Eastern Mennonite University


Initial conversations on Attachment theory, Anabaptism, the science of love, healthy relationships, and spirituality... brought to you by members and friends of the EMU community.

Integrating Heart and Soul: The New Science of Attachment & EFT by Sue Johnson

April 14th, 2011 – by Follow Up

Audio Recording

Download a PDF of Sue Johnson’s presentation.

Response by Christian Early

Thank you Sue for a magnificent and mesmerizing plenary presentation. My bodied being says “YES.”

YES to your part observation, part claim that we come back…in religion, in mysticism, in romance, and in families…to love. In coming back to love, the implication is that we have also gone out from love. That the going out from love, and the return to love, is the heartbeat of life. John Bowlby famously said that “all of us, from the cradle to the grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.” It feels to me as if tonight, and this whole conference, is an excursion in which we come back to love. Jesus of Nazareth, during his excursion on earth, taught us to call God Abba…a loving father from whom we go out in exploration, discovering all sorts of stuff, and into whose arms we can return even as Jesus did on the cross. We come back to love. (more…)

The Social Regulation of Emotion by James Coan

April 14th, 2011 – by Follow Up

Audio Recording

Response by Christian Early

Thank you Jim for a wonderful presentation.

What I like about the argument that you make is that it seems intuitively true and simple, but at the same time it is also incredibly profound and world changing. That is, what attracts me to attachment theory is also what attracts me to social baseline theory. I believe that we are dealing here with an honest to goodness paradigm shift. Where everyone because of training in a particular paradigm saw one thing, you started seeing something else. And, by golly, I think you are right. (more…)

Mindsight, Mindfulness and the Journey from Me to We by Dan Siegel

April 14th, 2011 – by Follow Up

Part 1:

Part 2:

Audio Recording

Download a PDF of Dan Siegel’s presentation. (more…)

Narratives of Care: The Social Echo of Community Transformation by John Paul Lederach

April 14th, 2011 – by Follow Up

Audio Recording

Download a PDF of John Paul Lederach’s persentation.

Response by Christian Early

Thank you John Paul for a beautiful and moving presentation.

To quote Sue Johnson “And so we come back, always come back…in religion, in mysticism, in romance, and in families…to love.”  I suggested in my response to Sue that attachment theory is not only a theory of growth, but also of transformation.  What John Paul has given us today is a good reason to believe that that is actually so. (more…)

Emotion, Attachment, and Theology: How Do They Fit in the Hierarchy of the Sciences? by Nancey Murphy

April 14th, 2011 – by Follow Up

Audio Recording

Response by Christian Early

Thank you Nancey for a wonderful and spirited keynote.

We need to think very differently about what it means to be human, what it means to have a sense of self, and the extension of our sense of self beyond our skin. We are having to locate it not in the space between our ears, but in the space between friends, lovers, and family members. The old picture of what it means to be human is quite simply false and the Bible got this one right too. (more…)

Why Attachment Theory

October 4th, 2010 – by Annmarie Early

Developed by John Bowlby in the 1950’s, attachment theory identifies the qualities necessary for secure connection and the predictable cycles of distress that occur when relationship bonds are ruptured.  His research shows that early childhood deprivation has severe consequences for development and serious implications for the individual and the larger society (Bowlby, 1982; Karen, 1996). Attachment theory is growing in popularity among counselors, educators, and scientists because it explains the dynamics of human relationships and functioning and it makes contact with what we are learning about human beings from neuroscience (Johnson, 2004; Schore, 2009).

Attachment is an innate motivating force that influences our sense of self and our sense of the other (Hofer, 2006, Johnson, 2009 & 2004).  Out of key interactions with caregivers, we develop “internal working models” that tell us about the inside and in-between of relationship.  Research indicates that these working models develop out of relationship, influence the capacity and possibilities for relationship, and can be re-worked within a healthy secure relationship (earned security).  The strength of the relationship bond, in childhood and across the lifespan, is crucial for the health of the individual and the system (Johnson, 2004; Mikulancer & Shaver, 2007; Siegel & Hartzell, 2005).

