Posts Tagged ‘attachment’

Watching my mother struggle to retrieve memories that have gotten lost in the tangles…

Witnessing her frustration about her inability to do things that she used to do…

Sensing her fear and confusion when she can’t see through the fog in her brain and doesn’t remember where she is or what she’s doing…

Hearing her beg me to stay with her as she showers and telling me that she’s worthless and wishes she were dead…


The pain is almost unbearable.

The pain is more than empathy – – more than imagining how frustrating and terrifying it must feel to not remember.

It’s more than the agony of helplessness in the face of her suffering.

At the pit of it is the pain of the severing of the bonds of attachment.  This pain is brutal and terrifying.  It feels like you’re going to die.

John Bowlby, the first theorist to talk about attachment,described attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings” (Bowlby, 1969, p. 194).  Children who experienced significant attachment relationships with a caregiver have a sense of security that allows them to feel safe to explore the world.  Harry Harlow’s research with the monkeys suggested that babies needed more than just safety and security – they also need love.  Sue Johnson, a researcher and couple’s counselor from Canada takes these ideas a step further.  She looked at attachment as it extends into adulthood.  She argues that physical and emotional isolation (the severing of an emotional bond) is traumatizing, so much so that the brain actually codes it as danger.  The pain people feel as Alzheimer’s takes away their loved one is the pain of a slowly severing bond, the primal pain of feeling nurturing, soothing and protection being ripped away.


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