When you hear the word “attachment,” what comes to mind and what does it mean to you? Does your mind go to ideas related to having an infant? Perhaps you have visions of “baby-wearing,” “co-sleeping,” “breast-feeding on demand,” “responsiveness to crying” etc. Or, did you mind go toward relationships, recalling the Tom Cruise quote from Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.” This idea is one that suggests attachment means an inability to live without the other person – “I cannot live without you. I would simply die if you weren’t in my life.”
You are not alone if you share the above first reactions upon hearing “attachment.”
Don’t confuse attachment with love
In searching the word “attachment” on the internet, you can find a variety of results. I once stumbled upon a quote that read, “Try not to confuse attachment with love. Attachment is about fear and dependency and has more to do with self- love than love of others. Love without attachment is the purest love….” There are many limited views on attachment and there are also many misconceptions about attachment. Unfortunately for the author of the quote above, they’ve confused attachment with enmeshment.
Despite the misconceptions, there is a great deal of research on the topic of attachment. It is true that attachment can take on both healthy and unhealthy forms, but for the purpose of this blog we will explore attachment as being bonded with another in a positive way that allows us to relate to each other from a place of kindness and compassion. It is an essential foundation for a long-lasting relationship.
The four “S’s” of Attachment
Daniel Seigel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center. Dr. Siegel is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, an educational organization, which offers online learning and in-person lectures that focus on how the development of mindsight in individuals, families and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes. Dr. Seigel talks about the 4 S’s of attachment:
- Seen– not just seeing with the eyes, but it means perceiving another deeply and empathetically
- Safe- avoiding actions and responses that would frighten or hurt the person we are in relationship with
- Soothed– helping the other person to deal with difficult emotions and situations
- Secure– helping the other person cultivate an internalized sense of well-being
When we experience the 4 S’s in any significant relationship, we develop powerful and important beliefs about ourselves and our world. We believe things such as, “I am good. I am wanted. I am loveable. I am safe. My life is important. I can get my needs met. I can trust.”
Applying this relationship to the workplace
We would all hope for such a relationship with a loving parent, grandparent, spouse or friend. But, what if we could have this kind of relationship with those in our workplace? What if an “attachment-based leadership culture” could be created and nurtured? Would it change your work experience if your supervisor was a safe haven and a secure base for you or if you could provide that for those you supervise?
These ideas may feel very foreign or even impossible, but let’s just take a second to dream together. Look again at the 4 S’s above. Take a deep breath and imagine walking through the doors of a workplace where you felt seen, safe, soothed and secure. What a difference that might make in your performance, your passion, your tenure, and your overall sense of trust (in self and others)! Feeling securely attached to a supervisor in your workplace is likely to give you a deeper sense of connection, more confidence in your work, and the ability to be more courageous and creative. – Amy Alexander, Executive Director and Co-Founder, The Refuge Center
Want to know more? Stay tuned for more information on Attachment-Based Leadership and mark your calendar for Friday, November 14, 2014 at 7:55 am when we will explore this topic in depth with NBB speaker, Amy Alexander. It may just change the culture of your organization forever!