Issues with attachment

Attachment issues are little understood but are a basic human need. A baby cries and it’s needs (ideally) are met. The baby feels safe and secure. The needs are not met and the baby feels vulnerable and unsafe. A secure attachment provides for our basic needs, it ensures that we survive infant-hood. Lumiere (2012), states that “Human beings do not thrive physically or emotionally without close bonds with other human beings”.

Attachment theory is widely associated with the work of John Bowlby (1907-1990). He was a psychoanalyst and believed that childhood has major ramifications on the fully grown adult. In a nutshell, we are pre-programmed to attach, when we feel unsafe due an insecure attachment, our bodies are placed under extreme stress and cortisol is produced. Too much cortisol can, according to Levine (2010), adversely affect the child’s ability to give or receive empathy. Social cues can be misinterpreted, directly affecting human relationships. If attachment is disrupted it can cause ongoing issues around behaviour, commitment and relationships.

Disrupted attachment can occur through separation of child and primary care giver through hospitalisation of either party, mental health, drug or alcohol dependency, divorce/separation or bereavement.

Therapy can definitely help, the counsellor can be that secure base. The constant in a fragile life. However, this secure base must lead onto ‘real life’ attachments, after all the therapeutic relationship is by it’s very nature, a professional relationship, money changes hands and is time limited.

Counselling can help an individual develop their own ‘natural’ secure base. They can learn to like themselves, trust themselves, soothe themselves. To rely on external factors will always leave us wanting, vulnerable. Wherever we go, we take ourselves.

We can become attached to ourselves and therefore learn to attach to others. Most human beings can learn/be taught how to attach, after all, is it not innate?


Bowlby, J : (1988). A Secure Base: Pareny-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development. New York; Basic Books.
Levine, P.A: (2010): In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
Lumiere, L. M: (2012): The Ultimate Secure Base: Healing Insecure Attachment in the Nondual Field. ( accessed 11/05/14 @ 19.28).

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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