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Created To Bond – Changes That Heal Part II
Failure To Develop Relationships
Emotional ties have a dramatic effect on our well-being. When one fails to develop relationships or bond with others, it can and often does affect their ability to stave off or recover from a variety of not only physical but also emotional ills. When they learn to attach to and trust others, they begin to develop not only emotionally, but also psychologically. Thus, their ability to bond with others… to become closely knit, often carryover into their home life.
When a child is distressed, he/she may show unusual signs such as increased pulse, increased or labored respiration, helplessness, and hopelessness and may easily become enraged. These signs are often seen when the biological parent remarries and the child tends to believe that he/she must compete with the step-parent for the biological parent’s attention.
When the adoptive or step-parent enters the situation with food, physical contact, compassion and other help, the child learns her parents can meet her needs. The child is then more active and able to respond to stimulation such as playing. When the child is content, she is able to sleep and feel comfortable in her surroundings.
According to Deborah Gray, author of Attaching in Adoption, “attachment is a relationship formed primarily with members of the family and requires more time and interaction to be created. Attachment is what most adoptive parents are referring to when they talk about bonding with their child. Adopted children of all ages may have an attachment to their birth family, even if the relationship was neglectful or abusive. Many adoption experts agree that if a child can form an attachment to birth and foster parents, she will have the skills to attach to her adoptive family as well.”
Signs of Secure Attachment
The parental attachment process can often take weeks or years to fully develop, and in some cases there maybe pervasive attachment disorders for which professional therapy will be required. A strong indicator of whether attachment is taking place is the comfort with which the adoptive or step-parent is able to recognize the child’s needs. It is important to remember that the repetition of parents meeting a child’s needs is the foundation of forming a secure attachment with children of all ages, not just infants.
The attachment bond shapes an infant’s brain
The attachment bond is the term for our first interactive love relationship-the one we had with our primary caregivers, that is, our mothers. The mother-child attachment bond is instrumental in shaping infants brains. This important attachment profoundly influences our self-esteem, our expectations of others, and our ability to attract and maintain successful relationships. So, the success, or failure, of our first love-the attachment bond-has a life-long effect.
Our secure attachment bond shapes our abilities to:
- feel safe
- develop meaningful connections with others
- explore our world
- deal with stress
- balance emotions
- experience comfort and security
- make sense of our lives
- create positive memories and expectations of relationships
Attachment bonds are as unique as we are. Primary caretakers do not have to be perfect. They do not have to always be in agreement with their infants’ emotions, but it helps if they are emotionally available a majority of the time.
We were born with an innate or preprogrammed need to bond with one very significant person-our primary caregiver, usually our mother. Like all infants, you were a small bundle of disjointed emotions-intensely experiencing fear, anger, sadness, and joy, often at the same time. The natural emotional attachment that grew between you and your caregiver was the first interactive relationship of your life, and it depended upon nonverbal communication. Therefore, the bonding you experienced in this relationship determined how you would relate to other people throughout your life. This bonding relationship established the foundation for all verbal and nonverbal communication in your future relationships.
For better or worse, the attachment bond profoundly influences the infant brain. It is a baby’s first love relationship. When the primary caretaker can manage personal stress, calm the infant, communicate through emotion, share joy, and forgive easily, the young child’s nervous system becomes “securely attached.” The strong foundation of a secure attachment bond enables the child to be self-confident, trusting, hopeful, and comfortable in the face of conflict. As an adult, he or she will be flexible, creative, hopeful, and optimistic.
People who fail to establish this type of bonding relationship often experience confusing, frightening, or broken emotional communications during their infancy and often grow into adults who have difficulty understanding their own emotions and the feelings of others. This hampers their ability to establish, build and/or maintain attachments leading to successful relationships.
What is Attachment?
Attachment is the relationship between infants and their primary caregivers-is responsible for:
- shaping the success or failure of future intimate relationships
- the ability to maintain a normal emotional balance
- the ability to enjoy being ourselves and to find satisfaction in being with others
- the ability to successfully rebound from various disappointments, discouragement, and misfortune
Many scientific studies of the brain-and the primary role attachment plays in shaping it-has given us a new basis for understanding why vast numbers of people have great difficulty communicating with the most important individuals in their work and love lives. Once, we could only use guesswork to try and determine why important relationships never evolved, or developed chronic problems, or fell apart. Now, thanks to new insights into brain development, we can understand what it takes to help build and nurture productive and meaningful relationships at home and at work.
