Attachment Living

A while ago I wrote about a nebulous concept, one I called “Attachment Living”

Today I’m going to expand on what I meant a little more, because, well because it’s pertinent to me right now, and I think it’s a concept missing in certain sectors of the attachment parenting community.  I think it’s something that get’s forgotten in a desperate game of one up-person-ship.  Who has the best baby carrier, who is “more” of an attachment parent than the next person.  To be frank, I couldn’t give a monkey’s bollocks about that sort of rubbish.  I really couldn’t, and I don’t think the monkey would be too happy if I did.
Plenty of posts have written about this topic.  About not being so freaking rigid.  I’m going to link all of the ones that speak to me right here, so that we get that part out of the way FIRST.

  • This post here from Conscience Parenting, did my head in at first, but now I get it.  I’m with her, I’m tired of the evangelical nature of some people.  I’m not leaving to community, but boy I have been sorely tempted.
  • This post here is the response from Evolutionary Parenting to Conscience Parenting, and it’s one where I support the conclusion, I’m sticking with the community.
  • This is one I wrote eons ago, about what I think attachment parenting is and is not.
  • This one echoes many of the things I wrote, but does it so much better, I only found it yesterday, but boy is it good.  Attachment parenting, is a frame of mind.  This I am in love with.
  • PhD in Parenting has a brilliant definitive history and list of what it is and is not, and breaks down the little nuances.  I’m particularly fond of this quote:  “When people think of Attachment Parenting, they often think of Dr. William Sears. He coined the term and came up with the 7 Baby B’s of Attachment Parenting. This list is essentially seven tools that can help parents to foster attachment with their babies. You do not have to do all seven of these to be an attached parent and you can do all seven of them and not be an attached parent. The seven B’s are a toolbox that can make attachment parenting easier. It is easier to use a drill than a screwdriver in many instances, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to do the same job with a screwdriver or that it isn’t preferable in some circumstances, but it probably will require more effort and more time.”
  • Jan Hunt, someone I deeply respect and admire has this to say on the topic.
  • And finally Dr Laura Markham, another of my go to parenting gurus has these insights to offer.
All of them (and I’m being arrogant enough to include myself in this) say that there are tools, the tools that Sears himself describes, but none of them, like Sears himself are prescriptive about those tools.  Sears himself says they are tools, not rules. So, tools.  Tools that help us form the most secure relationship we can get to with our children.  Like PhD says, it’s easier to use the screwdriver, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible without.  Which brings me to attachment living, and what I mean when I talk about attachment living.  You need to have a good understanding of Attachment Parenting and Attachment Theory to get this, I think Tracy at Evolutionary Parenting has done a fabulous job of this in this post here, so please do go and read it!
Attachment to me, the philosophy, NOT the tools, is about love, and building secure relationships, and about trust and knowing people, and assuming the BEST of someone, and not the worst, and putting yourself in their shoes.  It requires a huge dose of empathy and, to a large part, a huge leap of faith.
What would it look like if we took it outside the parenting relationship.  What would it look like if I tried to apply it to everyone I met, everyone I thought about, everyone I saw.  It means putting aside all the dogma and shit in society that tells you to expect the WORST of someone.  It means letting go of labels and stereotypes.  It means opening your soul to the possibility, the greatness of human change and hope.  It means, against all hope, that you believe in the human capacity for change, for growth, for a person to genuinely see that what they might have done is wrong, even after many years, even on their death bed.  It means that the door for change is ALWAYS open.  It means that you believe in the profound plastic ability of the human brain for change.  It means you trust that someone can look upon others with love and respect.  Yes, I know it sounds utopian.  I want it to be normal.

Like Attachment Parenting, Attachment Living does not mean blind acceptance.  It means being consistently flexible.  I’m a bit of a fan of the concept of “authoritative parenting”.  Like some other parenting philosophy junkies, I call it Backbone parenting.  Just because it makes it easier to distinguish from authoritarian parenting,  The words are so easily confused!  I like the backbone image because it shows at once how we can be strong and flexible, we have our limits.  So when I say Attachment Living, I don’t mean Permissive Living, a la permissive parenting, where there are no boundaries at all.  Note, I’m with Dewar when she talks about her concerns about how people define Permissive Parenting, for me it means letting kids get away with hurting other people, violating other peoples rights and feelings, and deliberate rudeness, so let’s be clear on that before we move on!

