A primary force fueling the power of attachment is the intense fear of abandonment. To catch the look of the fear of abandonment, imagine this scene. Mother says, “Get in the car.” – child ignores. Mother repeats, “Get in the car” several more times – child continues to ignore. Mother gets in the car and starts the motor. The child’s face will reflect the overwhelming fear and panic that will guarantee that the child will get in the car immediately. Imagine what you would feel if you were exploring a strange and uncharted island – and you watched the ship sail away without you.
Attachment in child development literature refers to the relationship that forms between infants and their parents or parent substitutes. It is the bond that, at the most basic evolutionary level, allows the child to survive by seeking proximity to those who offer safety and comfort. The attachment bond also offers the child the possibility of experiencing a positive sense of self and worth, for no young child can exist in isolation with little or no adult involvement and not be damaged in some way.
Any threat to the continuation of the attachment bond, even momentarily, activates a strong reaction in the child. The need then for a secure attachment is the essence of the need for a child to develop a survival system. Once established, this survival adaptation will be continuously adjusted and modified by the child in subtle and unrecognizable ways in order to maintain the crucial attachment bond, often at the expense of the child getting his or her physical and emotional needs met. Thus, the difﬁcult demands of a childhood environment and the original reasons for adaptation are deeply buried in the behaviors and attitudes of the individual, and not easily recognized.
The challenge in understanding why you may need to not get what you want begins with the question: “Whose needs did get met when you were a child?”