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Attachments 3

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Attachments 3

(For those of you who have not been here, we are working on a new, dynamic, very important 22-message series from the book Attachments.  We have homework every week, so you will probably want to get the book.  Tonight, we pick up where we left off at.  That was on page 24.  So, we start with the heading on page 25.)

Measuring An Infant’s Security

       “The kind of separations that Bowlby studied were not terribly common then and they are much less common today, though you would still be surprised how frequently they do occur.”[1]

       Dr. Mary Ainsworth “developed a method of measuring an infant’s security.  Her way of thinking about security grew out of her understanding of Bowlby’s attachment behavioral system.  However, she added straightforward:  Securely attached children, when they are emotionally upset, will seek comfort and closeness from their parents.  Thus, they use the parents as a secure base.  Once they are calmed, they will begin to explore and play.  Insecurely attached children will not rely on their parents in this fashion.  Instead they either avoid them or cling angrily with them.”[2]

       Ainsworth designed a procedure to measure the secure-base phenomenon called the strange situation.  “Her work led to the identification of the four distinct types of attachment styles, which are named for the infants’ responses (one of them a secure response and the other three insecure).”[3]

(We are now ready to begin to explore each of these responses.)

The Secure Response

“Secure infants were very upset when their moms departed, and when their moms returned these babies generally made a beeline to them.  Both moms and babies were happy to see each other.  The babies wanted to be picked up, and once they were held in their mothers’ arms, they were comforted and all signs of distress melted away.

       Obviously their attachment styles were already well developed.  Their self dimension was that they were worthy of comfort and protection.  They also believed they were capable of seeking comfort effectively.  Their other dimension was that their moms were available and willing to comfort their emotional upsets.  They did not hesitate to go toward their moms, implying that they believed their mothers were trustworthy and reliable during times of distress.”[4]

Ambivalent Response

“Babies showing ambivalent attachment response were clearly upset when their mothers exited the room.  However, the intensity of their cries was several notches higher than that of the secure babies.  They were angry, and they let everyone know it by producing full-fledged, fall-on-the-floor-and-thrash-around-violently types of tantrums.

       When their mothers returned, they also went straight to them, but not all was well as it was with the secure group.  Even though their mothers held them, these babies were not comforted.  They were ambivalent:  They mixed their attachment behavior (getting closer to Mom) with anger.  They reached up to their moms, wanting to be picked up.  But once picked up, they were not settled.  They squirmed, they kicked, they threw toys, and they even took swings at their mothers.  Yet, if their moms tried to set them down, they became even more distraught.

       The attachment style of these youngsters was different from the secure group.  Their self dimension implied that they were not worthy of love and that they were unable to get their mothers’ attention effectively.  Their other dimension was that their moms, while capable of giving comfort and protection, needed more than just a simple whimper to get their attention.  They needed florid (i.e. healthy or intense), tumultuous tantrums—almost punishing behavior—before they (i.e. their mothers) would respond effectively.”[5]  The responses of our parents have a great deal to do with the attachment styles which we have developed!!!  Keep in mind that this is combined with our own responses to our parents’ responses.

The Avoidant Response

“Unlike the first two groups, the babies exhibiting an avoidant response showed very little, if any, distress upon their mother’s departure.  As an observer, you would be tempted to think these children were emotionally comfortable with themselves in their mothers’ absence.  However, studies have repeatedly shown that when these babies are hooked up to physiological measures of emotional distress they are just as aroused as the other babies when their mothers leave.  They just suppress their feelings.

