Attachment is a big word in adoption. It is the development of the bond between a new parent and child which will cement their relationship together. For some, this is an easy bond to create, for others, it is difficult. I have experienced both extremes. Even with some of the drama we have been experiencing as TM becomes more fluent in English, more emotionally aware, and consequently more verbal in his processing of his early experiences, I have come to realize exactly how attached I am to this boy. There are so many things I like and appreciate about him. And he's funny and makes me laugh. Not only do I love my boy, but I really, really like him as well.
When I think about my son, I have been finding that most of my thoughts about him are positive. Yes, he still does things that can drive me up a tree, but I find myself viewing those things more as endearing quirks rather than faults that I just have to live with. I have been pleased to discover that this has set-up a spiral of a very different sort than what I have experienced previously with him. The more positive thoughts I think about him, the more I am likely to interact with him in a positive way and more likely it is that he will react in a positive way, causing more positive thoughts, and so on and so on. I'm not being all Oprah-ish and that my thoughts are somehow causing this good behavior, but that by dwelling on positive things I find myself focusing more on those than the negative ones and my behavior adjusts accordingly.
If you stop and think about it, it's true, isn't it? How about couples when they are first in love? Neither can do any wrong and all thoughts tend to be of a super positive nature. Now this is hard to keep up and learning to be married comes with its own difficulties. If a couple decide that they are going to begin to focus on everything that is annoying about the other person, they are going to be far more annoyed than if they choose to talk about it and come to some resolution or choose to not be annoyed by it and realize it is a little thing in comparison to all the positive attributes the other has.
Here's the hard part. What we dwell on in our thought life is a choice. We can decide if we are going to let some annoyance fester in our minds until it is blown all out of proportion. We can decide if we are only going to think negative thoughts about another. We can decide what we are going to replay over and over in our heads. Of course, it's not always easy to break a cycle of negative thinking. This is an area that the devil loves to use to attack us. If we have not armed ourselves with the truth of God's love and acceptance of us, we will be helpless to create new pathways of thinking in our brains.
But it can be done. The first step is to be aware that you are thinking negative or harmful thoughts. Decide on a strategy to use every time the unwanted thought comes into your head... choose to think of something else, say a Scripture verse, sing a song, snap a rubber band that you wear on wrist. Once you get somewhat adept at stopping the unwanted thought pattern, then begin to work on purposefully thinking something that you do want in your brain. The thoughts we think are not benign, they do have power and ultimately will inform our actions.
I want to go back to adoption attachment before I end. I'm wondering if we do parents a disservice by not sharing this. I know I spent more time than I would really care to admit with a less than healthy thought life regarding my son. I don't know how much I would have been able, at that point, to change it, but frankly, even trying to make the effort wasn't on my radar. I knew I should 'fake it 'till I make it'... the idea that if we act in a loving way toward our child, our emotions will follow, and it's not that I don't believe it. I just am beginning to think there is more to the puzzle. Even if I couldn't have dredged up some positive thoughts in those dark days, I could have perhaps made an effort to at least not dwell on the negative ones. I was not helping myself or my child by continuing to focus on how rotten things were. If it happens too often, one becomes used to it... it is almost comforting in a way because of its familiarity. And it is difficult to break out of habits such as that. It can feel painful to force our brains to use different pathways that don't feel as familiar. Wouldn't it have been better to if not stop, at least try to be on guard against these pathways developing?