At Compass Rose Academy, our definition of bonding describes this capacity as the ability to relate to both God and other people. As a Christian and a counselor, the concept of bonding and attachment is an area where it is easy to see God’s intentional design in creation, including human nature and relationship. In Changes That Heal, author Dr. Henry Cloud says that “Relationship, or bonding, then is the foundation of God’s nature” and provides the foundation for our very existence. John the Apostle writes in scripture that “God is love” and that as we are made in his image, we are to love others. In fact, the Lord’s two greatest commandments discussed in Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV) can be summarized as “Love God and love others.”
Attachment theory is well known and understood in the fields of psychology, counseling, and human development. We know that early “attachment” experiences with caregivers have a tremendous impact on our ability to form meaningful relationships, trust, and to experience healthy interdependency later in life. In his teachings, Dr. John Townsend points out that King David highlights this truth in Psalm 22:9, “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.” In our state of 100% dependency during our infant stage, we learn to trust others outside of ourselves to help meet our needs. With a healthy awareness and ability to trust, we can later identify relational needs and build safe relationships to pursue meeting our needs. Franciscan priest Richard Rohr in his book True Self, False Self says that his review of neurological research confirms that “Our capacity and desire for divine love does indeed depend on our regular experience of human love, especially at the key transitional stages.” So, even our ability to trust and relate to God is influenced or shaped largely by our early attachment experiences.
Through neurological development, these early attachment experiences also wire our brains to create a capacity for emotional regulation throughout our lives. That is, our caregiver’s consistent nurturing and soothing eventually forms the basis for our own ability to self-soothe as children, teens, and even as adults. While neuroscience does point to the significance of key transitional stages for brain development that affect attachment, we also know that our brains maintain neuroplasticity throughout life that allow for ongoing development. Even if we have a history of disrupted attachment or neglectful caregivers, there is still hope for healing and growth through the development of nurturing relationships with safe, dependable others. It is never too late to develop and grow our capacity for healthy attachment. If you would like more information on attachment or other capacities for managing the challenges of life, we would love to talk with you.