Posts Tagged ‘attachment’

We have a little time

November 9, 2011

“We have a little time,” said my son, sitting at the kitchen island, alert by an extra hour “saved” by changing the clocks around.

So we talked about fear, about movies and about how things that we know are not “real” scare us nonetheless.  I tried to explain the brain, our mythos, our culture of fear, but only because I love my boy.  Yet we all love all the world, don’t we?

It was time to go, so we continued to talk in the car.  He said, “I’m not scared when I’m not alone.”

Growing up as America

July 6, 2011

Here we are in July, two days after America’s 235th birthday.  Given that parenting requires us to consider issues such as autonomy, attachment, independence and development, perhaps it’s worth zooming out for a moment and considering our current state of development as a parenting zeitgeist and as a country.

Like stars forming from dust and later burning out and blowing up into dust again, countries are born and they also die.  The Roman Empire has dwindled to a tourist destination (an every-other-month cover of Travel and Leisure) while the sun pretty much does set on the British Empire; meanwhile China and India are growing vigorously toward dominance like well fed children… rising once again (if you look at long-term history).

So, where is America in all this?  America seems to be a country struggling to come out of a very long adolescence.  As a psychologist I have seen that insecure attachment leads to distrust, to problems with relationships—sometimes to avoidance of others, at other times to control and dominance and manipulation of others.  At a national level we have oscillated between isolationism and pre-emptive attacks on perceived enemies.

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Waiting for the End of the World… on the couch

June 1, 2011

We’ve made it well past May’s doomsday prognostications and mercifully into June.  Recent Rapturous predictions of the world’s end have, once again, proven to be greatly exaggerated.  So, now that we’ve dodged yet another kooky bullet, is there anything beyond mirth, snarkiness or the need to invent a new-new-Armageddon math to be learned from this age-old trope?

The freaky guy with an “End is Near” sign is, arguably, an archetype.  If so, Jung’s thinking would suggest that a doomsday figure (Grim Reaper, for example) coils embedded in our individual and collective memories, in our bones or at least in our more esoteric metaphysical collective unconscious.  The power of this archetype (think Darth Vader) is one way to make sense of how much media coverage an unlikely, and now failed, prediction was able to generate; even for a hundred million bucks (what Harold Camping spent) it would be hard for most multinational corporations to get so many of us to be aware of the same thing, even if it was to collectively joke about the same joke.

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Love and Fear on the Big Collective Screen

January 26, 2011

Having studied both film and psychology, I find myself often thinking about the interplay between these two worlds that have so captured my own imagination and interest.

Continuing with my theme for this year:  cultivating authentic calm, I turn to the most successful movies of all time in order to contemplate the zeitgeist, collective anxieties and potentially rising, and healing, consciousness.

If you look at the top-grossing movies in our American experience (adjusted for inflation so that we have a relatively fair picture of what pictures the most people have bothered to watch, as opposed to simply dollars spent), we have the following list:

Gone with the Wind ‘39

Star Wars ‘77

The Sound of Music ‘65

E.T.:  The Extra-Terrestrial ‘82

The Ten Commandments ‘56

Titanic ‘97

Jaws ‘75

Doctor Zhivago ‘65

The Exorcist ‘73

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ‘37

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The Lizard Brain is a Lonely Hunter

January 19, 2011

Goal:  facilitating calm and ameliorating fear, which I hold to be at the scene of every crime of every magnitude—from the cold shoulder to ghastly violence.  Hurt people hurt people; scared people scare people.

Today’s particular focus:  loneliness.  From modern alienation (intellectualized isolation) to primitive dread of annihilation (unconscious fear of disintegration—think panic attacks) we are wired to attach, and thus we are wired to feel our hearts come into our mouths and our guts drop horribly at anything that triggers us to feel cast out from the mother, which is akin, later, to being outside of the group.

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Adulthood begins at 27

June 16, 2010

This is a season when the dust is starting to settle around all our recent graduates, ranging from kindergarten to graduate school.

I have long argued in my own writing that adulthood no longer actually occurs in our culture at the point that most of us say that it begins (twenty to twenty-two).  A recent New York Times article by Patricia Cohen, Long Road to Adulthood is Growing Even Longer bears this out with an accruing host of facts and figures.

