Friday I attended a conference on applying attachment theory to working with children and teens. Attachment problems arises for many reasons. Sometimes the parent isn’t able to respond to the child effectively. Other times life intervenes and disturbs a previously good parent and child relationship. The task, according to the presenter, is to teach the parent how to connect and the child how to allow connection. He emphasized that in order to accomplish this an engaged parent must be in the room when working with young people.
Sitting in a conference room in Montpelier I found myself thinking about the ways ceremony addresses attachment issues. Ceremony is all about establishing, or reestablishing, connection: with family, community, Pachamama, the Ancestors, self, and the Creator. While we can, and do, conduct ceremony for individuals alone, ceremony is often more effective when friends and loved ones are present. The healing power of ceremony is enhanced by shared experience.
I believe we live in a time of deeply disturbed attachment. We seem encouraged at every turn to be in touch and alone. Physical touch is increasingly relegated to the realm of sexuality, confined to the bedroom, an island of sensory intimacy in an expanse of electronic media. The everyday world of lifelong friendships, conversations continued daily, face-to-face, is fading, along with the richly textured experience of the natural world. Our collective lives are out of balance.
Attachment focused therapy and good ceremony share the common goal of aiding us to meet, and be deeply nourished in the meeting. They are reparative, seeking healing rather than adjustment. This quest pushes against the cultural demand for ever-increasing consumption and isolation, replacing greed and fear with simple connection.
Psychotherapy and ceremony can be paths to a life of profound connection, but the journey is arduous. We need encouragement to stay on the way. Therapy and ceremony are most profoundly effective when those on the journey are able to build a network of loving supporters to sustain them, and to share life’s journey. Connection is healing, deeply secure attachment is freeing.
In our lives we are repeatedly invited to repair relationship. Ceremony and psychotherapy are two paths towards that goal.