Why Other People Can't Fix Attachment Wounds
Top of the morning to you. (Afternoon, evening…whatever it is…wherever you are.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of why others can’t fix those of us who have deep unmet attachment needs left over from childhood. Honestly, for a blog about dissociation, I get asked about attachment stuff way more often (which is fine, because I’m obsessed with attachment theory).
I came up with a mathematical analogy that might help you understand why others can’t ultimately be the main source of our healing when attachment wounds are involved.
The thing is this: people who help us heal from our baggage are a resource, and resources are finite. Meaning they have a quantity about them, and that quantity can be used up. It has an ending point. Now, humans are different than a box of cereal or a thing, but we still have finite amounts of time and energy. There’s a limit to the amount of each of those things each person has in a day. With humans, those resources are renewable on a daily basis, but we still only have 24 hours in each day and we still only have as much energy as we have to give toward all the things that need doing.
I know this sounds a little weird, but stick with me. And pay attention, because I’m about to make it weirder. 😉
Pretend you can put a numeric value on attachment needs. We’ll call them points. Pretend every day a baby needs 50 attachment “points” in order to create and build on a secure attachment with their caregiver. If there was abuse by a caregiver, subtract 50 points for that day, every day and every time it happened.
I’m not a math person, but just pretend that by the time a person is 18, they need to have accumulated a minimum of 50,000 attachment points from a caregiver in order to have a healthy sense of attachment. 50,000 is the bare minimum to have developed into a person who feels securely attached and has developed a healthy way of relating to others and the world.
Now pretend other human beings have an average of 25 attachment points to give out every single day. 25 TOTAL. Not just 25 to give to you. 25 to divide up between every person in their life that’s important to them. Because people are a finite resource, remember? Or if you have an especially loving and committed person, maybe they have 30 to give out. Whatever. The actual numbers don’t matter. The concept is what matters.
Now consider: if you didn’t get your attachment needs met in childhood, you are already starting your healing process in the negative. If you were abused, if you suffered trauma, if you had very few (if any) reliable, stable, loving people in your life as you grew up, you may be starting adulthood with -50,000 points in the attachment need category. You’re starting in the red.
So even if you have a very, very loving person who gives you all of their attachment points every single day for years, that one person is not going to be able to give enough to even get you back up to 0. It’s just too big of a deficit for one person to try to fill. A hundred +5’s is not going to balance out -50,000.
Note: I’m not saying other people can’t HELP. They can. I’m just saying they can’t – solely by themselves – fix you. By all means, surround yourself with as many loving people as possible. But this is why you can’t expect the healing to come exclusively from being loved by others.
The good news is that you can heal those places in yourself, as I have written about elsewhere. You are the only one who can. You have the unique ability to choose to heal yourself even without someone else coming in and fixing you. Self-love seems to have a higher “numeric” value (for the purposes of this post) than love received from other humans. Even though I don’t necessarily know why, I do know that it’s true.
Of course…this is all just my opinion. So take it for what it’s worth. But I was trying to find a concrete example to help show you why others are not the solution to attachment wounds. I hope it helps.