Bonding and Attachment Work
Bonding and Attachment
Now that you have identified some of your own emotional children and their corresponding traumas, it is important to further understand the process of bonding and attaching them back to you.
In almost every traumatic event, there is perceived separation or abandonment either by parents, God, family, spouse or friends. This blank or void is difficult to access and heal. Healing this void is as important as clearing or healing the actual trauma itself. In fact, complete healing is not possible without it.
To begin, you may visualize yourself going back in time where you begin to view and interact with the children who were abandoned. For example, an inner child may be seen with his or her back toward you. The child may be close to you. The child may be crying. The child may be a lot of different things. I encourage you to interact with these children as if they were your own and were actually in the room with you. What would you do for that child? We’ve discussed the developmental stages and what is normal for children at particular ages. The inner children are felt in a holistic way, emotionally, physically and intellectually, through visual imaging.
Thoughts have a certain kind of power and energy. When coupled with emotional and physical energies in a holistically visualized way, there is significant impact. For example, visualize yourself holding, loving and bonding with an emotional child. Bonding won’t happen in an instant. It takes a consistent period of time, interacting on your own with these emotional children.
Bonding is an exercise in patience. You must love these children as if they are real actual children outside yourself, even though they are on the inside. There are many variations within bonding exercises. Some may view themselves as the child inside trying to connect with the adult-self, where others are the adult-self trying to connect with the child. You might find one of your emotional children surrounded by several other emotional children in a loving and supportive way. There is no particular way to connect with each of your emotional children. Simply visualize what feels right to you.
At some point during your visualization, I encourage you (the adult) to look at an incident from the emotional child’s perspective. Then, shift to the adult’s perspective while viewing this unique inner child. This process will enable you to begin feeling compassion for your lost inner child. During the visualization, you will come into contact with your projected emotional child. Contact serves as the start of a process referred to as re-parenting.
Your literal parent may not have bonded with you (the literal child) in the past. This may be a fact that cannot be changed. However, the results of this past lack of bonding can be changed and healed. You (the adult) can, in the visualization process, hold your emotional child, speak lovingly, and give the reassurance the frozen child needed but didn’t receive. With this new connection, your inner child can begin to grow and develop.
As your emotional children begin to grow and develop, they become real friends to you the adult, and vice versa. These children see things in ways that you (the adult) will hardly comprehend. As insights are integrated, you will become more whole, embodied and integrated. The results of this kind of work are so extraordinary that your life will literally be changed forever.
Picture on the Refrigerator Exercise
How many of us have drawn a picture for mom or dad that was then put on the refrigerator for all to see? Or, perhaps you were the mom or dad who had a picture drawn for you, signed “I Love You!” We will use this same idea in the following bonding exercise.
Get a hand full of crayons, some construction paper, a pen and scotch tape. Pick one of your emotional children to draw you a beautiful picture. Use your less-dominant hand and draw a beautiful picture for yourself the adult. Sign the picture (Love, Wayne 5-years-old). Next, turn over the drawing and on the back write a love letter to your little child. Tape the picture to your refrigerator. How do you (the adult) feel? How does your child feel?
Running Dialogue Exercise
Emotional children are just like little children on the outside. They need consistency, loving boundaries, daily nurturing, etc. If you start to make contact with one of your little ones who hasn’t had a lot of nurturing, it will take time to earn their trust. Once you make contact, you must be consistent in your nurturing. If not, your little one feels abandoned once more and you feel them inside again in old familiar ways (e.g., depression, sadness, anger).
Start each day by writing a note to this child. Later, have the child read the note and write one back to you (less-dominant hand). Continue writing back and forth to each other. You will be amazed at what you learn. Journal your thoughts and insights during this process.
Phillip Cain Exercise
Some of us grow up with very little nurturing or bonding in our early developmental stages. This can present as an attachment disorder, meaning we don’t know how to hold or nurture ourselves, our children, spouse, etc. Obviously this can create many issues, especially with regard to our close interpersonal relationships. Such was my case. Even though my mother seemed to be a nurturer, she really wasn’t. Yes, she could hold and care for infants, but as soon as the child began to move into what is commonly called the terrible two’s (separation/ oppositional developmental stage 1½ - 3 years) she would withhold what appeared to be love. This so-called “love” was merely a need to hold onto her children because she had no self-esteem due to her own abuse and emotional abandonment. As a result, I was attached to her, but not bonded. I didn’t even know what bonding meant until I was an adult and began to see other parents who could hold their children in a way completely foreign to me. I loved my children. I would play, wrestle and participate with them, but there was still something missing.
