The book of life – psychotherapy. 38. John Bowlby

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The book of life – psychotherapy. 38. John Bowlby
– One of our most natural human aspirations is to form enduring, stable relationships
– But the some of us, relationships seem like a struggle
– Relationships begin when we are children
– Bowlby believed tensions & conflicts can be linked back to our early experiences of maternal care
– he drew, in part, on his own experience of childhood & being wounded by first his parents having little time for him, then his nanny leaving when he was 4 & then going to boarding school at the age of 7
– in 1952, Bowlby made a film called “A Two Year Old Goes To Hospital” , Which showed the suffering a child went through when they were institutionally separated from their parents (Visiting was restricted; mothers were not allowed to hold their children)
– Working for the world health organisation argued that “kindness does not smother & spoil the child)
– He also asserted the importance to both mother and child of a loving, enjoyable and affectionate relationship – ie the importance of love & care
– teaches trust, & self-regulation to the child
– the ideal parent is there when the child needs them
– they help the child work out what they are feeling
– they help the child feel secure, better able to problem-solve & explore
– less in need of external validation
– less devastated by failure
– less in need of social status markers
– less need for reassurance about who they are

Maternal care – the kind we need is difficult to achieve – parents can unintentionally go “wrong”, such as:
– being inconsistent with their time & interest in their child
– being inconsistent, mood-wise with their child
– their own fears, anxieties & troubles may prevent them from providing the care they desire to, & which the child needs

In 1959, Bowlby wrote his book “separation anxiety” – He identified three stages:
1. Protest (Began as soon as the parent left & would last for a few hours to one week; Behaviour included crying, rolling & reacting to any movement as the possibility of their mother returning; they seek reassurance; they are volatile, they take heart, then they despair – he called this “anxious attachment”
2. Despair
3. Detachment (they feel so helpless, that they detach – To protect themselves they become remote and cold; he called this “Avoidant attachment” – the child learns to see tenderness, closeness, emotional investment as something to be avoided even though they may be desperate for a cuddle or reassurance)

he believed the pattern of relating with others developed in childhood endures into adulthood

He identified three attachment styles:
1. Secure Attachment (the rare ideal)[UK – 56%]
– slow to anger, quick to forgive & forget
2. Anxious Attachment [UK – 20%]
– marked by clinginess
– involves lots of anger because the stakes are high
– minor sleights can seem very threatening
– all or nothing thinking
– fear if abandonment
– they often experience difficulties, but do not seem to know how to resolve problems
– feel under-appreciated
3. Avoidant Attachment [UK – 24%]
– means you would rather withdraw
– rather than compromise or get angry or get close to the other person
– if there is problem you do not talk
– does not offer much support
– protecting themselves out of fear – If only I had performed better, I would have gained the fleeting, unreliable love of my parents long ago

Source: http://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/bullying/

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