I’ve been interested in attachment theory since I studied the theory during my master’s program. I look at the world through the eyes of attachment (connection), how that connection can be altered or disrupted, how does connection or lack there of affect a child’s development (and adult) and how can it help us heal. I know, it sounds like I’m in a proverbial existential crisis. For me, attachment is actually the science of spirituality of all things being connected. So, let’s get started.
Attachment theory was created by John Bowlby and further studied with Mary Ainsworth. Attachment theory is basically the study between parent and infant/child. The way I interpret this is: it’s a theory based on connection. And how we connect with infants and children is through the senses. We feel life, we feel through life. We are all experiential beings, and kids more so simply because their brains aren’t developed to organize or make reason from their experiences like you can. For this video, I explain the theory of attachment through the senses of eye contact and touch.
Eye contact is beneficial in creating and maintaining a bond with your child. When you look into your infant’s/child’s eyes and they look at you, a wonderful thing happens. You release a chemical called oxytocin which is the feel good, ‘Im in love’ chemical. That’s why new moms will often say, “I’m so in love with my baby!” And its true. You are. This feeling is also great because if you’re feeling so good, so in love then you’re more likely to continue caring, bonding and connecting with your baby/child. This is necessary for your baby’s survival.
The area of the eyes is important because this is also how your baby can develop mirror neurons by teaching through your facial expressions and emotions. Facial expressions allow your face to come alive and show emotion and we connect through mirror neurons. When your face expresses sadness, anger, frustration, joy, love, guilt etc, you’re teaching your baby to attune to you which in turn your baby/child will attune to others. This helps in emotional development, emotional recognition (emotional intelligence) and empathy. When this area around the eyes and forehead are in a state of freeze (expressionless) through brow lifts and botox, this can disrupt the emotional development of your baby because you aren’t mirroring those emotions via your face making it more difficult for your baby/child to fully develop the part of the brain that identifies and expresses emotions. As adults, we can see and know (cognitively) that we are connecting with another regardless if they have had a brow lift or botox. A baby’s/child’s brain isn’t nearly developed as adults. They can’t make sense of it and the child may feel a ‘lack’ of connection to their parent because they have difficulty ‘reading’ the parents face. I have wondered about the long-term impact on children as they grow up – will this stunt their ability to attune to another, to have empathy for another and to identify and express their own emotions. Also, what is the impact on their relationships as adults?
The second sense is touch. Healthy touch is imperative for the development of children on all spheres: mentally, emotionally, physically. There is a school of thought of letting your baby cry themselves to sleep-on a regular basis. In the theory of attachment, that would be a basic no-no if done on a consistent basis. The reason? When your baby/child is crying they’re usually in a state of distress and when they’re in a state of distress, their little bodies are flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone. If the parent doesn’t come to the baby’s rescue or protection to provide nurturing or consoling, then the baby can get the message that:
- She/he cannot fully rely on you when upset and distressed (stressed)
- The baby/child will have to learn to take care of their own distress and emotions the best way they can. And the only way a baby can take care of her/his own feelings is to fall asleep.
Another aspect is, if your baby/child becomes flooded with stress (cortisol) on a consistent basis with little/no nurturing/consoling, then it can set up your child to turn to other ways of soothing their distress (emotions, stress) as they get older which may impact their emotional, physical and mental well-being.
As always, I hope you learned something new or different.
Remember, if you don’t have kids, you were one.