If children do not receive a secure attachment with a parent or caregiver in the first three years of life, it will take decades to repair the damage.
At least so I’ve been told.
Why is this?
Children are naturally loving. Human beings are naturally loving. So why is attachment so important?
Good attachment reflects back to the child the love that is within them. It calibrates the child’s love to the parents’ love and care and positive attention.
A good attachment teaches the child that love is meaningful, coherent, and efficacious.
A bad attachment or no attachment teaches the child that love is unreliable, impotent, dangerous, highly conditional, or simply meaningless.
When it comes to the Law of Attraction, the essence of the teachings is to nourish and expand the unconditional love we first had as infants, the love that ought to have been cultivated through parental attachment.
For adults with some degree of secure attachment this ought to be relatively easy, because they have on some level an experience of reciprocal love from early life that, however neglected it might be, took root and remained alive in them.
Adults who never received a secure attachment in the first place cannot so easily fall back on that inner wellspring of love. It did not take root. There was no reciprocity to affirm the goodness and value and meaning of love.
It’s a bit like having a compass with no markings. It will still point North, but if no one teaches you what that means or how to use a compass, you will never develop a sense of direction beyond your immediate surroundings and daily life.
So what can we do, those of us who did not receive a secure attachment?
Our own unconditional love from childhood is still there, but it is overshadowed by survival and trauma and is pale and shallow due to lack of reinforcement.
What we lack is not love per se but the practice and familiarity and conviction of it. Without a good attachment it is not obvious to us that love is the thing we need. We were instead taught that obedience, or self-improvement, or helpfulness, or people pleasing, or hyper-vigilance or any other of countless maladaptive mechanisms was what we needed.
What we lack is the belief that loving will attract more love, that it is a successful strategy or tool for enjoying life and thriving within it. On the most basic level, a good attachment teaches the child that love attracts more love, and all the support and care and encouragement that goes with it.
But how can we believe this if we have never experienced it?
I think the key is to recognise that we did not simply lack reciprocal love from parents or caregivers: this is not a case of asking a question and receiving no answer. Instead we received the wrong answers.
In response to the question of love, we received a myriad of false answers. As adults we can with time and effort find out what the answer is supposed to be, and not let anything but the correct answer be acceptable to us. If you know what it feels like to love, then you can know what being loved looks and feels and sounds and acts like.
Law of attraction means that if we allow ourselves to feel love, our lives will reflect this love back to us. As adults we no longer look automatically to others for reassurance and support; we can choose to keep focusing on love even if no one is right now reflecting love back to us.
But as love becomes our predominant practice, reality cannot help but come on board in the same way.