What is the attachment bond?
The mother-child bond is the primary force in infant development, according to the attachment bond theory pioneered by English psychiatrist John Bowlby and American psychologist Mary Ainsworth. The theory has gained strength through worldwide scientific studies and the use of brain imaging technology.
The attachment bond theory states that the relationship between infants and primary caretakers is responsible for:
- shaping all of our future relationships
- strengthening or damaging our abilities to focus, be conscious of our feelings, and calm ourselves
- the ability to bounce back from misfortune
Scientific research reveals the infant/adult interactions that result in a successful, secure attachment, where both people are aware of the other’s feelings and emotions is the necessary precursor for successful relationships. These studies also reveal troubled, or insecure attachment, in which the communication of feelings fails thus resulting in an inability to form the bind needed to establish a solid relationship. Researchers found that in order to have successful adult relationships there must exist in us and we must depend on the ability to:
- manage stress
- stay “tuned in” with emotions
- use communicative body language
- be playful in a mutually engaging manner
- be readily forgiving, relinquishing grudges
The same research also found that when an insecure attachment exists some type of abuse may have caused it, but it is just as likely to be caused by isolation or loneliness. These recent discoveries offer a new glimpse into successful love relationships. Taking these observations into account often provides the keys to identifying and repairing a love relationship that is strained or falling apart.
Insecure attachment affects adult relationships
Insecurity can be a significant problem in all of our lives, and it usually takes root when an infant’s attachment bond fails to provide the child with sufficient structure, recognition, understanding, safety, and mutual accord. These insecurities may lead us to:
- Tune out and turn off-Most often, if our parent is unavailable and self-absorbed, we may-as children-get lost in our own inner world, we become introverted, avoiding any close, emotional connections. This often causes us as adults to become physically and emotionally distant in relationships.
- Remain insecure-If we have parents who are inconsistent or intrusive, it’s more than likely that we will become unrealistically anxious and fearful, never knowing what to expect. Then as adults, we may become willingly available one moment and totally rejecting the next.
- Become disorganized, aggressive and angry-When our early needs for emotional closeness and comfort is neglected, or when a parent’s erratic behavior is a source of disorienting terror, emotional problems are sure to follow. As we grow into adults, we may lack the ability to love easily and may unknowingly be insensitive to the needs of our partner.
- Develop slowly-Problems often occur when we fail to develop as rapidly as we should, both emotionally and intellectually. Such developmental delays often manifest themselves in the form of deficits and often result in subsequent physical and mental health problems, and generally lead to social and learning disabilities.
Lessons Learned From Our Attachment Bond
There are many powerful, life-altering lessons we learn from our attachment bond-our first love relationship continues to teach us as adults. The gut-level knowledge we gained from this bond then guides us in improving our adult relationships and making them secure.
Lesson No. 1-All adult relationships depend on nonverbal forms of communication for their success. These nonverbal communication skills are learned in infancy. Newborn infants cannot talk, reason or plan; yet they are equipped to make sure their needs are met. Infants don’t know what they need, they feel what they need, and communicate accordingly. When an infant communicates with a caretaker who understands and meets their physical and emotional needs an attachment takes place and the strength of that attachment influences other relationships later in life.
Lesson No. 2-Relationships in which the parties are tuned in to each other’s emotions are called attuned relationships, and attuned relationships teach us that:
- nonverbal cues deeply impact our love relationships
- as we play it helps us smooth over the turbulent times we endure in love relationships
- inevitable conflicts can build trusting relationships if we approach them without fear or a need to punish or retaliate
When we can recognize knee-jerk memories, perceive expectations, inappropriate attitudes, unfounded assumptions and improper behaviors as problems resulting from insecure attachment bonds, we can squelch their influence and their effect on our adult relationships. That recognition allows us to readily reconstruct the healthy nonverbal communication skills that ultimately produce an attuned attachment and successful relationship.