One of my mentors (and he didn’t even know it) was my father-in-law, Phillip Cain. He lived in a little trailer in Pima, Arizona with his cat and his garden. He was retired from Eastern Arizona College where he’d worked for about 40 years as the Maintenance Director for the college.
I remember when Beth and I would take our two daughters to see grandpa, he knew their favorite soda and candy. He knew the names of each of their friends and would remember whether they were getting along or not and why. He would take them out in his garden and spend hours talking with them. The girls would draw him pictures which he attached to his wall board for all to see. He would remember the smallest details about a peer interaction and ask the girls how it was working out. He never took notes. He just remembered. What amazed me was that he seemed as genuinely engrossed with their lives as they were. In other words, this came as natural to him as breathing. I remember asking my wife Beth about her dad and she told me story after story about how he was the same way when she was a child, it never changed. He was part of her life through pre-school, elementary school, junior high, high school and adulthood. Beth was bonded and attached to her dad, as were my girls to their grandpa. Beth told that his mom was the same way and that she adored her grandmother. This amazing gift has been passed on for generations.
Phillip Cain has been a mentor and example I try to emulate. Don’t get me wrong, I love my own parents. My parents did the best they knew how given their circumstances. My mom was an adult child of an alcoholic and was horrifically abused. A few years before my father passed away, he wept and said the one thing he regretted was that he was not demonstrative in his love for his children. His mother was much the same. I hope I do better than they did with me, as I hope my own children do better than what I’ve done for them.
Can you do better than you’ve done in the bonding and attachment area? Is there someone you admire and wish to emulate? Write this name down: .
Now write about this person. Talk about what you admire about them and why. What is the difference in how they bond and how you bond? What is it about them you want to incorporate into your own life? Who is your Phillip Cain?
If you can visualize bonding with your emotional child in a real and loving way, you should be able to do this on the outside with your loved ones. However, you may find you can bond with yourself from 7 years and older, but not from 0-7 years. This would indicate you missed out on some bonding and it might also suggest there is a pervasive trauma involved.
Moriarty and Baby Boy Exercises
This exercise requires a living creature such as a dog, cat, bird, horse, goat, etc. Animals and little creatures give love unconditionally and mirror back to us who we really are or can become.
First, let me tell you a little bit about my great big whit rooster Moriarty (named after Professor James Moriarty, famous nemesis to Sherlock Holmes). I didn’t really pay much attention to him until the day we lost about 40 chickens in one night to a pack of coyotes. Mory (as we liked to call him) had a buddy who was a little white miniature rooster. They would perch by themselves away from the other chickens. So, when the coyotes got in again, they took out all but Mory and his buddy. I would then gather both chickens and put them in the coup every night. One day, I couldn’t find the little rooster and it was only Mory who was left.
So, every night I would carry Mory from where he was perched (my refrigeration unit) and put him in the coup. A strange thing began to happen. Every time I came home from work, Mory was waiting for me. He even wanted to come in the house with me. He followed me everywhere I went on our mini-farm. He would talk to me and sit by me. I began to become very attached to him. My family told everyone about my rooster and how he was bonded to me. My wife Beth said that he thought of himself as a person and we needed to get some hens for him. So, we got 10 chickens from a neighbor who was giving them away. We kept all of them in the coup for three weeks so they would come back at night to roost and all we had to do was lock the coup at night so they would be safe. After three weeks we let the chickens out and another strange thing happened. Mory didn’t follow me around any more or sit beside me. He even acted like he didn’t know me. It actually made me sad and I could feel how that big old rooster had gotten into my heart. It was a bonding experience I won’t ever forget.
Next, I’d like to share with you a bit about Baby Boy, my quarter horse. He’s a dark brown ranch horse about 15 ½ hands high. He’s been used for roping and I’ve had him on some trails in the Superstition Mountains that were scary beyond all reason. Yet, Baby Boy has always been calm no matter what the situation.
I didn’t really attach and bond with Baby Boy until the winter he got pneumonia. We could hear him coughing at night in the pasture. We got some penicillin and I started giving him shorts twice per day, morning and evening. About the 12th day of shots, I told Beth that Baby Boy was moving a little when I gave him the shots in his rump. She asked me if I was using a new needle each day. I told her no, because Jody (a cowboy friend) told me I could just use the same one over and over again. Beth laughed and said Jody is such a cowboy! Then, she gave me some new needles to use. Baby Boy didn’t move around any more.
Each night after his shot, I’d take his halter off. Any other horse would have made a dash for the food and other horses, but not Baby Boy. He would stand there until I put my arms around his neck and gave him some loving - then he’d go. Giving a horse shots can be dangerous and some people give them a sedative to keep them calm. Baby Boy came from a line of registered quarter horses known for their calmness and gentle ways. I also know he must have been imprinted (the night the colt is born you sleep with the newborn just like a mom imprints with a newborn in the hospital). Studies show if a newborn isn’t imprinted within 24-48 hours of birth, the baby will have bonding and attachment issues for a lifetime.
