In last week’s blog I invited my readers to begin a journey to better appreciate the power of love in relationships. I began by reminding readers of our neurobiological need to be in relationships, to belong to our groups, to feel safe and protected because of these connections.
I also shared a definition of love and then included information about the various types of love: Eros (physical, sensual love,) Philia (friendship love), Ludos (playful love), Pragma (mature, realistic love), Philautia (self-love), and Agape (selfless-self-giving, empathetic love). I then invited my readers to notice their thoughts, feelings, sensations, beliefs, images and memories that popped up while reading this. Taking time to focus on each of these can enhance your understanding of the information and why it is so important.
The capacity to love is innate; each human being is born with the capacity to love. The capacity is there but there is no guarantee that love will develop. The development of love requires the input of the caring adults in a child’s life.
When you have the blessing of being able to nurture an infant, you can observe how that child gradually begins to awaken to the love being poured out on them, the sensations of loving touch, of being fed, kept warm, comforted when uncomfortable, feeling pain or being scared. The bonds of attachment form from the very beginning, with a sense of security that comes from consistent, predicable loving actions.
According to the PsychCentral “Secure attachment is the result of feeling secure with your caregivers from childhood and being able to ask for reassurance or validation without punishment…you felt safe, understood, comforted, and valued during your early interactions. Your caregivers were probably emotionally available and aware of their own emotions and behaviors.”
The article goes on to describe many signs of a secure attachment: the ability to regulate emotions, to easily trust others, to seek emotional support, to be comfortable being alone as well as in close relationships. “Securely attached people grow up feeling secure emotionally and physically and can engage in the world with others in a healthy way…. As a result, people with secure attachment styles tend to navigate relationships well. They’re generally positive, trusting, and loving to their partners…. They trust their partners’ intentions and jealousy is often not an issue for them…Securely attached people feel that they’re worthy of love and don’t need external reassurance.”
It is through the moment-by-moment experiences that nurture secure attachment and the accompanying feelings of being loved that set up a child for being able to give and receive love in the future.
My brother and I grew up in the era where children were put on strict schedules and allowed to cry for hours if it was not the scheduled time for feeding. We also were regularly spanked, which can be very shaming for a child and something that greatly detracts from abilities to experience a secure attachment to a parent. So when I had my first child, I was determined not to repeat the destructive treatment I had experienced as an infant and young child (and yes I knew that my parents were doing the best that they could because it was what they were taught by their parents and even by the misinformed pediatricians of that time.)
I had the amazing fortune of getting connected with the local Nursing Mothers organization and received guidance not only on breast-feeding on demand because it was what the baby needed, but I learned the importance of being highly responsive and nurturing through all the stages of a young child’s life. It was through my experiences raising my two daughters that I felt like I could give them a chance at experiencing loving and secure attachment first to me and then to others who shared the same philosophical approaches to parenting and caregiving.
As I see my adult children today being parents, I am thrilled that many of the beliefs I adopted from my relationship with my Nursing Mothers counselor all those years ago allowed me to be the nurturer I wanted to be and now is being passed on to future generations.
I share this to help you appreciate that you too have the power to make sure you promote secure attachments through your love and the accompanying behaviors that provide a deep sense of being safe and able to trust that all those who are caregiving are responsive to the needs of your children. I believe that in my family the legacy of harshness my parents perpetuated as a result of what they experienced has been broken. I encourage you to appreciate you too have this same power to break any of your family legacies that are unhealthy and deprive your child from gaining a deep-seated secure attachment by learning healthier approaches to parenting and caregiving.
It is so important for parents and all who care for infants and young children to appreciate the power of their love to promote secure attachments. This in turn gives infants and young children the ability to both receive and give love. Learning all this is a journey well worth taking!
Invitation for Reflection
- As you read this, what did you notice in terms of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, beliefs, images and memories. How did what you noticed increase your understanding of the information contained here?
- What do you know about how you were parented as an infant and young child? Do you believe your parents and others who provided caregiving for you promoted a safe and secure attachment, allowing you to experience healthy love in your relationships now?
- If you answered No to the last question, what can you do to learn about healthy attachment so you can begin to embrace the beliefs and behaviors that nurture secure attachments co you can experience healthy love? I suggest you do some googling and also check out YouTube videos done by Dr. Dan Siegel, who specializes in trainings around attachment.