In my work, I talk about attachment, emotions and how they affect relationships. My clients regularly tell me that they are unfamiliar with the term attachment or the definition they have is incomplete. This lack of awareness is the problem.
Many believe attachment starts and stops in childhood, but if you have the good fortune to live beyond your childhood, there is so much more in store for you. I will attempt to explain attachment as I understand it and maybe encourage questions in the minds of my readers about adult attachment, how it affects your current relationships, decisions, and life choices.
My interest in attachment began because of my fascination with dyadic relationships –– couples, siblings, divorced parents, adult children and parents, friends and any other relationships between two people. I have been curious about why each person continues the relationship whether it’s positive or negative. The positive relationship is easiest to understand because it feels good, while the negative relationship encouraged more questions for me. Negative relationships are far more complex and illicit a wide range of emotion that may not be easy to understand at the surface level. Emotional connections (attachments) are unique in that they are intangible and at times may seem indescribable.
The brain has many parts, or structures, that intermingle in a fascinating way that make it possible for humans to know, do, feel, and everything in between. The “emotional nervous system” or the emotional hub is housed in the limbic system, which includes structures like the amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, thalamus, basal ganglia, and cingulate gyrus. If you’re like me then you’re glad you have them and that they work as they should so then you don’t have to know all about them!
But here’s the thing: we do need to better understand what they do collectively to understand why emotions can completely take hold and make people say and do things that they don’t want or mean to do.
You see, the limbic structures are responsible for sensory stimuli like taste and smell, memories, learning, blood pressure control, and mental stress regulation. That’s why I can smell Jergen’s lotion to this day and think of spending the night at my grandmother’s house. It’s why watermelon taste better while sitting on the front porch in the summertime. It’s why when your mate looks at you a certain way it makes you tingle or want to scream. The limbic structures mix information from what you touch, taste, smell and see with memories and current experiences to make your heart race or melt.
Whew, that’s complicated, but I hope my rudimentary understanding helped. Let me know what you think in the comment section.