Dependence is Not Loss of Freedom
In describing attachment, often in connection to dependence, I often start with a thought experiment. I ask the person or group to attempt for a moment to think about themselves without any relation at all to another thing or person or experience. Honest reflection will immediately indicate how impossible this is and establish at face value two things: one, the mind/brain loves making connections to everything and two, our notion of self is inextricably tied to the totality of our connections to everything/one.
In the book “Attached,” by Levine and Heller, the focus of attachment is on romantic connections, stating:
“Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the levels of hormones in our blood. We are no longer separate entities. The emphasis on differentiation that is held by most of today’s popular psychology approaches to adult relationships does not hold water from a biological perspective. Dependency is a fact; it is not a choice or a preference.”
The last sentence is often met with protests and declarations of “but I’m my own person!” Reality, however, has it’s own structure and while we often believe ourselves participants in it as if set down from on high, we are actually reflections of it. We punch a wall and exclaim that it hurts, with science telling us the deeper reality that the wall essentially hits us with as much force as expended upon it. We talk about the “face” or “front” of a tree or rock often forgetting there’s no such thing. Labeling like that is the projection of our own perspective needing to make sense from the biological centrality of our own existence. Further examples abound, but the point is while our perception of experience is indeed quite powerful, it can serve to be as much of a deception as an illuminater of our lives.
Dependence Allows for Life
From the moment of birth and our first cry of frustration from being removed from the security and safety of the womb, we reach and root around to establish connections and therefore help define our experience. What at first begins as base biological impulse evolves and grows into the central focus in human life, the variably intimate dyads that take up so much of our energy and time. This dependency, this inevitable and necessary foundational component to human existence is more than a need however, it is the very means of our interaction in the world.
When we are not consciously relating to objects and/or people, our minds are constantly re-casting the experiences in our lives (what we call memory) into ever more complex narratives. We do not think except in relational attachments, we do not make decisions except within the parameters set up and instantiated within them. Our perspectives/opinions are not shaped within some closeted space in our minds, ready to leap out and lay a grid down to objectively define our experiences. They are created within the dynamic reciprocal process of the flow of information and energy which provides the warp and weft of our life tapestry.
Dependence Allows for Choice
This is not a loss of freedom. It is the acknowledgment of a paradigm for real choice, bound in the imaginative conscious potential that is within us all. We are not free-floating entities cast adrift and unconnected, we are fully and always inter-relating with the entirety of our experiences, conscious and unconscious. “Our minds are filled with information – with symbolic meanings emerging from energy flow patterns that stand for many associated things” (Siegel, “Pocketbook of Interpersonal Neurobiology“). There is no room for feelings of superiority because there is no room for notions of unrelated specialness. Within infinite potential, what one knows another is fully capable of knowing, what one does another is fully capable of doing, what is focused on in life will reflect within our relationships.
The path of differentiation is one of continued suffering and anxiety. In the process of integration we make a functional and healthy whole. We are in this together, period.
© David Teachout