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http://www.predatorpray.com/2014/11/16/ ... nipulated/
ATTACHMENT THEORY PART 1: IMAGINARY RELATIONSHIPS
What is Attachment Theory?
The premise of Attachment Theory is that an infant is driven by a need for safety to stay in the proximity of the mother (or primary caregiver). When the caregiver is present, there is security, when the caregiver is absent, there is alarm. The infant develops several innate behaviors such as crying, smiling and crawling to ensure proximity, such as smiling to keep the caregiver near, and crawling to follow if she leaves.
The distance that is considered tolerable ‘proximity’ increases as the infant learns that the caregiver is nearby and accessible; perhaps she is not in sight, but a cry will bring her back. In the safety of this proximity, the child feels secure and now begins exploring her environment, until she gets frightened by something unfamiliar–then she returns back to the safety of the caregiver. As the feelings of security in the child are reinforced, the distance between the caregiver can increase, and the child’s world grows ever larger. An older child is capable of feelings of security without the physical presence of the caregiver, as long as the emotional bond is still present. This is a normal sequence of growing up.
We outgrow our need for our parents to be nearby, but in a healthy emotional person our dependence on emotional bonds is not outgrown and discarded, instead it matures into a myriad of relationships, connections that are deep, enduring and mutual. Friendships, relationships, families, co-workers, teams, communities… we are no longer children, but we are not isolated islands, either. This adaptable behavior system, genetic material plus feedback from experience, results in the development of an individual capable of complex social interaction.
What does Attachment Theory have to do with Instinct?
Attachment Theory is a lens through which to explore human instincts. The wonders of animal instinct–intelligence driven by genetic material: newly hatched sea turtles making their way to the ocean, monarch butterflies undertaking their biannual migration, bears hibernating–can be mysteries to our eyes. How do they know how to do that? What drives them to take those specific actions? It is easy to think that we, as humans, have lost something unspeakably great when we left behind the woods and plains for civilization and education.
Yet the human instinct to bond with other humans is as insatiably voracious and primal as any act that can be viewed in the wild. But like a fish, so accustomed to the water it swims in that it is virtually unaware of it, it is easy to become overly accustomed to the ubiquitous presence of the driving force of attachment in our lives.
Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space. Attachment Theory explains the intense, emotional-driven behaviors that drive us to form emotional bonds with other humans. Starting from birth, we develop the skills based on the responsiveness of our primary caregiver, thus setting the stage for connection, communication and relatedness throughout life. These are the core emotions that demand we take action; they are responsible for us falling in love, forming friendships, wanting to reach out to others, establishing communities and civilizations. When not managed properly these emotional forces result in defense mechanisms, anger, murder and war.
Distinguishing itself from instinct alone, Attachment Theory is a combination of genetic programming plus the ongoing learning from experiences. Our early attachments shape (but don’t determine) our ability to connect with others. Attachment is based on our genetic, survival impulses. But unlike inbred genetic memory of how to build a nest from twigs, the emotional drive plus experience-response is a complex system, open to feedback and sensitive modifications. And like any other complex system, it can learn flaws and also be hacked. But before we get to the hacking, let’s look at strength of the emotions Attachment Theory describes, in the form of unrequited love.
Can you have a connection with someone who is not having a connection with you?
Is there anyone alive that does not know the precious agony of being madly in love with someone who does not feel the same way? It’s torment when you see the object of your desire isn’t madly in love with you, but it’s heavenly when you imagine that he/she is. This example provides the proof we need to establish that the emotions a person can feel in a one-sided relationship are real and intense.
Is it possible to be in a relationship with someone who is in relationship with you, when only one of you is connected?
Or to rephrase, is it possible to be in a relationship with someone who is in an entirely different relationship with you? Ouch, yes it is.
For example, Tierney and Renee. Renee was recently divorced and going through a very difficult time with one of her three kids, who was having complicated medical issues. That’s when she met Tierney.
He was older, handsome, intelligent and caring. He was also a doctor, and they became friends when he offered to help her wade through some of the confusing diagnoses she was being given. For over two months, they talked every day and met several times a week for coffee. When I was having dinner with Tierney, we were often interrupted by a phone call from Renee, and several times he was not available to meet with me because he had plans with her. And then one day, it all fell apart.
Tierney: “I don’t know what the problem is, we were very close friends. I’m very troubled that she won’t even tell me what I did to make her so upset.”
Renee: “What is this guy’s problem? We’re not dating, I have no commitment to him. We talked on the phone occasionally and met for coffee maybe a couple of times.”
Whoa. What? It’s a total he said/she said, except I was there and I saw that Tierney’s version was accurate. Right?
