“We are bonding animals wired for love. This drive in us is more powerful than sex and aggression. As humans we are wired toward attunement and responsiveness.” Dr. Su Johnson, June 2012 at the Easlan Institute
Like many of you, life has found me seeking over and over for something seemingly elusive within the world of love and romance. I’ve experienced a hunger for strong, emotional bonding. I’ve longed for undaunted, genuine attachment with a single, significant other. The bits and morsels I’ve enjoyed of strong, consistent healthy connection have been few and miles and miles apart.
Sadly, I’m not alone. This repetitive pattern speaks loudly about what we are NOT taught and what we in general do NOT learn as a species through parenting and educational programs. We must gain the most valuable pieces of relating information through the lab of our own lives. So, on I went.
Persisting on the quest for getting my emotional needs met found me divorced and studying Melody Beattie’s recovery work, which introduced me to the term “codependency”. Grabbing onto her bestselling lifelines I practiced setting the anchors of “self-care” and “boundary work”. Gratefully these tools improved my relationship with self. They gave me a stronger foundation for all relationship to live upon. Yet, gripping too hard to the handle bars of personal growth while pedaling away from codependency left me still wanting to fully metabolize a nagging, deeply rooted desire for intimacy.
Undaunted and gaining strength, I drove through intellectual discourses on healthy interaction. I encountered the likes of Stephen R. Covey and his 7-Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey added many useful layers to my advancement through sharing the concepts of:
Synergy -cooperation, trust building action and communication bent on finding respectful win/win situations. Win/win meaning both parties come out with things they need and want. As a formula, synergy looks something like 1 + 1 = 3, 8, 12 or any number > than 2.
Interdependence – a means by which both participants are emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally reliant and responsible for self first and then for each other.
I applied these principles logically and practically. The quality of my relationships improved. My satisfaction with life increased. Yet, once again a big corner of my heart kept waking up at 1:00 a.m. crying out for comfort. It wanted intense compassion, empathy and deep emotional bonding.
Eventually I evolved enough to step into a beautiful, strong and stable relationship with a partner equally prepared for our union. Undoubtedly it has been the quality of what I’ve said “no” to in past and what I currently say “yes” to in this relationship that has given me a new sort of courage – a courage that now speaks out loud:
I am ready to be seen, honored, adored, trusted, respected. I need to be held safe within your arms. I want to be ever close to the noble heart that beats within your breast.
Yet even in the bliss of a wonderful partnership, one dim and unproductive misunderstanding triggered up the demons from my past and tripped me up. I said something unkind. She withdrew. Her withdrawal triggered my self-defeating, wounded mantra to spin and blare on the turntable of my mind:
SEE! I am defective. I can never get the love I so desire. I feel like f^@king running away and giving up.
An ancient and familiar backwash of shame poured over my emotional wiring. I didn’t run away. I calmed myself down (I have tools and I use them), retreated to the computer and started to fight back my demons.
I don’t remember the “key word” plugged into the search that night. All I remember from the blur of emotion and lack of sleep is that I found IT! I found confirmation that my intense emotional desire was truly a blessed and natural “need” and that there were smart and capable people out there studying and bringing scientific research forward to prove the point. They call this dynamic Attachment Theory.
The origins of Attachment Theory are attributed to John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. However, it wasn’t Bowlby and Ainsworth who captured my attention.
Studying human relationship and attachment as a child growing up in the lab of life known as her parent’s pub, Dr. Su Johnson caught my focus. I found her words inspiring and hopeful. I watched these two clips:
When Hold Me Tight arrived I started reading it. And when I came upon this comment, the part of me once flooded with shame about wanting and needing forever stopped being flooded. Instead a new layer of embracing that a need for love is full of “rightness” and “goodness” and a sign of health.
This drive to emotionally attach – to find someone to whom we can turn and say “HOLD ME TIGHT” – is wired into our genes and our bodies. It is as basic to life, health, and happiness as the drives for food, shelter, or sex. We need emotional attachments with a few irreplaceable others to be physically and mentally healthy – to survive.
I put down the book, asked my partner to join me at the next workshop. She agreed and I purchased two plane tickets and tuition to a live encounter with Dr. Su Johnson at the Easlan Institute in California.
I could go on and on about what I’ve learned from her. I think it wiser to leave you with a fist full of sound bites gleaned from Su during the workshop. And encouragement that if what you’ve read here was useful and hopeful to you, find out more about Dr. Su Johnson’s work immediately.
- Connection is a need and this need is actually a strength.
- We deal with stress better when we are courageous. And we have more courage when we have someone there for us.
- Secure couples can reach out and be sure of one another. This sort of touch says, “You are important to me.”
- Our most important work is to learn how to connect.
- Love is an ancient, ancient survival system attached to our sense of safety.
- We are designed for close connection. We grow and thrive when we are emotionally connected.
- In order to be healthy and strong, you must also be aware of your need for attachment.
- We are bonding animals wired for love. This drive in us is more powerful than sex and aggression. As humans we are wired toward attunement and responsiveness.
– Dr. Su Johnson, June 2012 at the Easlan Institute
Dr. Su Johnson, and myself at the Easlan Institute, June 2012