The popular and long held view in our culture, including within mainstream psychology, has been that attachment begins at birth, or even later. Those first hours after birth are a crucial and very important part of our attachment imprinting, a time for newly arrived connection, holding, gazing, smelling and meeting. I would like to see the importance of attachment at birth acknowledged by the medical birthing community, and an end to the routine separation of babies and mothers at birth in hospitals. In the field of Somatic Pre & Perinatal Psychology we know that attachment begins much earlier than birth, even before conception, and that it is a continual theme in our development throughout our journey into life. What we have know for many years is now continually being backed up by a variety of studies, and by science. We have to attach, even if what we are attaching to is challenging, toxic, or at the extreme end of the spectrum, life threatening. If we don’t attach we won’t survive. Here are three examples of how early attachment dynamics can be formed and manifest in our lives:
1. Angela was a very wanted baby girl who came into a womb in which there had been prior abortions that had not been grieved by her mother. The imprints left in her mother’s womb by the ungrieved abortions created an environment that felt unsafe to Angela, and left her feeling her life was under threat too. Even though nothing actually happened to her, and she was wanted, she felt that she had to survive a life-threatening womb. We can feel energies when we go into buildings, and they are not even alive! We have to clear and grieve abortions to create a safe womb environment for the next occupant. Angela became hyper-vigilant (constantly alert) and held the mistaken belief that people are dangerous, and the world is unsafe. She was unable to securely attach because she felt very insecure around people, especially her mother whose womb felt so scary.
2. Tim’s mother was compromised emotionally/psychologically when he was in her womb. Tim knew that his mother didn’t have the resources needed to care for him. As prenate’s in the womb we know everything about our mother, about how she feels, and we are having our own response to it. Tim felt that he had to start taking care of his mother, a common survival response to this situation for a prenate. The feeling is “if I don’t take care of her, I won’t make it”. This mistaken belief can create a compulsive caretaker, or an anxious person, who feels that s/he will die if s/he stops compulsively caring for people. It makes secure attachment hard because relationships are driven by a deep underlying fear/terror, which prevents true choice and secure attachment.
3. Natasha came into her life on Earth reluctantly, feeling ambivalent. She didn’t fully want to leave Source to come into a body, and felt coerced in some way to come here. This pre-conception dynamic can sometimes lead to a dissociated person, someone who doesn’t want to be present, feels angry about being here, and has an avoidant attachment style. If she is not fully here, she can’t fully attach, her ambivalence will show up in her attachment style and relationship dynamics. If she is angry about being here, she may attach to people in a way that avoids real connection, or she may only be able to connect for short periods and then leave/dissociate again.
As conscious, sentient beings from pre-conception we all make many choices on our way into our life. We also form beliefs about life, people, our parents, relationships, whether we are safe or not, etc. These strong and deep beliefs can be mistaken. They are not necessarily about a situation that continued after our birth, but we can continue to feel or respond to life as we did in the womb, unless we get some help to make changes and heal. This is the power of early imprinting; in the womb we are learning about what we need to survive here, and whether it is safe, or not, to attach to people fully and feel secure. Trauma in the womb can contribute to insecure attachment if it is not resolved.
Early Stress/Trauma and Trans-generational Imprints Affect Attachment:
Stress and trauma profoundly affects the way that you orient to people and to life. Growing in an unsafe, stressful womb environment means that your system has to develop around the need to protect yourself continually, and to brace against stress, or unsafe people/events. This becomes an automatic way of life, an unconscious orientation, but it is important to know that it can be changed. When our early attachment dynamics are difficult, traumatic, or stressful or we have felt isolated, and/or came into a family that had ancestral attachment challenges, relationships can be challenging. E.g. if you were unwanted by your parents, you will know this as an unborn baby and this can carry into your feelings about people and relationships because there is a deep wordless place inside of you that always feels unwanted no matter how much you are loved. This can be healed, but left untouched it will continue to express itself. No matter how wanted you are, you may be unable to truly take in love. Ancestral attachment dynamics are the ones that get passed down unconsciously from generation to generation, without question. They are all the behaviors, dynamics and traumas in your family or origin that seem normal to you because ‘that’s the way everyone is, or life is’, and this is the way its always been done. If your maternal grandmother was unable to successfully attach to your mother, or meet her needs, your mother may in turn have found it difficult to attach to you and meet your needs. These are dynamics that can be worked with and changed; you are not stuck with them.
Attachment Imprints and Choosing A Partner:
I have noticed that many of us choose our significant others very unconsciously. Your Little One within (the prenate/baby inside of you who holds all the memories of your journey into life) is often very involved in those choices! This can make for difficult relationships with incompatible people. When we take a deeper look into our relational/attachment dynamics we will often find the roots in our prenatal foundations. If you had an interrupted attachment as a baby (e.g. separated at birth), you may go through life feeling disconnected from people who matter to you, and you may need some support to resolve those imprints, and learn new ways to connect. Sometimes we may manage to have relationships that heal our attachment wounds. Couple’s can choose to make this healing a conscious part of their relationship, deep somatic work that I offer in my practice here in the North Bay, Ca. Often we will unconsciously attract a partner who keeps us stuck in old, early patterns.
Our attachment dynamics can hold layers from a variety of events, and different timeline’s and ages. These layers may need to be unraveled before you can fully understand what happened to you, or why you feel this way. E.g. A child whose mother was unable to attach to her at birth had to go into hospital when she was ill at age 5. Whilst in hospital her earlier attachment trauma became triggered, a trauma that had involved a lot of separation in the hospital at birth, and which she had not recovered from or felt resolved about. Going into hospital at age 5 re-stimulated her earlier trauma, making the later childhood event feel so much worse. Her baby self was still distressed about the earlier separation, as she had had no help with expressing her feelings and trauma about what happened to her at birth. If she also received no help or acknowledgement during the second traumatic stay in hospital, the trauma could become more entrenched, and layered with two different but similar events. Both of these separation trauma’s would affect the extent to which she could feel securely attached.
It’s really important to learn about your coming into life journey, and the resulting attachment dynamics, so that you can get support for change if you need it, and so that you can understand what is happening in your relationships with significant others. Having this deeper understanding of yourself can help you to be more discerning about choosing the right partner, create deeper intimacy, and help you to build new internal resources for healthier relationships.
Early Attachment Parenting:
It is particularly important to take a look at how you came into life, and at your attachment dynamics, when you are considering stepping into parenthood. Looking at this before conception is ideal, and it can be explored throughout pregnancy too. Get my free e-book on my web site ‘The 9 Principles of Conscious Early Parenting’, and sign up to hear news about my upcoming book on conscious early parenting.
I strongly advocate early attachment parenting; connecting consciously with your conscious baby from pre-conception and throughout pregnancy and birth, building a secure attachment. A very important advantage of early attachment parenting is that it creates a buffer between your baby and life’s stresses, and grows resilience in your children. It’s never too early to begin attachment parenting. In our fast moving, high stress world, we all need as much buffer as we can get. The earlier you begin conscious attachment parenting, the better. Another great advantage of early attachment parenting is that if something stressful, or traumatic does happen during your pregnancy, you have a beautiful connection with your baby, and you can heal and repair anything!
© 2016 Karen Melton
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Early Consciousness, Embodiment, Health, Resilience and Thrive-ability, Early Parenting, and Attachment.
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