Journal post 4; 15th October 2012

 Today began  by talking about John Bowlby’s theories. The main principles are;

  • A child has an innate need to attach to one main figure although he didn’t rule out the idea of children having other attachments, he stressed the importance of this primary bond.
  • A child should receive the continuous care of this single most important attachment figure for approximately the first two years of life. If the attachment figure is broken or disrupted during the critical two year period the child will suffer irreversible long-term consequences of this maternal deprivation. This risk continues until the age of 5.
  • The long term consequences of maternal deprivation might include the following:  delinquency,  reduced intelligence,  increased aggression,  depression,  affectionless psychopathy  –  where individuals act on impulse with little regard for the consequences of their actions. E.g. showing no guilt for antisocial behaviour.
  • The child’s attachment relationship with their primary caregiver leads to the development of an internal working model. The primary caregiver acts as a prototype for future relationships via this model. There are three main features: (1) a model of others a being trustworthy, (2) a model of the self as valuable, and (3) a model of the self as effective when interacting with others.

In relation to me and my childhood, a lot can be explained; My Mother went back to work when I was very small, giving me to child minders and au pairs until age 4. Whereupon I started  school and from then onwards,  I went home with a friend and stayed at her house through the evenings until Mum got home from work. This arrangement was out of necessity – when I was born, Dad was running his own business, which, sadly, went bankrupt when I was a baby. Mum was the breadwinner for the family (my two older sisters were called on to help with a lot of childcare, I think, but being 10 and 11 years older than me, were probably ‘less than thrilled’ with that idea) and worked very long hours in The City. I can honestly say that I really didn’t know my Mum until I was an adult and a mother myself – realistically, probably not until she retired, a few years ago.

I feel sad about that – I know that it very dramatically influenced my decision to be at home with my children as much as possible whilst they grow up – and in turn, maybe my unconscious resentment towards my ex-husband when I felt ‘forced’ into starting my own business and working full time. It wasn’t something I acknowledged at the time, but looking back, I can see that I did blame work for the disintegration of my adult family life, much as I viewed Mum’s job as been the reason I never felt that I had a ‘real’ family life as a child.

We started to fill in the ‘adult attachment interview’ questions (the completed version is to follow shortly). I started to feel awkward about this when the tutor asked the group if we had nearly finished answering the questions, and I was only beginning question 4. Ok, maybe my childhood wasn’t as happy as I had always believed it must have been – or had been told it was by the other family members (Group denial? Defence from the guilt that seems to engulf most things within our family, and tortures us? Perhaps…)

The natural progression, theory-wise, from John Bowlby, is Donald Winnicott (of course, they follow Melanie Klein and are continuations of object relations theory – last week’s subject) Key principles are;

  • the transition object: For comfort and not-me identification.
  • the ‘good enough’ Mother: Providing the ‘holding environment’ and facilitating transition.
  • true self, false self: Integrity and growth
  • play: Development and learning.
  • The space between: Rather than consider the outer and inner worlds, he was interested in the ‘transition space’ between these domains.

Winnicott suggested that therapy was play; that the therapist was akin to the ‘good enough’ mother, providing the correct holding environment for the client to play and thus learn and develop.

In relation to me; after the end of my ‘previous life’ as a mother, wife, and business owner I acquired a transitional object to comfort me through all those losses that happened in such a short space of time – my knitting. Weird as it may sound, I knitted like a demon! It was about all I could do; it seemed to occupy enough of my brain to stop me thinking too hard; it kept me busy; it made me feel that ‘something’ was being achieved as my world fell down around my ears; it felt comforting – the rhythmic movement, and soft yarns used – I found myself unable to do much else, I was compelled to knit. I bought endless knitting books and magazines, I put wool all around my house – baskets full of it, knitted toys, cushions, even knitted pictures on the wall. And now, I am still aware that this depression is not fully lifted yet, knowing that the days when I feel unable to do much are the days that I reach for the knitting (still pretty much every day, to be honest) I feel angry about it sometimes, and toy with the idea of throwing all my knitting paraphernalia away, but know that I am totally unready for that. I do know that I hate anything that I knit for myself though, often undoing it months later, rarely wearing any of it.

And AAARGH! I have left myself no more space to write about any of the rest of the day – there is so much to fit in and I am already way over my 800 word limit! Another journal entry might be necessary for these thoughts; that and a long discussion with my therapist.

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