To this day when I go out to feed pellets in the arena, Baby Boy will stand in front of me (even though his food is in the bucket) and won’t let me pass until I blow into his nose and he into mine. I then hug him for a minute or two; after which he lets me pass. Needless to say I’m bonded to this horse and will keep him until he dies.
Do you have a Moriarty or a Baby Boy?
Can you find some little creature and let yourself begin to experience unconditional love?
Make a list of the possible little creatures that could teach you about loving yourself.
Like Attracts Like
One might ask what the universal law of attraction has to do with bonding and attachment. My answer is that when I was ready to love myself more, Moriarty and Baby Boy showed up. When you are ready to start loving yourself more, you will be amazed at the critters and people that begin to show up in your life. Like attracts like. I’d like to further illustrate this point by sharing another true story with you from my own life.
At a recent workshop, we had just finished taking a developmental inventory and set up a dyad exercise (i.e., where two people sit across from each other and share about their traumas and corresponding emotional child). We were short one participant, so I filled in and sat across from James.
James was 24 years old, and one of his goals was to become a billionaire and help solve world problems. Initially, we seemed to have little in common. There was a significant difference in age, occupation, goals, etc. However, as we began the listening and reflection exercise, we were surprisingly amazed at how much we were alike.
You may remember the story I told about when I was in the forth grade and was home alone with my brother Gary, who was two years younger than me. I continued to relay this story to James. A call came in that my mother had been in a head-on collision and had died on the operation table. Unbeknownst to my father, the women who hysterically told me this over the phone was the one who was supposed to be taking care of us. She never showed up and we were left for two days and nights alone. My brother wept. I went into shock and never cried. What we didn’t know for two days was although my mother’s heart stopped twice, they had actually resuscitated her. So, two hundred stitches and a broken neck later, she lived.
James almost fell out of his chair as I shared my emotional child and story. James told me that when he was in the forth grade he also had a brother who was two years younger. His mom was addicted to cocaine. One day at school he had an over powering feeling to go home because something was wrong. He told his teacher and was allowed to go home. I believe he broke a window to get into the house because his mom wouldn’t answer the door. He found her in the bathtub under the water and called 911. The paramedics got there with the police and he was taken away with his little brother. He was told his mom had died. He was also alone for two days with his younger brother. What he didn’t know was that after he was taken away, his mother was resuscitated several times and was alive, but brain dead. After two days, the family took her off life support and she died.
James and I both had brothers two years younger. We both comforted our little brothers in the fourth grade, after being told our mothers were dead. We both spent two days alone with our brothers. Like attracts like!
Everyone around you is mirroring you. Are you ready to love yourself? … And others?
Unconditional Love (True Bonding)
The most significant aspect of healing is to be able to manifest unconditional love (true bonding) for yourself and others. As a matter of fact, this should be the end result of all personal work and growth.
I was talking to a friend and colleague about this subject when he said he ran across an article which illustrated the point I was making. I now share the article with you as an example of the power of unconditional love.
We Are Responsible for Our Whole World - By Joe Vitale
Two years ago, I heard about a therapist in Hawaii who cured a complete ward of criminally insane patients—without ever seeing any of them. The psychologist would study an inmate’s chart and then look within himself to see how he created that person’s illness. As he improved himself, the patient improved.
When I first heard this story, I thought it was an urban legend. How could anyone heal anyone else by healing himself? How could even the best self-improvement master cure the criminally insane? It didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t logical, so I dismissed the story.
However, I heard it again a year later. I heard that the therapist had used a Hawaiian healing process called ho’oponopono. I had never heard of it, yet I couldn’t let it leave my mind. If the story was at all true, I had to know more. I had always understood “total responsibility” to mean that I am responsible for what I think and do. Beyond that, it’s out of my hands. I think that most people think of total responsibility that way.
We’re responsible for what we do, not what anyone else does—but that’s wrong. The Hawaiian therapist who healed those mentally ill people would teach me an advanced new perspective about total responsibility. His name is Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len. We probably spent an hour talking on our first phone call. I asked him to tell me that complete story of his work as a therapist.
He explained that he worked at Hawaii State Hospital for four years. That ward where they kept the criminally insane was dangerous. Psychologists quit on a monthly basis. The staff called in sick a lot or simple quit. People would walk through that ward with their backs against the wall, afraid of being attacked by patients. It was not a pleasant place to live, work, or visit.
