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Attachment and Emotional Constancy

Attachment is the foundation upon which the seven aspects are built. It represents the mechanics of relationship. We are attracted to those we are attached to and we are happy to be of service to those we are attached to. That's why when my wife asks me to do something for her, I immediately stop what I am doing and give that thing my full attention. Well, not always, but if she has done a good job reinforcing the attachment components of our relationship by staying connected with me at a heart level, then my positive responses to her requests become automatic, and visa versa. To the degree that I reach out to her on a feeling level and nurture the intimacy that we both long for, then there is very little I can ask for that will not get a welcoming response. Indeed, negative responses to our expressions are simply feedback to us that our attachment is weak.

This goes for our children too, and all of our relationships. Attachment is really the actual expression of our affection for our children on a regular basis. In my experience, children do not know that we love them unless we show them that we love them. The major achievement of the preoperational stage of Piaget's child development model, the one that signals the attainment of the second stage, is that of object permanency. This skill is represented by the ability to know that an object still exists even if it cannot be seen. Although this cognitive skill is acquired by all developing babies, it does not extend to emotional data. For children, love is a temporary emotion, and the idea of emotional constancy does not even occur to most adults outside of the parent child relationship. When it does, it is represented in the form of archetypal religious or political figures such as Jesus Christ, Buddha, Ghandi and Martin Luther King. It is represented mainly by those who transcend the normal human relationships we struggle with on a daily basis. To most of us, the idea of loving our enemy, for instance, is ludicrous, much less the person who irritates us at work. Even for the sages, opening the heart and transcending defense mechanisms is a daily practice that brings challenges.

Charles Bukowski called love, “a dog from hell”, because of the endless emotional suffering that seems to accompany it. If only a god or an enlightened sage can achieve emotional constancy, then our children certainly will not be conscious of the underlying stability of their emotional connection to us or recognize continuously that our love for them is both unconditional and without limit. So we must do the hard but rewarding work of forming, strengthening and reinforcing our emotional connections to our children on a daily basis so that they are continuously exposed to our universal love for them and our commitment to do our best.

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