Our first nine months of womb life are about being literally attached by the umbilical chord to the mother. This attachment supports survival with a flow of blood, water, air and nutrients to the fetus. We might say that our first earthly lesson is that by being attached, we survive. It is no wonder that upon being born, our attachment needs continue to be a priority.
Once the physical umbilical chord has been separated, our emotional and spiritual umbilical chords seek to unite with a primary caregiver. Reassurance of stability and security happen by being held, stroked, caressed, and rocked, as well as by attunement. Attunement happens as our eye contact and our energetic field communicate an acknowledgement of the child's needs. Attunement also communicates being witnessed, celebrated, delighted in, welcomed and loved. By way of attunement we likely begin to grasp that our survival depends upon being loved and gradually we learn to give love in simple and primitive ways.
The stressors and challenges of family life can seriously impact the quality of attunement in a child's life. The level of family dysfunction will be reflected by an inability to communicate deep feelings, blame and shame being common reactions to unacceptable behavior, and a debilitated capacity for problem-solving and effective decision-making. As the dysfunction of the family increases, so does the insecurity of the children to explore the nuances and ways to express authentic love. The children rigidly lock into roles accompanied by fixed formulas for love. Let's examine these four roles and their formulas.
Love of a Hero
• Hero children love by achieving academically and/or athletically. They attempt to distract the family from their pain by being accomplished.
• They also translate success into how effective they are in regard to taking care of others, ignoring their own needs.
• Because they are prone to being perfectionistic, they tend to deny their limits. They often go through unnecessary self-sacrifice as a way to love.
• Their loving is typically accompanied by guilt and feelings of inadequacy since they regularly are failing to love perfectly.
Healing of Heroic Love
• Commit to getting educated about the nature of their loving and its consequences.
• Become a student of self-compassion and self-love. Get devotional about making peace with loving imperfectly.
• Get serious about learning what is in and out of their control and letting go of what is out of their control.
• Because they only define love in terms of how much they give, they need to commit to learning how to identify sources of love and what it takes to let love in.
Love of The Lost Child
• Love by determining not to burden their families with their needs.
• Obsessed with being non-disruptive, resulting in being highly conflict avoidant.
• Identifies emotional and physical withdrawal as a way to love. Typically, becomes comfortable with emotional isolation.
• Is prone to either being emotionally absent from a relationship or the only one emotionally present in a relationship.
Healing Lost Child Love
• Begin to consciously identify personal desires and how to incorporate them into a relationship.
• Develop a voice, expressing feelings and needs, and ask for what is wanted.
• Close exit doors in a relationship, determined to learn how to support oneself and significant other getting needs met.
• Strengthen the ability to say "yes" and "no" authentically.
Love of Scapegoats
• The scapegoat offers love to the family by the distraction of acting-out. As adults they can continue to love by being excessively provocative.
• Loves by being willing to settle for negative attention. Scapegoat children know they are not bad people but are willing to bear the deep hurt of being perceived that way.
• They can easily begin to collude with the negative attention they receive and become self-destructive, demonstrating that others are correct in treating them poorly.
Healing The Love of Scapegoats
• Get educated about how self-sabotaging their love has been.
• Access the kind of support that helps to feel and express how hurt they are.
• Begin to accept themselves as good people, deserving of love.
• Learn to identify and accept their ability to make valued contributions in a relationship.
Love of Mascots
• They love by offering humor as a distraction from the pain and distress of family life.
• Love means avoiding meaningful conversations that could generate tension and conflict.
• Love means engaging in interaction that is fun and playful.
• They don't believe they are capable of making meaningful and significant contributions in a relationship, which easily gets confirmed by their peers in young adulthood.
Healing Mascot Love
• Suspend the use of humor and learn to effectively cope with tension and stress that naturally arises in a relationship.
• Begin to address the fear of being more emotionally present as they move beyond depending upon humor.
• Learn that they can be safe when they are emotionally present and that their presence can be a significant offering of love in a relationship.
• Continue to reclaim their own depth and their ability to create in depth connections with others.
We come into the world with a drive to attach or connect with others. It is likely the continued expression of our prenatal identity. At an early age, the psyche is resourceful enough to identify some primitive offering to the clan, which may support attachment. However, without some form of healing intervention, we run the risk of living in an adult love story reduced to achievement, invisibility, provocation or playfulness. Such healing of these love wounds can open us to the depth and breadth of love with countless opportunities to remain on a path with a heart.