Then the third question is can I use my agency for good? which is that sense of self? Those are the three core questions that we end up asking Again. Those come from our processes of rupture and repair, as we are growing an intimacy and independence based on our foundation of joy. I guess I did that upside down.
Cyd: If it's a foundation, it's at the bottom, joy at the bottom, the two dimensions, the three questions and then those three questions are living in our nervous systems in an embodied way That's based on the answers that we come up with for those three questions. That helps our nervous system detect what is dangerous, what is a threat, how can I connect? Do I prioritize connection more often than protection? All of that is embodied within us based on the answers we come up with for those questions.
Geoff: Now, when you say based on the answers that we come up with, are you talking about like these, where we're consciously asking ourselves every time we go into a new situation, we go to a new school, we get a new job, we're constantly asking ourselves are others available? Will this distress be eliminated?
Cyd: Well, that would be nice, Do I?
Geoff: have agency.
Cyd: That would be great if we were asking those questions consciously, but we're actually not. I mean, those questions are being asked on a nervous system kind of level, and so they're usually below our consciousness. We're not consciously asking our other people available, we're just living as if they either sometimes are, they're not or they are So, depending on how we've learned to answer that question in our early years, that implicit or that unconscious response is just what we live from.
Geoff: So it's an implicit kind of questions that have already been implicitly answered, based on our attachment history, our attachment figures, and they can be answered slightly different in different contexts And with different people And with different people. So that first one are others available. Oftentimes we think that there's just two possible answers to that, but there's actually three possible answers. Could you talk about that one with this, which again is implicitly, and talk maybe about, like the childhood history or something behind how these get answered?
Cyd: Of course.
Geoff: Or were you not prepared to do that? No, I can definitely do that.
Cyd: So the answer of yes is obviously going to come from a secure attachment, a place of where your caregivers are available to you on an ongoing basis. There's a predictability to their availability. They're present and they're not only available for your physical needs, but they're also available for your emotional needs. They're there for you relationally, so that availability of your caregivers, that consistent availability, creates a yes, a resounding yes. Other people are going to be available, so that's one way to answer the question.
Geoff: The sometimes Well, just to add that, like the attachment literature, we're talking about attuned caregivers or sensitive caregivers, which is different than Or a good enough caregiver, the good enough caregiver, which is different.
Geoff: just to make the clarification. It's not necessarily affectionate. Certainly it involves being affectionate to your child, that you have a parent who gives affection. Of course we talk about joy and all those things, but it's not just affectionate as if positive affection will make it, but it's sensitivity, it's being able to read signals, being attuned to the cries and the concerns and then understanding what course of action is needed in that particular moment. So it's actually very contextual, flexible responses, which is So. that's why the words sensitive and or attunement are used, but then certainly affectionate is part of that process.
Geoff: Okay, so then what's the? So, that's the. Yes, that would be the yes.
Cyd: The maybe comes from an inconsistent care environment.
Cyd: So, for example, you might have a caregiver who sometimes really wants to engage with you and is very present to you and is totally available, but then at other times your caregiver is dealing with their own stuff, their own emotions or their own busy life and they just don't have time for you or don't have space for you, don't have energy for you, so they're not even trying to attune to you.
Cyd: So there's just this unavailability. And so sometimes they're available, sometimes they're not, and then sometimes they might interrupt you when you're perfectly content to be doing what you're doing. But then your caregiver wants to engage with you, so they come and interrupt your independent play and sort of insist that you play with them, and so that's sort of The language around that is intrusive, so intrusive like bids for attention from your caregiver, and so it goes both ways, like sometimes your caregiver is available to you, sometimes your caregiver wants to engage with you when you don't want to engage. But that inconsistency of the sometimes available, sometimes not is what causes a maybe answer to that question of are others available?
Geoff: And then, what would the no answer?
Cyd: The no would be that maybe your caregiver is providing all of your material needs, like all your physical needs, but they're not necessarily engaging with you in a way that is attuned or relational, and so there's this sense of like this caregiver is not available to me as a whole person, or there are parts of me that this caregiver cannot be available to, and so the no is more like okay, i might have the things that I need, like I might be taken care of in, like a very basic kind of way, but this My caregivers are not available for my social or my emotional or my needs that go beyond just food and clothing and shelter.
Geoff: Right, and sometimes that's called like rejecting or abandoning kind of situation. So that is the first one, that is kind of the first core question, the default attachment question, implicit that can get answered, and when that answer is a yes for the first one, are others available? Then that creates a situation in which you believe, you create hope that distress in the world will be Alleviated. You have this positive expectation that ruptures will be repaired. But when you get into the maybe or the no, then that becomes more problematic.
Cyd: Right, because the rupture, the distress might be alleviated and it might not. It's sort of that maybe from the our others available carries over into a maybe the distress will be alleviated and maybe it won't. And Maybe it will be alleviated if somebody else is available to me. But if nobody else is available right now, this distress might not be alleviated, and so it turns into that sort of Anxiety over. I don't know if this distress is going to be alleviated or not. I don't really know what's going to happen. And so that's where you know This is often.
Cyd: It's a, it's a type of anxious attachment in the literature It's called preoccupied or distracted, just because there is sort of this sense of like, well, that sometimes they've been available in the past, sometimes they haven't. And there's this I, there's this just anxiety, i'm not quite sure. And then the no would be well, there is no history of distress being alleviated For me, emotionally, relationally, of any kind, unless I just deal with it myself, which is that no other people are not available. So this distress will only be alleviated if I do something about it if I deal with it.