The research on infant-caregiver dyad has now expanded well beyond the childhood years to include attachment longings active in adult relationships (Johnson, 2004; Mikulancer & Shaver, 2007).  The findings are clear: accessibility and responsiveness, the key qualities necessary for secure attachment in children, are active across the lifespan.  Social contact is essential for overall well-being (Coan, 2010; Coan, Schaefer and Davidson, 2006) and physical health (Ham & Tronick, 2009).  Throughout their life, humans need a safe haven and a secure base to function fully and well; adults as well as children need protection from danger and security for exploration in order to thrive.

The key question, “Will you be there for me when I really need you?” provides an entry point for understanding the dynamics of human behavior.  When the answer to this question is “yes” we are able to form secure connections that provide the safety and security necessary for relational contact and exploration.  Internal alarm bells begin to sound, however, when we feel threatened or our relational connections are challenged.  Whether in childhood or as adults, predictable patterns of distress (protest, clinging and seeking, despair/depression and detachment) are activated when we feel our “other” is not there for us (Johnson, 2004).  This system is about protection and affect regulation; we use our attachment connections to modulate our internal state.

Attachment theory, then, gives us an account of the biological and relational dynamics of affect regulation (Schore & Schore, 2009).  Healthy attachment relationships soothe and calm.  Insecure attachment styles are coping patterns, which provide protection for the individual in the moment, but often negatively impact the capacity for healthy relating (Beckes, Simpson & Erickson, 2010; Mikulancer & Shaver, 2007).  Research now shows that repair is possible whether working with an individual, couple, or family (Fosha, 2009;  Johnson, 2004 & 2009; Diamond, 2003).  Moreover, current research demonstrates the attachment has relevance for social relating and social policy.

Attachment theory is a lens.  It provides a way to see and understand behaviors that otherwise might not make sense, bringing reparation and healing at all levels of relating.  For the individual, couple, family, community and society, attachment theory provides an exciting next step for understanding yourself, your work, your relationships and the larger world.

Beckes, Simpson, and Erickson (2010).  Of snakes and succor:  Learning secure attachment associations with novel faces via negative stimulus pairing.  Psychological Science OnlineFirst, April 5, 2010 as dol: 10.1177/0956797610368061.

Bowlby, J.  (1982).  Attachment vol.1, 2nd.ed. New York:  Basic Books.

Coan, J.  (2010).  Adult attachment and the brain.  Journal of social and personal relationships, V.27(2): 210-217.

Diamond G.S. & Stern, R.S.  (2003).  Attachment-based family therapy for depressed adolescents: Reparing attachment failures. In Johnson & Wiffern (eds.) Attachment Processes in couple and family therapy, New York: The Guilford Press.

Fosha, D. ( 2009).  Emotion and recognition at work:  Energy, vitality, pleasure, truth, desires, and the emergent phenomenology of transformational experience. In Fosha, Siegel & Solomon (eds.), The Healing power of emotion:  Affective neuroscience, development and clinical practice, New York W.W. Norton and Co.

Ham, J. & Tronick, E.  (2009).  Relational psychophysiology:  Lessons from mother-infant physiology research on dyadically expanded states of consciousness. Psychotherapy Research, November 2009; 19(6): 619-632.

Hofer, M.A.  (2006).  Psychobiological roots of early attachment.  Current directions in psychological science.  15 (2).

Johnson, S.M.  (2009).  Extravagant Emotion:  Understanding the transforming love relationships in emotionally focused therapy, In Fosha, Siegel & Solomon (eds.),  The Healing power of emotion:  Affective neuroscience, development and clinical practice, New York W.W. Norton and Co.

Johnson, S. M.  (2004).  The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy:  Creating Connection, New York: Brunner/ Mazel.

Johnson, S.M., & Whiffen, V. (1999). Made to measure: Attachment styles in couples therapy. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 6, 366- 381.

Karen, R.(1998) Becoming attached:  First relationship and how they shape our capacity to love. New York:  Oxford University Press.

Mikulancer & Shaver (2007).  Attachment in adulthood:  Structure, dynamics and change.  New York:  Guilford Press.

Schore, J.R. & Schore, A.N. (2008).  Modern attachment theory: The central role of affect regulation in development and treatment.  Clinical Social Work J. 36:9-20.

Siegel, D.J. & Harzell, M.  (2006).  Parenting for the inside out:  How a deeper self-understanding can help you raise children who thrive. New York: Penguin.

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