As I have reflected on attachment theory in recent weeks, attachment seems to be adept at stirring up emotion in people. Perhaps because it gets to a core element of who were are as human beings, a core element that often puts us in a position of vulnerability and can take us back to places of deep hurt and pain, or in contrast, places of deep love and joy. I too can easily find myself thinking back to those people, places, and times where connection with others has left its mark.
In addition to the emotion-filled memories, attachment theory also has the ability to bring me to a state of cognitive dissonance. Not one in which I am left paralyzed by the very shaking of my world, so to speak, but rather a to state filled with pondering and dreaming.
Having been born and raised in the United States, my mainstream culture has engrained in me ideals very contrary to concepts of attachment. As Craig Shealy articulated in his breakout session at EMU’s Attachment Conference, “human beings will acquire the belief systems that are available for acquisition.” His session was entitled “Attachment in Core Beliefs and Values: Implications for Self, Others, and the World.” Although exceptions can likely be found, this statement operates out of the belief that we do not come to believe something which has not already been made available to us in one fashion or another.
As far as prescribers of attachment theory are likely concerned, my ray of hope against an individualistic culture has come in the faith tradition I was exposed to from the start of life. From my immobile, diaper-filled days in Sunday School, I was learning about a way of life centered on connection with not only my God but also with the world around me.
So here I am as an adult, living in a culture debatably becoming more and more focused on “me”, but increasingly feeling like an alien within it. As a follower of Christ and as a peacebuilder, my worldview does not include getting ahead at the cost of others or pursuing my own interests only to isolate myself from others. But as the dreamer and optimist that I also am, I’m not inclined to give up on my culture and write it off as a lost cause.
Here enters my cognitive dissonance, my pondering and dreaming: What American culture has taught me and what has become my innate perspective on human connection are in opposition to one another. What happened along my journey that has left myself and likeminded others in a position of differentiation from what we encounter on a daily basis? Is it really that being genuinely connected with others is a way of life unattainable for Americans, or is it that what’s hardwired in all humans is somehow being suppressed? What is stopping us from living with one another, rather than just existing together? How can that be changed and how would the landscape of conflict be changed in our world as a result of an American shift in how we view relationship?
Questions, ponderings, and dreams. Questions that today, I have very few answers for. Thoughts I will continue to ponder. Dreams I will continue to dream. Perhaps one day, actions we will be able to take, together.