Cyd: So, and this idea that's the avoidant or dismissive.
Geoff: And that that's where the idea of an insecure attachment comes from is that you have an Insecurity. You feel insecure in the world and in your relationships because you're not sure whether this distress will be alleviated. Which is different than what a secure attachment would be, is not that you never have distress? And that's where I think, sometimes people get a little confused. It's not like you live without distress. It's actually you live with the hope and the expectation even that this distress will be alleviated. And then, of course, that connects to then the third default question, which is well, how does This distress become alleviated? Partly it's answered by whether or not people are available. Partly It's answered by how much and in what way do I use my agency? So can you explain that last kind of question Do I have agency in the world?
Cyd: Yeah. So you know, when you're securely attached and your answer is yes, people are available and yes, this distress will be alleviated, well then you can go ahead and use your agency for good. You can go and you can be generous, you can be hospitable, you can go and take care of other people in a way that is actually really helpful for them and still keeps you healthy and strong. You can sort of go about in the world and explore and you can make a difference and you can make an impact Because you have that security of knowing that distress will be alleviated and people are available for you. But if it's a maybe, then you're gonna end up using your agency Largely just to connect with other people, to stay connected with other people, so that your need, so that distress will be alleviated And so that people will be available for you. So most of your agency is going to be used and devoted toward Developing intimacy and connection with other people. So it's like your agency Is not necessarily used for the good of the world or for the good of other people, as much as it's used for your own Feeling of closeness and feeling of connection, so that you'll know your needs are going to be okay, you're going to be taken care of, and so that's the, that's the, the maybe sort of place, and then the, the agency for the person who feels like people are not available And things are only going to be alleviated if I take care of it. They're largely going to use their agency to remain independent, to remain sort of disconnected from the messiness of other people's relationships, because the only way that they're going to actually use well, the way they're going to prioritize their agency is to sort of stay distant Or disconnected so that they'll be able to take care of their own distress, because they assume that nobody's going to be available anyway. So, rather than using their agency on behalf of others, they'll use their agency to sort of preserve their own independence.
Geoff: Hmm, right, and so how these three questions, or the three defaults as we talk about in our attachment cohort, attaching to God cohort, like these, really affect and shape The implicit lives, how we experience relationships, how we view the behavior of other people and how we interpret it, how we filter Our own emotions or filter out our emotions, right? So The other thing too that just gets a little confusing for people is in the attachment literature, especially the romantic attachment. Adult relationships literature will talk about anxious attachment and then the contrast with being avoidant Attachment, and it's a little confusing because all the research shows that actually avoidant people are anxious. They've just managed to hide their anxiety.
Cyd: They're relational even from themselves. Even from themselves.
Geoff: So they'll do so consciously, they won't seem to be anxious, they won't report that they're anxious, but they'll put like body monitors And check their heart rates and like how tense their muscles are and other things, and they'll show that, like when they're primed Or prompted in certain attachment kind of ways with questions or situations or showing pictures, their body will become anxious, intense, and so that's a little bit confusing with the language. Is all at all. Those who have insecure attachment, who kind of have maybes or no's when it comes to these questions, have some sort of level anxiety.
Cyd: It's just whether it shows or not and whether you call it anxiety or not.
Geoff: Yeah, right, or stress or things like that. So. So these are the three. We just wanted to kind of create just a quick episode, just to kind of talk a little bit about this. Sometimes they're called the internal working models for attachment theory. There's a lot more that we talk about this in our attaching to God. A cohort, which is actually right now, as far as this recording is our first cohort, is ongoing, but you can, in the show notes, see the wait list for our next one, which will probably be sometime in the summer of 2023. But also said you're doing a rooted Cohort, so what is that?
Cyd: Yeah, so the rooted cohort is especially helpful for Managing that anxiety, or handling that anxiety that's sort of going on under the surface all the time, and so the people who have a maybe answer will probably feel that more readily. But people who have the no answer are also dealing with that. And what it is is the rooted course is really helping To be. It's dealing with embodiment How do I learn to regulate my nervous system And how do I learn to sort of be feeling feeling safe, feeling less anxious or feeling more grounded in my body, and how does that sort of carry over into life with God as well? And so that is a six-week course as well, and we'll be starting. Our first meeting will be on the last Tuesday in May, may 30th, but there's a little bit of pre-work before that, so you can sign up for that before May 25 26 is always that yeah, sign up for that before.
Cyd: May last Friday of May and That's just a great way to start to learn. How do I what is going on in my nervous system And how can I sort of almost trick my body into feeling safe when it doesn't?
Geoff: So if you want to be sure to be connected to you, these kind of core episode, core concept episodes that we're going to be putting out Over the next couple weeks, be sure to subscribe on YouTube if you're watching there, follow us on our podcast if you're a podcast listener, but then especially also you can follow these on my new embodied faiths Substack, and then you could also. We are seeking to kind of raise some support, so if you want to partner with us to kind of pay for some of these, the bills to run all these things, please do that, though those links will be in the show notes. We would really appreciate it and it'll help us to get more of these episodes and you can also see what we're able to like.
Cyd: If You're listening to this, you're like, wow, this would be super helpful for my church or for a retreat or something like that. You can just go to embodied faiths, dot life and you can see all the things that we're currently doing and up to absolutely Well.
Geoff: So our I don't know what our next episode is, But thank you all for joining us and we will all see you and talk to you soon.
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