My interpretation: Tierney was experiencing a connection with Renee. He was having a real relationship with feelings, a growing sense of trust and a future. Renee… was she just using him? Well, she was interacting with him, but she was not experiencing a connection with him (we will not psychoanalyze Renee here, even though that would be fun…) The times they spent together meant less to her than to him. She may not have been using Tierney intentionally, but she certainly was not reciprocating emotionally.
Aside from any feeling of injustice here, the point is that even though Renee was not emotionally available to Tierney, he thought she was. And that misunderstanding, whether intentional or not, laid the foundation for Tierney to experience an emotional connection with, essentially, his imagination.
If you are now recognizing that you, too, have a colorful imagination, go grab a tissue and welcome to the club.
The upside of this intensity is that when two people who have mutual feelings of connectedness form an attachment, the result can be beneficial for both of them. And when many people come together to form a community based on mutual purpose, the outcome can be many times greater than the individual inputs. Human civilization is built upon connections such as this.
What happens when an intense, instinctive drive to connect is not directed towards another person or persons, but outwards to the universe?
We have a biological driving force to connect with a primary caregiver that in our primal form provides us with:
- safety and security,
love and understanding,
nourishment and shelter.
To be clear, this is not proof of a higher power, since it is painfully clear that we are extremely capable of developing intense relationships with someone who either doesn’t feel the same way or simply doesn’t exist. Therefore, our ability to feel something when we connect with god or nature, does not mean that there is something out there we are connecting to. It just means we are terribly, terribly good at connecting.
Enough with the flaws. We want hacks! You promised us hacks!!!
Yes, and here it is…
For some, perhaps disillusioned by love, or dissatisfied about the endgame that biology offers, the solution seems to be transcending the earth-bound earthiness of these mortal relationships and their mundane rewards. Many new age and eastern spiritual bodies of thought are directed towards not getting caught up in the illusion of day-to-day life, preferring to graduate out of this endless cycle of wanting and getting and wanting more. The proposed solutions are often methods–whether ideological or practical–of detaching from our personal connections, and re-connecting to spiritual ones. And often the proposed line of reasoning would seem sound, except for the hidden results…
Step 1: We disconnect from our past friendships, partners, lovers and families. By cutting these connections, we are driven to seek others. We end up connecting with: an external god, an internal god, a creative energy of some kind. The ideal is that this connection is a purer form, and will result in a purified life.
Step 2: The proponent of your ideology is often a living person–often called a yogi, master, sensei, teacher, guru, leader etc. The deception is that when you detach yourself from all sources of connection in your life to engage this spiritual ideal, this living person often inserts him/herself in their place–because who else is guiding you on this quest to a more perfect relationship with the creative force of the universe? You think you are detaching from this world to experience freedom. What you are actually getting is an extraordinarily powerful attachment to a person who may have a hidden agenda.
How can you tell when this is happening?
If you are the one deceived, you can’t, but you may be able to see it in others. If the behavior of the true believers and the leader are eerily similar to the relationship between a dog and it’s owner, that is a red flag.
Why a dog? A dog is a social species that displays attachment behavior. To a dog, it’s owner (a higher order being) is the sole source of nourishment and love. The relationship between a single dog and a single owner is an apt analogy for a pack animal that is outside of it’s normal pack environment where many different relationship dynamics are shared within the group. Am I saying that humans are supposed to be pack animals? No, I am saying that humans are adept social creatures that function optimally when connected in a myriad of ways with many different people, and there is an evolutionary pressure that moved us in that direction.
Am I saying that leaders can only work their deception when the ratio of leader:follower is 1:1? No, most of this deception typically occurs within a group setting–but each member of the group is encouraged to disconnect from everyone around them and then learns to rely almost exclusively on the leader for validation, guidance and love. Secondarily, the support system can be with other members of the group, but the leader–capable of ending/starting relationships and dictating popular opinion–is always in control of those relationships.
Attachment Theory explains the exuberance of your dog, whose joy at seeing you walk in the door is not just remarkable in its intensity, but also in its endurance; it repeatedly persists even if you barely pet him and don’t give him a treat. Instead of viewing it as a response-reward behavior (owner walks in the door->dog gets a treat), view it as him basking in the source of Love, the protector of his Kingdom, and the giver of Life’s needs–it makes way more sense.
How similar is this to the behavior displayed by a believer when in the presence of the leader? Substitute petting for hugging and barking for cheering, and the pictures match pretty nearly. It is a demonstration of the power of pure attachment in an idealized form, when the believer feels him/herself to be in the hands of safety and security.