Becoming an Adult and Relationship Orientation
As we grow into adulthood, for the most part we bring with us the ideas and communication lessons we have learned from the time of our infancy. Whether these are good or bad depends on our ability to not only view life from our perspective but also have the ability and the willingness to see things from the other person’s point of view as well. When we are able to do that, then we are in a more astute position to deal with situations and circumstances that are adverse to us.
As we move through the adolescent stage of life we find ourselves at odds not only with others but also with ourselves. We want to be an adult with all of its rights and privileges sooner that we can become one, yet at the same time we want to abdicate the responsibility that goes with that station in life. It is a time of being able to make your own decisions and taking authority over your own life, but you are not there yet. You must learn to maintain control of your impulsiveness and your inhibitions. You must be able to objectionably reevaluate your beliefs, see your parents and authority figures realistically, recognize and pursue your God-given talents and goals, and be willing to take ultimate responsibility for yourself. Finally you must be able to accept and appreciate people who are different.
This ability helps us to be able to accept the good and the bad because we are able to address situations in a mature manner. When we are able to do this, we place ourselves into a position of strength, resulting in a proper evaluation of ourselves. Thus we are able to overcome some of the most persistent problems we face daily because now we are not only able to see things in black and white but also in the various shades of gray. As such, we are able to make allowances for our and other peoples mistakes.
We at that point come to realize that everything in life doesn’t have to go our way in order for us to be happy. We gain a new perspective on ourselves, others and God as a result of our changed thinking. We are then able to deal with each other with mercy, in grace, with the understanding that we too make mistakes. When we move into the realm of tolerance and forgiveness, we are able to love others without them having to be perfect.
Yet, in order to accomplish the task and responsibility of growing up we must also be willing to take responsibility and be accountable for those things of which we have been put in charge. Those things include our attitude, tongue, and actions. As we continue to grow in stature and wisdom the maturity level of our life should also increase proportionately.
Differences Between Men And Women
From my experience in dealing with women, (my mother, aunts, seven sisters and many friends and associates) I find that the majority of women are generally oriented towards their existing friendship networks whereas men were more interested in meeting new people and finding people who had similar interests — in other words, men would rather enjoy the adventure of reaching out to new people rather than cementing their existing relationships.
These results contribute to the growing research on social capital, networking and highlight the importance of examining specific interactive applications. The importance of distinguishing between strong and weak ties plays a major role in establishing new relationships. Also, it is necessary to consider the importance of taking into account gender differences in social interaction patterns. Whereas, women increase their bonding social capital as a result of using these sites but men do not. Women, on the other hand, show a decrease in bonding social capital with those whom they meet outside of their normal sphere of influence.
The fear of incorporating emotional intimacy into these association/relationships is mainly due to a fear of rejection and engulfment – a fear of losing the other and/or losing yourself. To overcome this obstacle you must be able to establish an inner bond with yourself. Inner Bonding is a transformational process for healing the fear of intimacy related ideas that have been carried from past experiences.
The mental visualization of these experiences often cause us to digress into a self-contained state of emotional security that hinders our ability to openly tolerate the inconsistencies we see in others. As a result, we ourselves are moved to a protective state and therefore unable to deal with the negative feelings that we will invariably experience. This barrier can block us from resolving issues that in reality are non-issues.
The Immaturity In Adolescence
Struggles with adolescent identity and depression usually set in when an adolescent experiences a loss. The most important loss in their lives is the changing relationship between the adolescent and their parents. Adolescents may also experience strife in their relationships with friends. This may be due to the activities their friends take part in, such as smoking, which causes adolescents to feel as though participating in such activities themselves is likely essential to maintaining these friendships. Teen depression can be extremely intense at times because of physical and hormonal changes but emotional instability is part of adolescence. Their changing mind, body and relationships often present themselves as stressful and that change, they assume, is something to be feared.
Your experiences in life help you to mature. The maturity is developed when you know you have no one to blame for the past but the circumstances and your immaturity. Oftentimes your immaturity stopped you from having a proper perspective of the facts facts and seeing things as they were. This made you blame others for your sufferings. You may have created and escalated your suffering without realizing the facts and circumstances and taking a easy way out by holding others responsible for it.