Social scientists and policy makers are noticing that there is a newly emerging phase in many Americans’ lives in which they are no longer adolescents and not yet adults.  Obama’s shift to allow children up to twenty-six to be on their parents’ health insurance plans, as well as shifts in the average age for marriage now (27 for males, 27 for females) underscore the late blooming trend.

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Looking back at Loss

June 10, 2010

A recent Wall Street Journal article by Jeffrey Zaslow, “Families with a Missing Piece: A New Look at How a Parent’s Early Death Can Reverberate Decades Later,” raises important issues to consider if we are sincere about doing our best for all our collective children.

Obviously it is a terrible thing to lose a parent, and the article makes a number of important points, including increased risk for depression and suicide of the course of life for those who lost parents when still children.

If we are going to look out for our collective kids, it’s worth keeping in mind that when children lose a parent, things like staying engaged in activities with peers and having adults in their lives who are willing to talk with them about their feelings has been shown to make a big difference for kids.  A lot of survivors of early parent loss report that therapy and bereavement groups were not necessarily helpful, in contrast to these things tending to be comforting to adults. There are, however, non-profit camps for kids who have lost a parent, and being with other kids in similar boats does seem to offer meaningful assistance.  I also think that, as many a grown-up has experienced, the “right” therapist can be comforting while a poor match can feel like insult to injury.

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Arrival of the Fittest—childhood evolving

June 4, 2010

A reader sent me a link to a Salon interview by Thomas Rogers of Melvin Konner about his new book The Evolution of Childhood.  A few things stood out to me; Rogers asks, “What’s the evolutionary purpose of adolescent rebellion?”

Konner replies, “In our culture, we give kids the message that at a certain point they’re going to be on their own and that involves breaking emotional ties with their parents. So it’s kind of like, ‘OK, you’re going to kick me out soon, so I’m going to reject you before you get a chance.’ But one of the big discoveries in the last decade in child development research is that there’s a lot of brain development after puberty, approximately between age 12 to 20. The brain, especially the frontal lobes of the brain, which are involved in suppressing impulses and organizing behavior in a rational and mature way, continues to develop during that time.

But now the age of puberty is two to three years younger than it used to be — it used to be 15, but now it’s about 12 and a half, or 13. We’re walking away from the evolutionary background that we had. Now the surge of testosterone that occurs in both girls and boys at that time, which facilitates aggression, is happening against the background of the less developed brain. Many psychologists are sensibly, I think, arguing that we should take this into account in criminal cases that involve teenagers and the judgments they make. They just don’t have the brain to make decisions in the same the way that an adult does.”

Rogers follows up with:  “So teenagers really are becoming more obnoxious,” to which Konner concedes, “I think it’s fair to say.”

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Sweet still at sixteen

June 3, 2010

Andy and I were talking and she suggested that it might be nice to post something on how kids, even at they continue to grow (and despite being intermittently mouthy, rude, entitled and impossible) actually remain cute and sweet to us parents.

When our little crawlers were still in car-seats, the big boys and girls kicking up sand at the park and racing up and down the slide represented a stark contrast between our kids (cute and adorable) and those other kids (brutal and rather advanced, maybe even talking in sentences, not always kind sentences).

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Paying loving attention to attachment

June 2, 2010

Lindsey at A Design So Vast wrote a recent post, “There is something holy in authentic presence,” that got me thinking about attachment.

Lindsey’s post is about the intense power that authentic presence has on people, as evidenced by artist Marina Abramovic who has a piece going at Museum of Modern Art in New York right now.  The “art” or “performance” or whatever one might call an authentic human sitting and giving full attention to whoever cares to sit across from her at a table in a taped off square in a busy museum space.

Person after person eventually ends up in tears, profoundly moved by Marina’s authentic and unflinching presence to them.  The photos of these people’s faces are fantastic—with tears coming down their eyes, each one is so extraordinarily beautiful, and in a way rather different from features and symmetry and instead revealing the universal beauty of the soul when it has a chance to shine from within the body.

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