This is the Attachment System hacked; a person’s drive to connect with a greater/spiritual presence is manipulated through that drive to become completely dependent on a single leader for all their emotional needs. The manipulation can be done through misinformation and fear–leaving the believer untrusting and resistant to all other outside information and resources. The believer is now severed from the protection normally provided by friends, family, community and legal system.
So are you saying that spiritual leaders are evil?
No, I am saying that becoming a spiritual leader is a very desirable position for those with malicious intent–people don’t rise into positions of spiritual power because of their spirituality, they are drawn to positions of power because of their desire for power. Spirituality, to them, is only a vehicle.
Through the lens of Attachment Theory
But we have only scratched the surface of what Attachment Theory can tell us about ourselves, our relationships with god and our behavior under the influence of spirituality. Part 2 of this series will go into more detail about the resulting thinking and behavior that can happen when this connection gets subverted and broken… and maybe some insight on how to repair it.
ATTACHMENT THEORY PART2: SUBVERTED & MANIPULATED
How can Attachment Theory be subverted?
In order to understand how Attachment Theory can be used against us, it is necessary to understand how our adaptable behavioral system is able to be subverted from its optimal path of development. There are four categories of attachment patterns, and they offer plenty of information on how our ability to process intimacy and connection is developed in infancy and sets us up for relationship patterns throughout life. They are:
- secure attachment
The four attachment patterns are each worthy of their own study, but of interest to us here is disorganized attachment disorder, in consideration of the believer/spiritual leader relationship discussed in the previous article in this series, where the multiple connections of the believer have been deceitfully replaced by a single relationship with the leader.
What is Disorganized/Disoriented Attachment Disorder?
A securely attached child exhibits the behavior of protesting the caregiver’s departure, greeting the caregiver’s return, clinging when frightened, and following when able. All of these behaviors are in close agreement with the premise of attachment theory. But what happens when the source of the threat IS the caregiver?
Disorganized attachment results when the infant/child perceives the primary caregiver as frightened or frightening. The caregiver may act in ways that do not make sense, demonstrating unpredictable, confusing or erratic behavior. In this situation, when an infant/child is confronted by a threat, an innate urge to flee to a source of safety is triggered. When confronted by a need to flee from the threat straight to the… threat, the child is confronted with an ‘unsolvable paradox,’ resulting in defensive exclusion.
What is defensive exclusion?
Defensive exclusion is the subconscious selective deletion of information before it hits the brain’s emotional processing centers. It is a defensive mechanism of preservation–the infant learns quickly that certain reactions are undesirable and will cause the proximity between her and the primary caregiver to increase, therefore as a survival mechanism those reactions must be suppressed–the method is to divert the information before it can be reacted to emotionally.
Click here to watch a short video explaining Defensive Exclusion: https://vimeo.com/21420217
Disorganized Attachment Disorder is an approach-flight conflict arising from an intense, innate, biological drive to flee to safety–and that safety is the source of the threat. The result is an overloaded neural system that essentially shuts down to permit the flight to ‘safety’ to occur.
The explanation of HOW defensive exclusion works may change over time, as neuroscience is constantly integrating with psychology and other fields. What is not likely to change is the somewhat surprising observation that it happens at all. It is a trait that is developed to support the survival of the infant, but it is also a complex system that later in life can cause information right in front of us to be diverted away from our awareness. If you can imagine a situation where being blind to information that is staring you in the face is dangerous…
Back to our model…
In modeling our believer/leader relationship as analogous to the infant/mother relationship, is there a similar analogy for defensive exclusion when the believer is presented with information that causes the believer to perceive the leader as a threat? That is to say, does the thinking/feeling/words/actions of a believer show an almost willful incomprehension, a lack of acceptance and block to anyone or anything that would impart such knowledge?
An example of a personal story (mine):
When one’s life is dominated by a single attachment relationship (typical of one with a leader)…
“I was enmeshed in the belief system of JZ Knight/Ramtha for 20 years total. I had the following experience ten years before leaving…”
And then logic is introduced that shows the leader to be lying, manipulating, and dangerous…
“I started reading “Voodoo Science” by Robert Park. I had picked it up because of the interesting name, having no idea what it was about, and it was the first time I remember seeing the word ‘pseudoscience’. The author, a physicist, with a guttural hatred for anything irrational, methodically ripped apart many common fallacies (all of which I had believed for years). He explained the science (or lack of) behind them, and sourced their origin and then tracked how the concept had ‘gone viral’ in the years before social media made ‘virality’ common,’ and they had turned into something that sounded like facts, but were just urban myths.
After covering many subjects in detail, he explained his 7 Warning Signs of Bogus Science, a quick litmus test of legitimacy. It was fascinating to see the same transgressions repeated, endlessly, in so many situations. I couldn’t put it down, and read it late into the night. When I was finished, yes, it occurred to me that much of what he was using to disprove snake-oil charlatans and ignorant misguided, misinformation, also applied to JZ Knight/Ramtha and everything I believed at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment.”