       Similarly, when their moms returned, these babies did not seem to care.  Remember, physiologically they were just as upset as the secure and ambivalent children, but they did not seek their mothers for comfort or support.  Some just looked away; others literally turned their backs on their mothers and moved toward the corner of the room.  Their self dimension was that they were self-sufficient and they did not need the care of their mothers when distressed.  Their other dimension was that their moms were not reliable, accessible, or trustworthy, so they considered it a useless mission to seek them out for reassurance and fortification.  This combination of self and other dimensions resulted in a baby who looked disinterested, even blase, on the outside but on the inside was overwhelmed by anxiety and distress.”[6]

The Disorganized Response

“Follow-up studies that use the strange situation to observe attachment in children who were from abusive families discovered the disorganized response style.  These children had no consistent style of relating to their mothers when they returned to the room.  They showed a combination of secure, ambivalent, and avoidant responses.  For example, one child began approaching her mother as if she wanted to be picked up, then stopped in her tracks and fell prostrate on the floor.  Another child first picked up a toy and approached his mother with it, handing it to his mother while averting his gaze to another part of the room.  Some of the children classified as disorganized showed frank fear of their mothers when they returned, standing motionless for ten or more seconds as if they were terrified or even disoriented.  Others sought refuge in the stranger seated in the room.

       The attachment styles these children demonstrated showed that they questioned their sense of self and other.  Like the ambivalent group, they did not consider themselves worthy of comfort and protection, and they were not confident in their abilities to effectively get their mothers’ attention; and like the avoidant group, they did not regard others as trustworthy, reliable, or accessible.”[7]

Moms Matter

       “What made these four patterns even more astonishing was that Ainsworth systematically linked each to a distinct style of parenting.  Mothers of secure children were very responsive to their needs.  When their babies cried, they picked them up more quickly.  They were also inclined to hold their babies longer, and they showed more affection and positive emotion when doing so.  In short, these mothers were more sensitive to their children.

       Mothers of the insecure infants appeared, on the surface, to be good parents.  They were nice people who were very well intentioned.  They changed their babie’s diapers, they fed them, they provided them a warm home, adequate environment.  They even enjoyed talking about their children and expressed their love in various ways.  However, the difficulty arose when their babies needed to be comforted:  Mothers of insecure children were less responsive, less sensitive, less attuned.  Their babies’ cries became a source of conflict.  Power struggles repeatedly emerged, and the mothers became more frustrated, rejecting, mean-spirited, and even hostile.

       The hallmark of mothers with ambivalent-reponse children was inconsistency.  At times they were very responsive and attuned to their babie’s needs, but then, for no apparent explanation, they became distant and aloof.  Or they became exceedingly intrusive and interfering.  For example, one mother we worked with had a habit of finding her baby playing peacefully and then swooping him off the floor, trying to smother him with hugs and kisses.  When he became fussy and uncooperative, she turned up the heat, getting nose to nose with him, staring deep into his eyes, and screeching in a high-pitched baby voice, ‘What’s wrong, Baby? Don’t you love Mommy anymore?’  As he became increasingly agitated by her intrusiveness, she complained of feeling unloved and unappreciated by her baby.

       Rejection was the key theme displayed by mothers of avoidant-response children.  They had great difficulty expressing sensitivity to their children’s cries.  Frequently they would snub their children and refuse to offer physical contact when their children were upset.  They tended to view crying as a form of manipulation and weakness rather than a legitimate expression of neediness.”[8]

       “…the goal during the first year of life is to create a sense of security.  You do that by being responsive and sensitive.  You can’t really spoil a child in the first year of life by being too responsive.”[9]

The Great Paradox

       Many parents of a generation ago had the mind-set concerning spoiling a baby by giving him/her too much attention.  “Ainsworth’s initial studies were met with sharp criticism, especially from behavioral psychologists who believe that an infant’s cries were a learned behavior.  They did not see crying as a preprogrammed behavior, designed by God as a form of protection or as a way of communicating emotional and physical needs.”[10]

       “But Bowlby saw it differently, and Ainsworth’s studies scientifically supported this claim:  A baby’s cry is hardwired.  It is not a sign of weakness or overdependency.  And a mother cannot be too responsive to her infant.”[11]

Dads Count Too!

       Dads also have a profound attachment influence, but the way they develop secure attachment to their kids is different than the way a mom does.  “Dads differ in that they have a more action-oriented love and thus need to play more with the kids.  Roughhousing (pillow fights, wrestling), tag, hide-and-seek, kickball, hunting, and fishing are just a few examples of what we mean.  When a dad connects with his child in this way, the bonds of love are formed.  He becomes a safe harbor of safety, someone who is warm and can be trusted, especially in times of trouble.”[12]

Paving The Pathway to a Loving Relationship with God

       “Later we will also see how sensitive, responsive parenting paves the way for children to seek God as a refuge during times of distress.”[13]  This is the ultimate reason for me undertaking this teaching.  I want all of us to be able to come into closer fellowship with Jehovah God, especially during times of distress!!!

       “Think about it.  Before we are able to speak, we have learned whether or not the stronger, wiser others in our lives really care about how we feel.  Listen to any sermon that speaks of God’s love and hear it said that God understands us, He cares about how we feel, and He protects us, provides for us, and soothes our worries and fears.  For those with secure attachment, this message comes as no surprise.”[14]

       “But for those who have been imbued with a message that their emotional needs are not legitimate—that to feel upset, to feel hurt, and to feel helpless are signs of weakness—the message of God’s everlasting love is a difficult one to accept.  Some can do it on a rational, cognitive level, but emotionally they feel otherwise.  To make matters worse, they are challenged to believe that if they don’t emotionally feel accepted by God, if they doubt His loving-kindness and benevolence, then they should question their salvation.”[15]  This is the exactly the case with fundamentalistic Evangelicals.  This is exactly why so many people in our church, who love God and serve Him with all that they have, can’t get in touch with or genuinely feel God’s love!!!  How sad!!!

       The fundamentalistic Evangelicals virtually teach and demonstrate that our feelings are unimportant to us or to God.  Many of us have seen the “Train Illustration” in The Four Spiritual Laws.  The only thing that matters is faith in the facts.  The engine of a train is the facts.  The next car is the faith.  The caboose is feelings.  The train can run with or without the feelings.  This is a very effective and clear illustration if we were trains and if faith was a simple intellectual construct and not a core belief, i.e. broad principles for living shaped by cognitive, emotive, and intuitive evaluation of life and experience, which resides in our intuition and automatically inform us in certain situations through tapes or CD’s.  The core belief of faith is a complex ideological construct that is composed of experiences, thoughts, feelings, and intuition.  Hence, the example and the teaching of the train is much too simplistic.

       On the other hand, Extreme Pentecostals put too much emphasis on feelings.  This underestimates the impact and power of the Word of God and the thinking process.

       “Interestingly, a study conducted on Christian college students found that

·        Those with insecure attachment styles felt anxious, overwhelmed, and angry.

·        Those with ambivalent attachment style tended to doubt their salvation very frequently, wondering if they had really said the right thing to God when they were saved or if they had somehow committed the unpardonable sin.

·        Those with avoidant characteristics were more likely to have given up on God and had begun following sinful habits—idols of the heart.

       The good news is that our early attachment styles don’t have to sentence us to lifelong relationship difficulties.  With redemption, knowledge, and courage, we can reinforce the positive aspects and overcome the self-defeating tendencies of our attachment styles.  Then we can begin again, renewing and enriching our attachments to the ones we love with strong, more enduring relationships woven together by love and trust.”[16]

My early attachment style was avoidant and I struggled for years—and sometimes continue to struggle—with relationship addictions, i.e. idols of the heart, but I have not given up on God and He is the love of my life.  I have some of the healthiest relationships that I have ever enjoyed, and I am working to enjoy God and my relationships even more.

Homework:    Attachments (pages 35-41).

(Now is the Day of Salvation!  Come to Jesus, Now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 25.

[2] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 25.

[3] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 26.

[4] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 26.

[5] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 26.

[6] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 27-28.

[7] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 28.

[8] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 29-30.

[9] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 30.

[10] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 26.

[11] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 32.

[12] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 31.

[13] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 32.

[14] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 32.

[15] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 32.

[16] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 32-33.

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