JENNIFER BALLERINI

Therapist Blog

The Greatest Love of All?

As an attachment-oriented psychologist, I've always understood and valued the importance of having safe and close relationships with cherished other people. Over the past few years, I've also come to understand the importance of the relationship we have with our selves. Every day I watch in awe as my clients find a voice inside them that is courageous, compassionate, and centered — clear about who they are and what they need, and capable of providing comfort to young parts of them that never got the care they needed. It moves me so much. Perhaps it's because I've experienced what a difference finding that voice has made in my own personal growth and relationships.

In any case, I'm not sure if Whitney Houston was totally right that loving yourself is the greatest love of all, but, you know, she's definitely on to something! And in a less power-ballad-y, more eloquent way, that's what this beautiful poem is about. I hope you enjoy it and that it helps you experience the joy of connecting with yourself in a loving way.


Love After Love
by Derek Walcott


The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each with a smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

This Is Your Brain on Attachment

One of my favorite things about EFT is how rooted in science it is. Gone are the days of psychology being seen as a squishy, not-quite-real science. One of the coolest experiments demonstrating the power of attachment on the brain is explained below. Neuroscientists asked women to brave an electric shock while in an MRI machine so they could observe their brains. In some scenarios, the women were alone, in some they were with strangers, and in others, their partners were with them. When those bonds were secure and loving, women actually experienced less pain and anxiety with the shock, demonstrating how critical attachment really is to the optimal functioning of our bodies and brains. Love is an “ancient, wired-in survival code,” indeed.

An Introduction to Attachment

attachment-style

Mary Ainsworth, one of the key figures in attachment theory, was the first person to determine that there are several distinct attachment styles. She determined this by developing an ingenious experiment called the “strange situation.” In this experiment, toddlers were systematically separated and reunited with their primary caregivers. Some children got upset when their parents left, but when their parents returned to the room, these children actively sought reconnection with their parents and were easily soothed by them. These children were labeled “securely attached.”

Other children were extremely distressed when their parent left, had difficulty being soothed and tended to display punishing behaviors toward the caregiver who had left them. These children had an insecure, “anxious” attachment style, a style typically resulting from an inconsistently available primary caregiver. For these kids, sometimes mom is responsive, sometimes she’s not — it’s unpredictable. Other children seemed to be unfazed by the separation from their parent, and actively avoided contact with their parent upon their return. These children were considered to have an insecure, “avoidant” attachment style, a style typically seen in children with parents who very often fail to respond to their children’s cues for needing closeness and comfort.

So, why does this matter? Because as adults, these styles continue with us into our intimate partner relationships. Those of us who may tend to get really distressed by disconnection and tend to pursue our partners in a critical or blaming way — we are demonstrating the grown-up version of the “anxious” toddler’s behavior. Those of us who tend to shut down and dismiss our needs for our intimate partners — we are the “avoidant” toddler. Pretty amazing, huh?

Here’s a video of the strange situation experiment in action, with examples of the different attachment styles: