Genesis of Attachment Theory
Nicolaus Copernicus postulated that our planet was not the centre of the Universe and that it was the Sun at the centre around which the Earth rotated: a blow to man’s egocentricity. His masterpiece De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) is considered a major breakthrough in the history of science. It was published in 1543 just before his death. The work had been completed by 1532 but he delayed publication as he did to wish to risk the scorn to which he would expose himself on account of the novelty of his discovery and the extended religious beliefs of his time. He carefully expressed his fears in the dedication of the book to Pope Paul III. Isaac Newton initiated another scientiﬁc revolution. He published The Principia
(Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) in 1687. He used a simple Latin word gravitas (weight) to deﬁne the complex law of universal gravitation. Isn’t it ironic that the same apple that, in the Christian tradition, had caused the original sin and eternal human suﬀering on Earth would ﬁnally illuminate Newton to discover Earth’s gravity? Charles Darwin published his revolutionary theory of evolution with undeniable
evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. The idea that we descend from the beasts met, of course, much criticism and hostility from religious groups. A further blow to our egocentric view of ourselves. Despite this opposition, by the late 1870s the scientiﬁc community and much of the general public had accepted evolution as a fact, rather than a theory. Nevertheless, a tiny minority of fundamentalist creationists are still reading the Book of Genesis literally and continue rejecting evolution. Sigmund Freud delivered the ultimate blow to our narcissism with the pub-
lication of The Interpretation of Dreams in 1899. The conscious mind could no longer be seen as the centre of our existence. We had to give up the illusion that we might be able to be completely aware of what is going on in our everyday life, let
alone our internal world. Non-conscious forces had been known to humankind for centuries, but no one before Freud had investigated the Unconscious systematically. This led to the development of psychoanalysis as a new theory of the mind and a treatment method for human torment. John Bowlby did not attempt to deal with the Universe. But his formidable
intellect and historical circumstances interplayed creatively: he formulated a ‘re-evolutionary’ dimension of human survival and wellbeing. The individual cannot exist in isolation: attachment to other human beings is as vital an instinct as the hunger for food and sex. We rotate about our larger attachment ﬁgures. Similar to the gravitational force that keeps our feet on the ﬂoor, we are born with a powerful energy that seeks meaningful human connection. This stays with us across the life cycle: from cradle to grave. The ﬁrst volume of his trilogy on Attachment and Loss was published in 1969. He dedicated it to Ursula, his secure base and life companion of 52 years – with whom he was able to survive the blows of the world. The word ‘theory’ comes from the Greek theoria, meaning to contemplate, to
look at. I ﬁnd it helpful to think that theories are aids or spectacles: ways of looking at reality or unreality. As such, they should be seen as neither right nor wrong, but as being more useful or less useful. Indeed, there is nothing as useful as a good theory. Expectations, plans and meaning can be based upon it. In this chapter, I invite the reader to use the attachment spectacles.