You feel you are always on the receiving end of every wrong or perceived wrong due to your immaturity. However, life has a knack of replaying memories and after few years it recreates the same circumstances but this time puts you on the opposite side (giving end), you are left with no choice but to accept the fact that you were so immature then and have grow-up with years. As you mature, life makes you see your ‘old you’ in somebody else now in these replaying of circumstances and you know that the other person still has to wait years ahead to grow and realize these facts.
Maturity slowly leads to wisdom when you know that it is only you who has to stand up and take responsibility for your past – action / inaction, sufferings / failures instead of holding others responsible. It is truly said that you create your own happiness. By blaming others and holding grudges you keep happiness at bay and give way to hatred and self pity. However, with time and wisdom when you accept the responsibility for your sufferings and embrace all your successes without pride -you are truly happy.
Divorce And Its Affects On Maturity
Children of divorced parents often bitterly vow not to repeat the same mistakes. They want to avoid putting themselves and their own children through the pain that comes from the dissolution of a marriage. But, according to University of Utah researcher Nicholas H. Wolfinger, these children’s aspirations face unfavorable odds. “Growing up in a divorced family greatly increases the chances of ending one’s own marriage, a phenomenon called the divorce cycle or the intergenerational transmission of divorce.” Dr. Wolfinger has spent almost a decade studying the marriages of children from divorced homes in America. These children are more likely to marry during their teenage years, cohabitate and marry someone who is also a child of divorced parents. And they are also one-third less likely to marry if they are over age 20.
“Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages,” by Wolfinger, published by Cambridge University Press, contains important information for those interested in divorce and its repercussions. “Divorce is an important topic because it has so many consequences for well-being,” writes Wolfinger,
“Its transmission between generations adds a whole new dimension by perpetuating the cycle of divorce. The divorce cycle, in short, can be thought of as a cascade. Ending a marriage starts a cycle that threatens to affect increasing numbers of people over time, a sobering thought in an era when half of all new marriages fail.” His research also suggests that if one spouse comes from divorced parents, the couple may be up to twice as likely to divorce. Spouses who are both children of divorced parents are three times more likely to divorce as couples who both hail from intact families.
Besides observing the marital stability of the offspring of divorced couples, Wolfinger’s book provides another perspective on how parental divorce affects offspring marriage timing, mate selection, cohabitating relationships as well as historical trends in the divorce cycle. Wolfinger also explores the divorce reform movement in America and argues in favor of no-fault divorce laws, arguing that a return to an age of tough divorce laws would recreate the social conditions that used to make divorce harder on children.
It is my opinion considering all that has been written on this subject that one reason children from divorced families get divorced more often is because they have a tendency to marry as teenagers. Social history demonstrates that the older you are when you marry, the less likely you are to get divorced. It’s good advice for everyone.”
On the other hand, the more transitions children experience while growing up, the more they will experience as adults. Taking this into consideration, the question that needs to be asked is, “What is the hardest for kids is how many disruptions they experience — the up-and-down cycles.
This is a valid question because many children will have stepparents, and some will see their new families dissolve. This type of disruption occurs any time they lose a parent — except from death. That’s different, and doesn’t have the same negative effects on children… whereas divorce is ambiguous. Children wonder whether the divorce was their fault or who is to blame. And they wonder ‘Is he coming back?'” It is certainly good news that people are less likely to stay in high conflict marriages than they used to. However, “ending a low-conflict marriage may hurt children as much as staying in a high-conflict family,” and the odds of divorce transmission are actually highest if parents dissolve a marriage after little or no conflict. It therefore behooves us to evaluate the effects divorce will have upon our children and their emotional well being should we decide to travel that road.
But before making that decision, we should honestly examine ourselves and the motivating things that are moving us in that direction. This inventory, if prayerfully done will allow us to see the other persons point of view more clearly and thereby make the necessary adjustments, where warranted, to resolve the issues that precipitated situation to begin with. If we are truly willing to continue the relationship, then we must take the necessary steps needed to resolve the issues of what is good or bad by first considering what we could have done to alleviate the problem rather than casting blame. When we allow the power of forgiveness to flow in us we cannot only deal with the past and present, but also the future as bonds are cemented.
Gray, Deborah. Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today’s Parents. Indiana:Perspectives Press Inc., 2002.
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