Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Strange Attachment, Newton's 1st Law

My ex, who is now so ex in time passed that it's a sign of my dating incompetence to still be calling her that has recently taken to facebook usage. And in a bizarre demonstration of attachment theory, she, a Japanese national posts content about her life in a manner almost identical to my Japanese host mother.

Which I find weird and delightful, I love both women. But currently I see attachment theory everywhere, and it kind of freaks me out. But it also kind of makes sense without me being able to wrap my head around it.

For my own part, I left psychotherapy once I basically accepted that attachment theory applied to me. And generally in the folksy way it is expressed attachment theory is ye old 'girls marry their father' and I guess the inverse 'boys marry their mother' though it's said less and I'm not sure if it is a folk saying, or if it isn't said much it's because the western culture obsesses over the bride in our wedding tradition and hence it is there but nobody really gives a shit about the groom.

I feel it's more accurate though to say that I tried to play the role of my father. A powerful unconscious drive, a given. And from my observations, I actually believe children can probably pick one of their parents to emulate. There are many strong women in my life, most of my closest friends in fact, and sometimes that strength has been passed on from a strong matriarchal mother, and sometimes it's the father as patriarch passed onto their daughter. In which case, what I think I see is 'girls marrying their mother' to the play the role of their father.

It all sounds so incestuous, and I think it's one of the things your friends rarely point out to you because of the implied incestuous drivers. But I think about attachment theory in terms of Newton's first law, that's how I try to make sense of something so obviously undesirable yet so prevalent.

Newton's First Law of Motion basically says that a body will stay at rest or continue on in it's trajectory unless some other force acts upon it.

In a deterministic (yet unpredictable) universe where there is no free will (as I believe) this applies to the development and thought processes of a child. A child is typically (and increasingly) given one example of what a relationship is, and how that relationship works and how attachment is formed. Children are in fact not so much raised as aimed and released into adulthood, and in accordance with Newton's 1st law, stuck on that trajectory unless they are just dumb lucky enough to have that journey interrupted.

Even though each of us is in a position to observe that their are many kinds of relationships between adults, and that our best friends parents have a different relationship to our own. It's to be expected that all our 'norms' or 'relationship givens' will come from how our parents interacted.

We are copying a solution to a problem of many solutions. And some of us are copying answers that are wrong.

And I feel this post now splitting (divorcing if you will) down two very different paths.

1. The first is why I think attachment theory needs to be a meme that takes off and gets annoying as intellectual nobodies discuss it pretentiously while updating their 'goodreads' profile on facebook. Yes that saturated in public discourse. I think it's important because of the advent of divorce.

Here I think many Family-First or Christian Conservatives are precisely right for precisely wrong reasons. The deterioration of family's in our society can be laid at the feet of divorce. But I feel they are naive, and just plain wrong to think the solution is to deprive people of the choice of divorce so they will work on their marriages into some ideal solution.

Divorce has been around since Henry the 8th at least in Christendom, but really not an option for the vast majority of people until a matter of decades ago. Even then, the stigma of divorce has taken much longer to make it a real option than the legal system has.

Church and state sanctioned marriages set up monogomy as a solution to the problem of the traditional romantic arrangement - the harem system. Where a dominant male monopolises all the reproductive rights. This reduces biodiversity and increases sexual jealousy related violence. So having the state or church impose restrictions was kind of a good social manipulation.

But imperfect, because it also deprived people for centuries of the ability to recognise they made a mistake and get divorced. I'm firmly of the mind that your relationship fucks up when you choose your partner if it is going to fuck up at all. And staying together is not a measure of success. You get fucked couples that split - at least giving one the prospect that you might learn and make better choices. But you have fucked couples that stay together.

Not having divorce meant that among married couples - the second situation had to be true on mass. Compounded by the fetishisation of virgin brides in virgin white, or 'making an honest women' meaning that for much of the last 10 centuries, most married couples hadn't even experimented to learn which partner to choose.

There were only two mitigating factors - a) arranged marriage, where in a matchmaker tradition you had the prospect of a competent expert being able to recognise patterns of behaviour, learn from the legacy and possibly correct for it. However I personally believe competence to be rare. and b) restricted choice, which I really don't know how it effects attachment theory, but basically we are far more mobile and able to find partners that recreate the disfunction of our parents relationship than perhaps was the case when you lived in a small farming community of 100. However, the numbers game I guess could have possibly exacerbated the feedback effect of children acting out their parents relationships again and again.

Perhaps the scariest prospect of attachment theory, is the possibility that when we play the role of one of our parents in our relationship we actually make our partner play the other role, where they otherwise would not be that person. A scary scary thought.

In summarium of divorce though, basically what it has done is populate our world with a multitude of 'solutions' to the problem of relationships (how two adults relate to eachother) that were only solutions when divorce was not allowed. Basically without the threat of being left and deprived access to reproduction or raising your children, a bunch of highly dysfunctional, toxic and relationship killing behavior could fly. And it seems some kids can run the differential and realise they can divorce their partner rather than tolerate what their parents lived with, others can't and assume it's natural.

2. Which brings me to the deterministic line of thought I will ominiously call 'the filter'. You can look at couples and observe that on occasion two people highly compatible seemed to be able to find eachother and marvel at the luck of it. And sometimes you look at couples so toxic for each other, or so asymmetrical that you marvel at just how lucky that person was to wind up dating exactly the worst kind of person for them. (and sometimes given time, your first observation turns into your second observation, but curiously almost never the reverse).

Attachment theory and 'the filter' though kind of take luck out of it. I got a friend whom when presented with a stranger rushes straight to what they don't like about them, generally what comes to the fore are their reasons to reject. You take this one undesirable and innocuous trait, and repeat it enough, it is going to sift through their all the people they could be friends with and filter it to consistent behavioural traits.

Their friends are going to consist of the kind of people that enjoy sitting down to a good old 'bitching session' and I project, will be characterized by low self-esteem, pessimism and risk aversion.

Similarly take somebody with the seemingly admirable trait of being endlessly emotionally available for their friends and endlessly generous and a filter is going to sift through their friends as well. Their self-soothing, independent and self reliant friends are going to manage the distance, and their needy, anxious and insecure friends are going to lap up their attention and time.

Converse to douches who shoot people complaining about 'the friend zone' in a world where most romantic partners are drawn from our friends or met through our friends, some luck plays a role but your identity and conduct derived from your parents will naturally attract either precisely the wrong person or precisely the right person.

And that's the crux of attachment theory, success compounds as does failure. And after centuries of failed relationships forced to endure - millions of women victims of physical abuse, millions of people reverting to the same self-medicating habits, millions of children raised by cold non-present parents - many people can't recognise the flaws in their working models of relationships. They may even admire a parents 'ability to endure hardship' and try and emulate that rather than avoid the hardship.

External bodies or influences are probably the only aspect of luck, events and other people can act on us to break the destiny. In my own case, the advent of the global citizen. It allowed one of my most significant relationships to be disrupted by geography and that forced me into psychotherapy for the first time. As such two wonderful people that together formed a mediocre love were able to both move on and find much more compatible partners, much more stable foundations to build a relationship on.

And probably, there for me at least all good things stem. That set me down the path of psychotherapy, which eventually made me conscious of my own inherited model of a relationship and that model's pitfalls and at least aware of it, I have a choice for the first time in what I filter for.

Another body I hope, disrupted my path.

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