PHOTO: M.T ElGassier
Text: Alejandra Misiolek Marín
Attachment is our style of relating to others that is established when we are babies and is stable throughout our life.
The latest studies tell us that our mammalian brain is deeply social, and relationships have a huge impact on neural functions. What is very important is the fact that this influence is bidirectional: the relationships shape the mind and the mind shapes relationships.
What is created through those interpersonal interactions is the attachment style.
Studies show that our attachment style pre-established at the age of 12 months is stable throughout our life. This means that the way we learn to relate to our caregivers is the same style that we adapt when we relate to our partners.
And how is this style created?
The attachment style is co-created with the caregiver on the basis of the bidirectional influence of the mother and the baby. The more attuned to us our parents are, the more valuable we feel for them and therefore we establish a valuable sense of self or high self-esteem.
In other words, the relationships form a mental model that is stored in our implicit memory and that permits to create generalizations and synthesis of past experiences. These models bias our present cognition in a way that our brain learns from the past and influences directly our present and models the future actions.
There are authors such as Beatrice Beebe or Edward Tronick, whose many years of experience over the relationship between mothers and babies have contributed a lot to the theory of intersubjectivity, very important for the current relational psychoanalysis. The theory of intersubjectivity defends the mutual influence and the co-creation of relationships.
Such observations were made by Beebe as she recorded the mothers and their babies separately, and superimposed both images, doing it all in slow motion. In slow motion, we can see how certain mother’s micro gestures affect the child’s reactions and how the child’s reactions then influence the mother’s micro reactions. A certain kind of “dance” is played, which, repeated many times, is remembered, and becomes our automatic way being or our relational style.
If our parents are attuned to us, that is, their reactions are adequate and resulting from our reactions, we see that we have an influence on our parents, our sense of agency is shaped. We create our sense of being important and we begin to understand our influence on others.
If we perform this dance, it has a positive effect on learning emotional regulation. However, in each interaction, there is always some disruption in this connection, which can, however, be repaired. When the disruptions are not repaired, then we are creating a negative impact on the formation of the emotional system of the child and, as a result, a low self-esteem.
In conclusion, our self-esteem is established through relationships with others and can only be modified the same way, through creating new relational experiences.
Beebe, B., & Lachman, F. (2002). Co-constructiong inner and relational processes: Self and interactive regulation in infant research and adult treatment. Infant Research and Adult Treatment, 15, 121-142.
Beebe, B., Jaffe, J., Markese, S., Buck, K., Chen, H., Cohen, P., … & Feldstein, S. (2010). The origins of 12-month attachment: A microanalysis of 4-month mother–infant interaction. Attachment & human development, 12(1-2), 3-141.