How does that look in real life?  Well, it’s freaking hard.
If you want to live Attachment Living, I think there’s some things that are pretty fundamental… so here we go…
You need to be committed to seeing the best in people, doesn’t mean you will do it all the time, it’s a hard thing to do, but it does mean that you will try very hard to do so.
You need to be committed to seeing beyond labels.  Labels are not people, they put them into boxes and don’t allow them to be them.  It’s a way of granting conditional acceptance to someone.  Sure, keep the label if *you* gave it to yourself, but be mindful of giving other people labels.  Sometimes we can’t help it, I do it all the time too, but I am getting better at not doing it.
Be aware that other people haven’t travelled the same journey as you have.  Their journey’s are different, you don’t know the troubles they have gone through, and more importantly the impact of those troubles on that person.  This is called checking your privilege, something people get their knickers in a knot over constantly.  If you’re unsure about what privilege is then check out this link and this one here and watch this clip – it’s short I promise.  Then if you think you need a bit more understanding of it, then read this piece here.  Actually that last link is VERY important, because it talks about how to show empathy, and it’s VERY hard, to someone who seems to be denying their privilege.
Be honest with yourself, and other people.  Being passive aggressive and dishonest seems like the easy way, because it’s non confrontational and it hides things, but really, it’s hurtful.  I’ve been terrifically guilty of being passive aggressive in the past, and probably will be in the future again, but try not to be, it’s not pleasant.  If you have an issue with something someone has said, then say it to them.  This is especially true in the online world, remember, I can’t see your “honest” eyes, or hear your sarcastic tone.  All I have are your words.
Be honest about how you are treating other people, how you are treating your community, your country, the world.  Is it really being connected with other people to not worry about how you are treating the world?  Is it really ethical to not care in the slightest how your chocolate is made or where the parts for your electronic items come from?  Start caring.  I know we can’t fight EVERY battle, that’s not what I am asking you to do.  I’m asking you to make small changes, to think to engage your brain, to attach and not detach from the world around you.
Be honest about your needs and honest about the need to put yourself first and the need to walk away.  Being open to everyone doesn’t mean you have to stick with them, or hold their hand or tolerate what they are doing.  You can and should choose to say enough, I won’t tolerate this any longer, I come first right now, my needs are important, and I choose to walk away.  How that manifests might be different depending on the relationship and context.  Above all, as you walk away, as you put yourself first in that moment.  It could be putting your baby down momentarily, while they are crying, because you are overwhelmed (note I said for a moment, I’m not a proponent of leaving babies to cry for a long period of time!).  It could mean saying no to an abusive partner.  Equally it could mean saying no to a child when they want to do something that is not healthy for them or you.  Be honest, don’t hide yourself and your needs, don’t allow yourself to be a doormat.
Don’t sacrifice all to the cultural gods of either independence or interdependence.  Know that both have their advantages and disadvantages.  One is traditionally associated with the East and one with the West, but it doesn’t make either intrinsically better than the other.
Accept that words have power, that they can hurt, and they they build and define realities.  They have the ability to include and exclude, and your words will build or destroy your relationship with others.
Finally, and fundamentally, for goodness sakes think critically.  Question things, open your mind, don’t just accept what comes, engage with things and think, encourage others around you to think, but think with compassion.  Above all else think with compassion.  Thinking with compassion, acting with compassion.  Even when others diverge from our path.  Even when they walk a path that is littered with the corpses of a detached world.  We still MUST show attachment.
I’m also prepared to believe that this list isn’t definitive for me, it’s a process, there are probably things I’ve missed.  If you think I have, then by all means let me know and we can discuss it, it’s a growing list, the door is open for growth and healing.
So this, this I hold to be true.  I will keep the door open for anyone and anybody, for I above all things believe in the possibility for human change and human growth.  I know that some people believe that there are people in our communities incapable of change, the psychopaths, the sociopaths, I still hold that with the plasticity of the human brain, and the advances in neuroscience that one day there might be an opening for change.  I am attached to that concept, and I swear to live by it.  I may fail on a day by day basis, but I hold this to be my goal.  I aim to act compassionately and with empathy to all within a given situation.  This doesn’t mean I tolerate all, I will not ever tolerate hate speech, or stereotyping, or intolerance.  I will still speak up.

"Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice" - Ayaan Hirsi Ali

That’s the backbone, that’s the bit that is without cowardice.  But when you do it, do it with compassion.  Do it with love.  For you do not know what journey the other person has been on, or is going on.
You do not know what has happened to that person, in their head, in the last hour, day, week.  You might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  You simply might be at the wrong place, at the wrong time.  So, above all compassion.  Speak up, with love and truly be the change you wish to see in the world, and hold that door open, even if just a little bit.
Attachment Living by Eileen Joy

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