Attachment Strain and Control: My Epiphany


I was at mass this past Sunday listening to my priest’s homily when I decided that I myself might have attachment strain.  I’m not kidding.  Mind you I was raised in a beautifully loving family that met all my needs.  Remember also that I know a lot about attachment both from raising my own three children (one adopted at the age of 6 from a Russian orphanage) and also from researching the topic extensively in order to educate adoptive parents in the Because They Waited program.

Consider also that I didn’t just decide that morning that I myself might have attachment issues, but that in all likelihood the majority of the people sitting in the pews around me also had attachment issues.  (Confused yet?)  Here is the deal.  As a Christian Catholic my ultimate relationship is supposed to be with my maker.  This is my goal.  And I believe that my God has been with me throughout my life taking care of me, walking with me, guiding me.  And yet, even as strong as I have thought I was in my faith, like a lot of the other folks in the pews that day, I am still not able to really relinquish control of my life to God.  I have one of the classic signs of attachment strain—“Needs to be in control of events in his or her life.”  And I have to admit, I have a somewhat intense version of it.

So when the priest was having us consider God in a parental role it got me to wondering how it is that my heavenly parent views my need to control everything.  (It was kind of an embarrassing moment for me.)  But it was also somewhat of a revelation.   I mean here I am the product of amazingly healthy environments who wants to have this relationship (with God) and seeks it out myself.  No one forced me to go to church or to pray or believe.  And yet I am still struggling to move to the completely healthy end of the attachment continuum with my maker.  I really don’t want to relinquish that control.  I really don’t feel that ultimate trust, although I so very much want to.  I think a lot of people in the pews feel the same way.

It really makes one think carefully about what it actually feels like to be an adopted child coming from less than optimal circumstances who is experiencing attachment strain, issue, or disorder.   Yes we may have met their needs thousands of times since they joined our families, but it is still so difficult for them to relinquish control, to trust, to believe that we will be there to meet their needs.  Much like I can’t give my control over to my maker these children struggle to give control over to their loving parents.

My epiphany for   today:   I can indeed understand the child struggling with attachment.  I can relate to it completely.

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