Turning away from the leader (i.e. all attachments) means turning away from anything one is connected to…
“I remember sitting in my armchair, alone and late at night, and kind of peering into the abyss that would be my life if none of what I was devoting my time, energy and money to at RSE was true.”
And results in defensive exclusion, where information is subconsciously blocked to avoid terminating the relationship with the primary caregiver…
“I do have a good memory of what came out of that experience, but my memory of actually having that moment… is very vague. Later, I colored the memory (interpretation: I was being ‘tested’ with doubt.), but the visceral experience of the memory itself… I can’t quite ‘re-feel’ it.
I remember searching my mind for those moments of ‘proof’–whatever I could use to say I had a real, irrefutable, unexplainable experience. And I had those moments, of course. And NOW I can explain them and they are not proof of anything mystifying, but at the time, I could not. So I was able to hold on to part of my belief system. But what about the rest? Did I go to bed not believing in the great spiritual teacher Ramtha after being absorbed by RSE for 10 years? I don’t remember.”
The cause of the disturbance has passed, the result: re-attachment…
“After reading the book, I had been pretty shaken, and I don’t know if I talked about it to anyone, but having conversations with my fellow members about the next meeting of the ‘school’, the importance of doing the work we were doing… it sort of put things back together for me. What was disconcerted was smoothed out again, like waking up after a bad dream and slowly the waking world becomes more solid than the nightmarish landscape of pure fear.
I can’t say that I intentionally immersed myself in that belief system by re-associating myself with thoughts connected to it. But that is what happened.”
The results are different when other connections are established…
“Fast forward to ten more years later, and my thinking was very different. I had gone to college, studied science and was exposed to many different people and influences. I still believed that Ramtha was a separate spirit than JZ Knight, and that both of their spiritual intentions were of the highest order. But I had developed a disregard for Knight’s personal behavior and for Ramtha’s reliance on pseudoscience.
I also had a life built outside of RSE, which I hadn’t done intentionally. I think it was the outcome of getting an education and wanting something better for myself than living at the poverty level in an economically depressed, rural area. I found that I had as much, if not more, in common with the people I had gone to school and worked with than with the people I had been with on this spiritual path for 20 years.
So the next time I took the thought of Knight/Ramtha as a fraud seriously, there was something in the abyss I was staring into. It was a desirable life, unencumbered by the irrationality of RSE, and I was able to step out of the miasma of Ramtha.
But there is really no amount of logic you could have thrown at me at that point, ten years previously, that would have made me walk away. I think the miasma would have taken me safely back into the arms of delusion.”
The fog, haze, miasma, limbo, confusion
Through the lens of Attachment Theory, the believer is not walking around in the fog of defensive exclusion all the time, it just gets very dense as one approaches any realization that the primary caregiver is the source of the danger.
The abyss is the lack of any other connections–an anathema to a social species–and the instinct is to retreat from it is as strong as the instinct to move toward safety.
My story is one of many similar stories, told by many different people, but the abyss described is quite similar. Anyone who has stopped being a believer has had to navigate through this invisible boundary at some time. Some managed to see through the fog and gain clarity. And some jumped into the abyss and walked through the emptiness to leave the leader’s grasp. But most of us also have stories to tell of other times when we were wrapped up in the arms of confusion until the awareness of it faded and we were left in the familiar, comforting connection with the leader. And knowing that friends and loved ones are still inside that boundary is a painful reminder of unnecessary suffering for no real cause.
Does Attachment Theory offer a solution?
If the abyss (lack of connections) and the fog (defensive exclusion) are:
- created by genetics (that’s 60 million years of evolution)
engineered by the leader, and
triggered by logic,
The more desperate their life is, lacking any other connections beyond those to the leader, makes their abyss darker and deeper. To move away from that innate danger, they are driven closer to the secure proximity of the leader. To suggest that the leader is the cause of their problems, causes their defensive exclusion to be stronger, making their mental fog thicker.
Perhaps now it is clear how necessary it is that leaders turn members away from their own families, against their communities, and against anyone that would lend them emotional support. Someone who still sees the world as a viable option is not easily controllable.
Attachment Theory, then, suggests that the one powerful thing we can provide to anyone still in a cult is a human connection–against strong headwinds and of questionable observable rewards. The model doesn’t tell us how to accomplish that, or even if it’s possible, or how to find the strength of compassion to do so when our attempts to reach out are so icily and openly rebuffed.
It only tells us of the great utility it is to the leader’s ends when we turn away from our people or offer them only hard facts and cold criticism.