classes at the Tampa Bay Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies, Inc approach the
Spring semester’s end next week, I reflect back on the Second Year’s course in Attachment
and Affects. Attachment theory, pioneered by John Bowlby, is a relational theory
that conceptualizes an innate human motivation to be connected with others. Crying,
clinging and proximity are behaviors infants and toddlers have adapted to
remain safe and secure. When parents respond in an attuned fashion, children can
use the secure base from which to explore the world. Therapists, too, strive to
co-create a safe place which allows better for exploration of interiority. Moreover,
human beings require management of their affects, and emotional regulation starts
out in the caregiver-infant dyad, where mutual regulation, then infant self
regulation can develop. Affect regulation is seen as a necessary component to
optimal growth and development. Theorists differ: intersubjectivity may allow
for attachment within which there is affect regulation; or, conversely, attachment
may allow for intersubjectivity within which emotional regulation is achieved.
Humans throughout life struggle to balance our longings for connection with our striving for autonomy. In traditional psychoanalysis, ‘freedom’ usually meant freedom from dependence, and [masculine] autonomy was privileged over [feminine] connectedness. Dependency, as in human infancy, creates conflict and engenders humiliation. The ubiquitous dilemma is the striving to be connected in dialectical tension with the striving for independence, or as Benjamin might describe it, the tension between recognition (contact and connectedness) and negation (the illusion of omnipotence and control).