Dr. Len told me that he never saw patients. He agreed to have an office and to review their files. While he looked at those files, he would work on himself. As he worked on himself, patients began to heal. “After a few months, patients that had to be shackled were being allowed to walk freely,” he told me. “Others who had to be heavily medicated were getting off their medications. And those who had no chance of ever being released were being freed.” I was in awe. “Not only that,” he went on, “but the staff began to enjoy coming to work. Absenteeism and turnover disappeared. We ended up with more staff that we needed because patients were being released, and all the staff was showing up to work. Today, that ward is closed.”
This is where I had to ask the million dollar question: “What were you doing within yourself that caused those people to change?”
“I was simply healing the part of me that created them,” he said. I didn’t understand. Dr. Len explained that total responsibility for your life means that everything in your life - simply because it is in your life - is your responsibility. In a literal sense the entire world is your creation.
Whew. This is tough to swallow. Being responsible for what I say or do is one thing. Being responsible for what everyone in my life says or does is quite another. Yet, the truth is this: if you take complete responsibility for your life, then everything you see, hear, taste, touch, or in any way experience is your responsibility because it is in your life. This means that terrorist activity, the president, the economy or anything you experience and don’t like - is up for you to heal. They don’t exist, in a manner of speaking, except as projections from inside you. The problem isn’t with them, it’s with you, and to change them, you have to change you.
I know this is tough to grasp, let alone accept or actually live. Blame is far easier than total responsibility, but as I spoke with Dr. Len, I began to realize that healing for him and in ho‘oponopono means loving yourself. If you want to improve your life, you have to heal your life. If you want to cure anyone, even a mentally ill criminal you do it by healing you. I asked Dr. Len how he went about healing himself. What was he doing, exactly, when he looked at those patients’ files?
“I just kept saying, ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I love you’ over and over again,” he explained.
Turns out that loving yourself is the greatest way to improve yourself, and as you improve yourself, you improve your world.
Let me give you a quick example of how this works: one day, someone sent me an email that upset me. In the past I would have handled it by working on my emotional hot buttons or by trying to reason with the person who sent the nasty message. This time, I decided to try Dr. Lens’ method. I kept silently saying, ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I love you.’ I didn’t say it to anyone in particular. I was simply evoking the spirit of love to heal within me what was creating the outer circumstance. Within an hour I got an e-mail from the same person. He apologized for his previous message. Keep in mind that I didn’t take any outward action to get that apology. I didn’t even write him back. Yet, by saying ‘I love you,’ I somehow healed within me what was creating him.
I later attended a ho‘oponopono workshop run by Dr. Len. He’s now seventy years old, considered a grandfatherly shaman, and is somewhat reclusive. He praised my book, The Attractor Factor. He told me that as I improve myself, my book’s vibration will raise, and everyone will feel it when they read it. In short, as I improve, my readers will improve.
“What about the books that are already sold and out there?” I asked.
“They aren’t out there,” he explained, once again blowing my mind with his mystic wisdom. “They are still in you.” In short, there is no out there. It would take a whole book to explain this advanced technique with the depth it deserves.
Suffice it to say that whenever you want to improve anything in your life, there’s only one place to look: inside you. When you look, do it with love. It’s the attraction factor – like attracts like- his God-self was so strong that it attracted the God-self in others.
I’d like you to take a moment to be introspective (reflect on things inside). As Todd asked you during the personal inventory, who are the significant people in your life? What are their specific issues with you? What are your specific issues with them?
(This exercise will help prepare you for the Daily Inventory you will perform at home, as we described in the Life Coaching section.)
What are these significant people mirroring to you? Keep in mind these are actually your issues. Use the space below to write your answers.
How can you heal yourself and your relationships you’ve listed? Can you be like Dr. Hew Len and heal them inside of you? Can you use the multiple emotional child model to heal the emotional children being triggered by those who mirror to you? Or, perhaps you can use a twelve step program to take responsibility for your world? Maybe you wish to use both, or perhaps one of any number of paths we haven’t even enumerated?
Take a moment to think about how you know what you know. This is your individual epistemology. How can you love these loved ones and yourself? In the space provided below, write your knowingness about how to heal each of these relationships and yourself.
I hope this introduction to the multiple emotional child paradigm will be a catalyst for positive change in your life. Your journey of discovery need not end here. Rather, I hope this is only the beginning of your personal healing from the inside out. As you become more aware of the emotional children inside you, and be the kind of emotional parent they need you to be, incorrect thinking and patterns will disappear from your life. You will enjoy a renewed sense of self, enabling you to develop a love of self and others well beyond your current capacity. You will gain insight, purpose and peace in your life. You will be transformed in ways you never dreamed possible.