When does memory begin? Some psychologists think that memory and experience begin at birth. Others believe memory and experience begins in the womb, when we are physically still attached by the umbilical cord to our mothers, and that we not only exchange all of our fluids with our mothers, but in the womb, we exchange emotion. Whatever you believe about prenatal life, when we are born the umbilical cord is undoubtedly cut. But there is another cord through which we are very much still attached to our mothers, the emotional cord – and that invisible cord is not cut.
Attachments or bonds form immediately after birth as part of an innate mechanism of life. All animals form bonds for the purpose of survival, food and comfort. Relationships are exactly what they say they are – a relay. We exchange physical, psychological, emotional and even energetic material with the other person. In healthy relationships, both people give roughly equal amounts of time, effort, affection and thought. In unhealthy relationships the other person invests very little, and if we are not aware of the imbalance, learns to take much more than they give.
In Psychoanalysis, we look at not only ‘if’ and to whom you are attached, but what is the quality of that attachment? Through what is considered as a circular process of transference and countertransference between parent and child, the first, primary relationship is thought to be hugely important to our psychological development and relationship formation as adults. As the primary relationship sets the blueprint for all of our other relationships. The primary relationship with our parents, is the one we try to unconsciously replicate in adult life with others – for better or for worse. We magnetise them in, which is why we can often discover that we have been continually dating the same person, each time with a different name! Either we try to replicate the first relationship because it was good, or we try to continually rework it, because it wasn’t!
In love, in the eyes of the other person, we can perceive not only their internal world but our own. If they are transferring or reflecting our own loving projections, then the feeling of being in love is deliciously blissful. But to put all of our emotional eggs in someone else’s basket and hope they won’t break or run off with them is risky. The stronger the attachment bond that forms, the more it hurts when it is broken. Much of what we call love, however, is conditional and transpires to be ‘need’, which leads many therapists to recommend we work on exploring and developing a relationship that really matters and will last a lifetime – the one we have with ourselves.