This page is a continuation from *COLLINS ON RESPONDING TO NEED – Part One
as it deals with information contained in the following writings:
Nancy Collins of the Department of Psychology, University of California, University of California in Santa Barbara is one such expert.
Her homepage can be found at: http://nancy.collins.socialpsychology.org/
I will be working in my writing today with information that can be located at:
Collins, N. L., Ford, M. B., Guichard, A. C., & Feeney, B. C. (2006). Responding to need in intimate relationships: Normative processes and individual differences. In M. Mikulincer & G. Goodman (Eds.), Dynamics of romantic love: Attachment, caregiving, and sex. New York: Guilford. (pages 149-189)
An infant is developing its physical abilities that will allow it to eventually move out into the world long before it can actually accomplish much on its own. The stage it is preparing itself for from birth is that of exploration. This preparation happens within the context of early attachment experiences, including the developmental stages an infant goes through as it begins to recognize that it has a body, and through its attachment experiences begins also to learn that it has and is a self separate from those around it. At the same time the infant is building internal representations within its brain that will be the foundation of its future abilities to think.
“The urge to explore the environment — to work, play, discover, create, and take part in activities with peers — is regarded as another basic component of human nature that is critical to personal adaptation….From a normative perspective, the attachment and exploratory behavioral systems are thought to be antithetical [sharply contrasted in character or purpose] to each other, such that focused and productive exploration is likely to occur only when attachment needs have been satisfied and the attachment system is deactivated….That is, when an individual of any age is feeling secure (free from both physical and psychological threat), he or she is likely to explore away from attachment figures; but when an individual is alarmed or distressed, the attachment system will take priority, and the individual will feel an urge toward proximity.” (Collins et al, 2006, p 153) [The authors are here referencing the work of Bowlby, 1969/1982, 1988]
As soon as an infant has the physical ability to do so, it begins to explore its environment. It turns its head, follows sounds, follows with its eyes, waves its hands and arms around, begins to be able to grasp and hold onto objects, rolls over, sits up, scoots and crawls, and eventually stands and begins to walk. As I have mentioned before, when an infant arches its back so it can slide off of a care giver’s lap, experts say it is actually hatching itself into its new world — the world of further exploration.
When Collins writes, “From a normative perspective, the attachment and exploratory behavioral systems are thought to be antithetical [sharply contrasted in character or purpose] to each other, such that focused and productive exploration is likely to occur only when attachment needs have been satisfied and the attachment system is deactivated,” this means that even for a hatching infant the step into exploration happens when and because at that instant a switch between its attachment and its exploratory systerms is happening.
This means that at this instant the infant is not concerned with its previous attachments. It is acting as if it already knows it has a secure base from which to hatch from. The corresponding, though unconscious hope and trust is that it also has a secure haven within which to do its exploration. At any point a securely attached infant needs to return to its secure base, at any point that its sense of being safe in a secure haven is threatened, it will seek renewed connection with its attachment figure.
When infants and young children are maltreated from birth as its attachment system is formed into its brain, the infant already knows there is no secure base and there is no safe haven in the malevolent world it was formed in, by and for. An infant or young child will make any adjustments possible to ‘go on being’ within such a world. But we cannot ever expect that the beginnings for maltreated little ones ever gave them the same foundation for their lives as securely attached little ones benefited from.
We see the resulting alterations in resulting insecure attachment patterns of one sort or another. All the attachments, secure and insecure, are directly tied into the development of the right emotional social limbic brain and will, therefore, in one way or the other, affect how a person recognizes and responds to emotions. When attachment experts say that all insecure attachments, organized or disorganized, interfere with the processes of empathy, they are talking about this fact.
“Because a sense of felt security is necessary for productive exploration, individuals of all ages will be more likely to explore the environment, take on challenges, and make discoveries when they are confident that an attachment figure will be available, accessible, and responsive should the need arise….Thus the ability to confidently explore the environment stems in part from having a caregiver who can serve as a secure base for exploration — one who both encourages and supports such exploration and has proven him- or herself to be readily available and responsive when comfort, assistance, or protection has been sought. In other words, being able to use a relationship partner as a secure base for exploration depends on the degree which that partner has proven to be a safe haven in times of stress….As would be expected, secure individuals show more adaptive patterns of exploration and have a healthier balance between attachment behavior and exploratory behavior, compared with their insecure counterparts.” (Collins et al, 2006, pp 153-154)
In our beginnings this attachment person is our mother and/or other important people around us from the time of our birth. We are biologically driven to seek these attachments. Mothers were designed biologically to provide them. (As I’ve said in previous writings, these early attachments took place within group contexts as our species evolved.) Being rejected by our species as infants and young children is, I believe, the foundation of a deep and unconscious pain that can seldom be healed. It becomes completely entangled within the mis-operation of not only our attachment and exploration systems, but our caregiving system as well.
All the links are contained together here: +CAREGIVING IN ADULT ATTACHMENT RELATIONSHIPS
Links in the series separately: