This is the second in a series of 5 posts that will help explain attachment stress. If you haven’t read out first post about the hard-wired need to attach, start there.
As children, the way that we attach to the caregivers and significant people in our lives informs the way we behave and cope with stress. Seeking to maintain contact with our attachment figures (caregivers) is the prime motivation in relationships and, ideally, allows children to use that secure attachment to soothe and regulate their emotions. This is what you saw in The Still Face Experiment Video— the baby girl is able to calm down, stop crying, and smile within seconds of her mom tuning back in. Her attachment to her mother allows her to have a safe haven and a secure base. This baby girl knows her mother will be there for her. She trusts that relationship.
When we don’t have that secure base, we are emotionally isolated and hurt. You saw how quickly the baby girl got upset when her mom stopped responding. Imagine if her mom didn’t stop the experiment and reassure her that she was back. A baby that young doesn’t have other resources or skills to self-soothe. The baby would have learned that she cannot always count on her mom — and, over time, her mom would not be a secure base.
In difficult times, adults and children need other humans to stand with us. To say “I’ll be there for you!” and then show up for us. Even if they can’t fix the problem– just be with us IN the problem is soothing.
In this video, Sue Johnson demonstrates this finding in adults, using functional MRIs. Not only did emotional attachment and security increase for the couples after completing Emotionally Focused Therapy, so did the physical pain they experienced. Emotional isolation increases pain. It is suffering. Check out the video and tell me what you think!