Love and Attachment Work

It can be confusing as an adult to engage in formal healing around attachment wounding. All sorts of things can confuse a therapeutic relationship. For instance, you might feel attracted to your therapist or want them to be your friend. Perhaps, you find yourself thinking of them a lot. You might have fantasies of them seeing and celebrating you in the smallest things you do. You may imagine interactions with special connection, or hope to run into them at the dog park and have a long walk.

In attachment work, things like this are normal. Ideally, the therapist watches for this, and does what is needed to clarify boundaries and bring attention back to where it is useful. For you, it’s helpful to useful to know that attachment healing relies on the formation of a trusted bond with another. In therapy in particular, this bond rests on actual and consistent caring and love, as well as transference. The therapist shows up as another vulnerable human being, while at the same time leaving plenty of space for you to see them as a source of constant love.

But this can also be confusing. As an adult, you know your therapist isn’t perfect, nor are they always available, so they can’t be a source of constant love. This thought might trigger the impulse to pull away or feel suspicious of the relationship. There are at least two things that can be helpful to remember here.

First, the projection that the therapist is a source of constant love is an important tool in helping you to create and access a neurobiological network of love and emotional security. Bonnie Badenoch, in her book, “Being a Brain-Wise Therapist,” talks about the interpersonal neurobiology involved with this process in a clear and easy way to understand. Having a basic neurobiological understanding of the process can help you relax into the therapeutic relationship.

Second, even a mental understanding of the larger container for attachment work can help you engage with it. Emotional security isn’t about being able to rely on a single person or even a group of people for love; though, this is an essential part of thriving. You know that all people vary in their availability to give and receive love, and so where’s the security in that?

Given the impermanent and ever-changing nature of others, you may find yourself having reactive thoughts like, “I just have to love myself!”; or, “I have to learn to be completely independent.” Thoughts like these are usually less about secure differentiation, and more about a desperate attempt to avoid the pain of loneliness and heartbreak. (Heartbreak is, of course, unavoidable in a life of loving deeply. There is to make friends with this experience, rather than avoid it).

Emotional security, however, rests on something larger than a single person or group of people. Once the the neural network for healthy attachment and love is up and running, you gain access to a felt sense of love that is otherwise elusive. This felt sense of love doesn’t reside somewhere or in some particular person. It lives as an awareness that love is. Emotional security is a pervasive sense that love is always accessible. With this, the questions of where to find it and who is worthy of it, become irrelevant.

In a world where love simply is, you are neither lovable or unlovable. Your therapist is not a source of love like a lake is a source of water. They are simply opening a channel for you to experience what is true.

Practice

This week notice a sense of love, especially at times when there is no particular giver or receiver.