The Intersection of Attachment and Social Justice

We have talked about attachment as a pattern of relating between two people, or even a family. This week, I want us to explore this from a bigger picture perspective.

There is a lot of hurt in the world right now, and there has been for a long time. Some of us are just waking up to the deep, chronic, persistent pain that people of color, LGBTQ people, native people, and people with disabilities (among others) have been experiencing for years. When we recognize the pain of others and are able to feel into the pain, we are motivated to make the pain go away.

If we want things to feel different, we need to do something about this.

Part of what that means is that we need to take care of each other. Yes, the people we are close with and love, for sure—but also the people who we don’t know yet. Especially the people who are told in small and big ways every day that their lives just aren’t important. People who have been discriminated against for generations. This is critical for the healthy attachment of our communities—because we know that when we receive mixed messages about whether our needs matter, whether we matter, our entire worldview shifts. We can’t feel grounded, stable, productive, or well-loved when we feel afraid. Fear interrupts our ability to connect fully, to make rational decisions, and to plan for the future. And right now, a lot of people feel afraid. The fear radiates into our communities, into our homes, into our children.

Communities and systems that foster fear must shift now. We have to do the heavy lifting to make sure this happens. Continuing to operate within systems that create insecurity is harmful to all of us.

Just like in individual partnerships, we have to direct our attention to the hurt first. We have to focus on creating healing for the people who have been hurt the most. Their needs must be addressed in order for us to have healthy relationships, systems, and communities. We cannot move forward without healing. You know how that goes in close relationships—if we don’t create safety and healing after a big argument, it comes up over and over again. The wounds continue to fester when they aren’t healed. And part of healing is creating repair. We know this to be true about attachment and it’s no different on this level. Repair in relationships looks something like this: I’m so sorry I hurt you (ownership of actions). I want to make this right (desire to take action). Here is what I’m doing to shift my behavior so we can feel okay again (action and follow-through).

In more practical terms, repair can look like the following:

  • Listening. I cannot emphasize this enough. When we are working to repair, we must listen to the person who is hurting without interruption. Without defensiveness. Without trying to move forward too soon.
  • Holding space. Creating situations where people of color, LGBTQ folks, native people, and  people with disabilities and others are able to speak their truths without fear of harm. Do not speak in these situations; allow every bit of space, time, and energy to go toward the people in the room you've created it for. Nod, agree, and show appreciation for their wisdom and willingness to share their experiences without interruption or giving your own opinion.
  • Educating yourself. Find meetings in your community where people are actively working to create more secure interactions. These meetings should include the people listed above. If they don't, ask why. Have conversations with people who experience life differently than you do. Read books and share articles by people of color. Question what you've learned throughout your life and yourself if you still believe the things you say and how you operate in the world. Approach the news with a critical eye.

In the same ways we have to dive in to our learning about our own patterns, our history in relationships, and the reasons why we show up the way we do, we must do the same if we plan to make shifts on a community level. Owning our shit is hard. Our commitment to our own awareness and our willingness to be uncomfortable is what changes our attachment patterns on small and large scales. We can all learn. We must learn. We are here to learn together.

So this week, I challenge you to expand your concept of attachment. How can you support secure communities? What steps can you take to foster safety and stability for all people where you live? How do you embody your secure attachment? And how can you show up better?

Let’s take care of each other—every single one of us—because in the end, that’s what matters.