I believe each of us look at the world through a series of lenses: money, love life, security, Bible, white or black or (_), education, suffering, trauma – on and on. Most of us are unaware of our lenses or our “unthoughts” to quote Michel Foucault. Healthy spirituality explores our unthought lenses. My ministry work these days is helping people explore their personal lenses through which they view the world. All of our distortions and troubles, and our answers and hope come through our lenses.
Over the past few years I have been studying Attachment. Attachment is a personality psychology theory of how humans relate (or don’t relate) to each others. The theory says everyone attaches in one of four ways: secure attachment, dismissive-avoidant, fearful-avoidant, or preoccupied (R. Chris Fraley et al, Experience… 2011). Most people have secure attachments, but some of us “don’t need others;” or are fearful (anxious) of others; or even worse, are deeply drawn toward others – and then want them to punish us. If that sounds conflicted, it is.
Psychology believes God is an attachable figure. According to research psychologist Lee Kirkpatrick, Christianity is the only world religion with an attachable God/deity/supreme being (Kirkpatrick, Attachment… 2004). Some of us believe God loves us, and God is viewed as a haven of safety. Others can’t really conceive of needing God, though they may believe in God. Others seek God, but can’t find God, and obsess about God’s opinion of them. Others develop the opinion that God is is obsessed with them – and wants to punish them.
In my ministry experience I have seen all of these opinions of God. Each lens determines what someone thinks of God. Additionally, each attachment style finds a church or denomination or faith-culture that fits their attachment style. For instance, preoccupied folk are attracted to and find a judgmental, fire and brimstone church, who at the same time talk incessantly about miracles and healings. Usually, these Christians are constantly worried whether or not God honestly loves them. Usually their spirituality is always exceptional miracles, all-night prayer sessions, visions, apocalyptic expectations, and their culture is full of exuberance and wonders. For dismissive Christians they never hear from God, and don’t really want to hear from God (but they don’t know it). They often do not join a group or community. Maybe they feel lonely but they cannot figure out how or why they should need people.
The attachment lens is useful one for me these days. I am still learning how to affect various attachment styles (Internal Working Model, IWM). I am not a counselor or therapist but I deal with people who have deep emotional and spiritual issues. These issues (IWMs) predict how a person will relate to God. So that’s why I am interested in Attachment. Our church probably has “an attachment style” or culture. Some people are attracted to it, and others are not. We are not fundamentalist, but we are not very Presbyterian either. We are not very ritualistic (much to my chagrin) but we are not pentecostal either. When most people form a quick opinion of our church they do so through their own set of lenses. Attachment is telling.
Recently I talked to an engaged couple about attachment. I am going to start using it with engagement counseling. Last night a woman told me about her recent divorce. I couldn’t help but think of her with my new attachment lens.
Attachment theory has had exceptional durability in the field of psychology – more than 40 years. That’s eternity in most scientific disciplines. The theory hasn’t changed much. I think it is very useful for helping people understand how and why they relate to God and others.
If you have a chance to take some short online free tests, you should go to www.yourpersonality.net. Or you can discuss your thoughts with me personally. (Are you avoiding me?)