The TV program “Game Change” that just aired a few days ago got me thinking about the power of attachment in all our lives, “from cradle to grave,” as John Bowlby stated fifty years or so ago.
“Game Change” recalls the events during the 2008 presidential campaign during which Sarah Palin, the then Governor of Alaska, was selected as John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate.
Leaving aside all political comments, as well as attempting to diagnose Ms. Palin, which are not at all the intent of this blog, I would like to use the opportunity of this program to emphasize the importance of attachment as a powerful and effective affect regulator.
Throughout the program viewers are watching the gradual unraveling of a person as Sarah Palin is being transformed from a mother and the governor of a state typically away from the limelight into a symbol designed to represent a large part of the American population’s goals and aspirations.
However, when Ms. Palin was exposed to difficulties the extent of which she had not anticipated, she began to experience anxiety and fear. At those times, when we are scared and anxious, not only Sarah Palin, but all of us tend to seek comfort and reassurance in those people whom we trust and love. Ms. Palin, when facing huge challenges, felt lost as her familiar surroundings, her family and all the people whom she knew and who knew her, were not physically or emotionally available to her. Throughout the program she asks to run a polling in Alaska to ascertain if her ratings are still high there. These are attempts, on her part, to stay connected which was was known and familiar to her, thus safe. On several occasions she asks for her children. She often looks lonely, scared and isolated.
The emotions expressed by Ms. Palin could be felt by all of us. We all, in fact, function much better when we feel there is someone we trust and love who is behind us; who has our best interests at heart and who has our back. This awareness makes us feel stronger. It comforts us to know that, in case of need, we can reach out and a trusted person will make him/herself available to us.
Recent studies on the effects of trauma indicate that it is not only the kind of trauma we are exposed to that determines our reactions to it, but it is GOING THROUGH IT ALONE!
Attachment figures – like a family member, a partner, a close friend – help us manage our emotions, so these won’t get out of control and overwhelm us. An attachment figure can soothe, reassure, support, encourage and just be present at a difficult or challenging time, making the whole difference between being alone and scared and feeling supported and loved.
Do you have someone you trust who is emotionally and physically present and available in your life? If you do, consider yourself lucky, and make sure you treasure and value this person.