Have you ever read something and you could actually hear the lightbulb clicking on in your head? This is how I felt after reading Karly’s article on Attachment at FirstOurselves.com. Basically, attachment theory says that if you didn’t feel a secure attachment to your parents as a child, then you will attach to something else to fill that void. Don’t get me wrong, I have great parents and very fond memories of my childhood, but there was a lot that was missing too. Go read Karly’s article first because she explains it much better than I can (plus she has a lot of resources if you want to explore it for yourself).
Let me give you a little background so you might understand why I got so excited when I read Karly’s article:
Up until the age of about nine years old, I felt very secure in my little world. I was the youngest of 3 girls – my sisters are ten and nine years older than I am, so for a long time I actually had three caregivers (my dad was around, but I always looked to my mom and sisters as my support). My mom was a working mom, but even if she wasn’t there, my 2 sisters were. I was surrounded by care and concern.
I think it’s significant to mention here that my Dad is half-German (very stoic and stubborn) and my mom was not an overly affectionate person (she’s much more of a hugger now). Back in the 70s/80s when I was a kid, the words “I love you” weren’t said much if at all. I knew my parents loved me, but showing a lot of affection just wasn’t done. It just wasn’t something my family was really comfortable with – we weren’t touchy feely folks at all.
Because of the age difference, when I got to be about nine or ten years old, both of my sisters were off living their own lives – college, starting families, etc. Suddenly, my support system was gone. Because I was old enough to stay by myself afterschool and during the summers, I spent a lot of time alone. And that’s when I also started feeling like a burden to my mom. When I entered into my preteen years, I always had the feeling that since my mom had gone through all of the teenage bullsh*t with my sisters, she didn’t want to go through it again with me. I felt like they didn’t want to put forth the energy into raising me that they had in raising my sisters. Whether or not it was true, that was how I felt. Since my mom worked 40 hours AND did all the cooking (from scratch) AND did all the laundry AND did all the housework, she was naturally tired all the time. I guess I took that to mean that she was too tired for me.
Before my sisters left home, we all had dinner together at the table every night. After they left, we stopped eating at the table and I would eat dinner by myself in my room while my parents ate in the living room. Every night, I would come downstairs, fix my plate, and take it back up to my room where I would eat while watching tv on my little black and white set. That sound pitiful doesn’t it? It’s also one of the reasons that I resisted letting my kids have a tv in their room (my son has one now, but only for playing games. It’s not hooked up to the satellite).
Please understand – my parents did the best they knew how. They are really wonderful people and I am very close to them as an adult. I’m not bitter about my childhood, but I do recognize that there were some things I did not get as a child that I absolutely needed. And we probably all feel that way to some degree, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to get those things now.
There was so much that changed when my sisters left home, that I needed something to feel attached to – and that’s when I remember the food thing really kicking in. Food made me feel good. It tasted so good and it filled me up, often I let it fill me up too much. Once I figured out that eating could solve my loneliness and boredom, I was all in.
Fast forward many years and many pounds later – here I am trying to get control of my overeating. I’m trying to reduce the amount of food I eat. I’m trying to cut out the sugary treats that soothed me as a child (and as an adult). I’m trying to take away the thing that filled the void so long ago and still fills it now- duh! No wonder I have such a hard time!! No one wants their security blanket taken away, not even 40 year old moms.
So how do I get rid of this attachment to food? By attaching to something else in the here and now. By securing an attachment to the family I have now, to my friends, to God, and to myself. I can give myself that secure, wanted feeling that I felt like I didn’t have when I was a kid. How exactly I go about doing that, I’m not entirely certain, but I’m willing to explore it because something inside me says this is worth looking into.
I know that I haven’t explained this well enough, but hopefully someone else can get a glimpse of what I’m trying to convey here and it will turn on a light bulb for them as well. And this is just one theory that might fit me – I’m not saying this THE answer for everyone, but I think it’s worth exploring.
Does this resonate with you? Can you identify with any of this? Let me know in the comments or email me!