God’s Example for Attachment
If you think about it, all of creation has been in survival mode since the Fall — trying to meet our own needs, creating our own gods, always chased by a fear of lack. Yet if we examine God’s relationship with us, it always begins with “I Am.” Whatever you need. Wherever you are. Whatever you are going through, I Am.
God doesn’t begin His relationships with rules and regulations, but with His presence. Relationship must precede rules and boundaries. We don’t send a newborn to bed without his supper because he cries. We don’t correct a new convert when he lets out a string of expletives right after a worship service (or we shouldn’t, at least). By the same token, we shouldn’t punish a child for being unable to self-regulate because he experienced early trauma.
We are born wired for attachment. As the authors of Wounded Children, Healing Homes explain, “Eye-to-eye contact is a critical link that sets the brain toward balanced regulation. The mutual gaze leads to emotional attunement; a deeply satisfying experience of feeling harmonious oneness and completeness, not unlike the peace experienced in the womb. Without the attentive loving gaze and emotional responsiveness of the parent, the infant brain struggles on its own to develop and mature.”
So how did God attach to His first children?
He provided for their physical needs.
God planted a garden and set man over it: “And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden [delight]; and there He put the man whom He had formed (framed, constituted). And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight or to be desired—good (suitable, pleasant) for food; the tree of life also in the center of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of [the difference between] good and evil and blessing and calamity.” (Genesis 2:8-9)
He provided human companionship.
God created Eve as a helpmeet for Adam: “And the rib or part of his side which the Lord God had taken from the man He built up and made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:22)
He offered His presence and a relationship.
God came and walked and talked with them: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. . .” (Genesis 3:8a)
This was a picture of perfect attachment — secure attachment.
Broken Attachment and the Fall
After the Fall, everything changed.
Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, evicted from the only lifestyle they had ever known. Not only did they lose the presence of God, but they also lost their home and carried the shame of the Fall.
I’m sure it was beyond stressful. When Eve said, “I have gotten and gained a man with the help of the Lord” (Genesis 4:1), she may have been in survival mode. How do you survive without the presence of God, who walked and talked with you daily? How do you handle life on earth without preternatural gifts?
Let’s put ourselves in Eve’s place. Evicted. Homeless. Alone. The constant supply of free food is gone. She feels shame. Her husband tills the ground, which brings forth thorns and thistles. She must dress herself and her family. Do you think she may have been depressed? Avoidant? Ambivalent? Checked out? I would have.
We have no written record about the parenting style of Eve, but we can hazard some guesses based on the actions of Cain. (This is not to say that every child who participates in aberrant behavior can blame it on Mom, as Sigmund Freud thought.) Cain was stuck in one of Dreikurs’ mistaken goals (see Chapter 5). For some reason, even though Abel was securely attached, Cain decided he shouldn’t try.
“The brain is “experience expectant”. That is, it is hard wired to expect certain signals, such as eye contact, kind touch, rocking, loving voice tones, playful interactions, and assistance from others during sickness or distress.” -Deborah Gray, Nurturing Adoptions
When Eve said, “I have gotten a man,” I don’t read a whole lot of excitement there. Do you? I could be wrong, but I picture her being detached herself. It definitely doesn’t sound like secure attachment.
So what does secure attachment look like? According to Bowbly, as cited in Nurturing Adoptions, securely attached children believe the following:
• My parents come back. They are reliable.
• I am worth coming back to.
• I can depend on my parents and the people they entrust to educate and spend time with me.
• My feelings are mirrored back to me so that I can process how I feel and how others feel.
• I want to please my parents most of the time.
• I am rewarded for becoming competent, for my creativity, and for my positive states.
• I can get help with psychologically overwhelming events and feelings.
• My parents will teach me how to cope with problems and how to resolve them.
• Intimacy is enjoyable.
• My needs are routinely met in a timely, sensitive manner.
• Repairs to relationship disruptions are empathic and prompt.
If we ourselves have felt secure attachment, we expect our children to follow that pattern, as well — even if their experiences have been vastly different from ours.We parents tend to expect our newly adopted children to enter the home and quickly develop a secure attachment style. We assume that they know the amount of time and work it took to secure their adoption.
Want to learn more about attachment? Catch up on the series on the podcast: