• Jade

The Science of Attachment

I’m starting to put together some useful information.  The other day I happened upon this article on the effects of attachment on right brain development. I have to say, I’m only about 1/3 of the way through it, but my mind kicked into over drive by about the tenth page.  I mean, after I deciphered the actual meaning of the text in regular English. 😉

The author states the following, and I can’t seem to get past this point: “Emotions are the highest order direct expression of bioregulation in complex organisms (Damasio, 1998), and attachment can thus be defined as the dyadic regulation of emotion (Sroufe, 1996).”

In English: emotions are the way we directly experience and express the literal state of our brains and bodies, even speaking on a neurological and physiological level. They express the type of brain chemicals’ reactions happening in that moment, for whatever reason.  Happiness, or peace, or calmness, or contentment (or whatever your preferred word for homeostasis) indicates that everything is in a state of satisfactory bioregulation. And conversely, unpleasant emotions indicate that bioregulation is not currently happening and investigation may be needed, as to why.

And the second half of this:  “attachment can thus be defined as the dyadic regulation of emotion.” Holy crap, you all.  I’m not trying to discount the figurative or metaphorical aspect of attachment and love, but this is USEFUL information.

I know for me, I’ve wondered more than once – when I’m in pain and feeling the primal desire for my attachment figure – what, exactly, I want them to do even if they were here.

What do I want from them? Like a dog chasing a car…what would they do if they actually caught one?

Emotional regulation.  This is the scientific drive behind attachment.

Emotional regulation.

Our moms (or caregivers) are supposed to teach us how to regulate our emotions (aka brain and body states) when we’re babies. They do it “for” us when we’re infants, by taking the responsibility on themselves to soothe us when we’re overwhelmed. Gradually we learn to soothe ourselves, but usually within the context of that attachment relationship, and with lots of help and feedback from the caregiver for quite a few years even after babyhood. At some point we don’t need them as much; if they have done their jobs, we learn healthy ways of regulating our own emotions without depending on others’ feedback as much as we used to.

What feedback we do need, we get from our friends and (later) spouses, if relevant.

It’s not that I’ve never heard of the idea of emotional regulation. I’ve just never heard the entire focus of attachment pinned on it from a neurobiological standpoint. And it makes sense to me. Attachment is fueled by the need and desire for emotional regulation, but that’s also where so many things can go haywire. Addictions are, at their most basic level, attempts to use inanimate things to help us regulate our emotions (aka brain and body states). So many unhealthy habits that may not qualify as actual addictions are our attempts to regulate our emotions without relying on real people.  (I started picking up on this idea from this article which I read earlier this year about reversing hard core drug addictions in rats.)

For some reason this all feels like really important information to me, given the following:

I do not know how to regulate my emotions without dissociating.

This is no big surprise, given the SRA history.

But it feels like a starting point for me to understand what it is that I want, what I need, and what I’m looking for when that attachment pain hits me, because before now, I honestly didn’t know.

The main thing that concerns me – particularly in the case of having DID with lots of littles and baby parts – is the author’s proposal that “the maturation of these adaptive right brain regulatory capacities is experience dependent, and that this experience is embedded in the attachment relationship between the infant and the primary caregiver.” Which is something of a problem. You can’t re-do the growing up years, at least to the best of my knowledge. Is healing from these deficits experience dependent, then?  And with whom do you have these experiences, and how?

If you know, I’d be interested in hearing. For now, I’m still pondering all of these things.  Just thought I would share. Cheers. ~J8

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