How do you know when you are attached to someone? How do you know if a person is attached to you? Psychologists have special meanings for a lot of words, but our meaning for the word “attachment” is pretty much like everyone else’s meaning. Attachment is a mutual, reciprocal relationship with a particular other person that transcends time, distance and space. When I stop to think about it, that definition means a LOT.
First, the relationship is mutual and reciprocal. A young teenager cannot be attached to Justin Bieber. She might be infatuated but not attached, because he is not involved with her.
Next, the relationship is with a PARTICULAR other person. Attachments can’t be transferred. We certainly can be attached to several people and most of us are, but the attachment you have to one person cannot just be moved over, like you transfer your phone contract. So, for example, when a little guy, a toddler or baby, changes caregivers at the daycare, or gets a new babysitter, he is not transferring his attachment. He actually has LOST one attachment and has to create a new one.
The relationship transcends time, distance and space. Wow. That means that it persists even in the face of those barriers. When young adults leave for university, they and their parents have to work out their connections. But the don’t stop being attached because the young person has left. Similarly, we don’t lose our attachment to loved ones who die. We lose our connection, because the mutual reciprocity isn’t available, but the attachment stays.
Attachments have many qualities. Some are warm and secure. Others are ambivalent, with some sense of insecurity and distress. More on that later. In the meantime, can you sit with the question about your attachments? Feel into your connections with important other people and see if you can sense the qualities of those attachments. What is it like in your experience to be attached?