I’m kind of getting this sense of my dad’s mind, and the mind of people who are a little bit like him, along with something of my own mind. I’m thinking how not giving a shit in a parent affects a child’s sense of worth and their understanding of how other people think and feel.
These days, I am aware that a lot of what motivates me when I am dealing with other people is the bond between us—at least motivates me with people who are closer to me. There is this bond, and the bond creates all these feelings, and the feelings lead me to act. I feel protective and behave protectively or I get angry or something. I feel concerned and I act helpfully. I want contact and I make sure there is a way to have contact. It’s not coming from a sense about myself—that this will give me something I want—although I may think through other aspects of decision about it. It’s just instinct. It’s all based in emotions, and the emotions are caused by the bond. That’s what an attachment does.
But not everyone has the same ability to attach to others. I think it must lie on a continuum. Some people have very strong attachment feelings, and some people have absolutely zero. My dad has zero, I think. These people just really don’t care. There is no reason to care. Those feelings don’t happen for them. They have all the other normal emotions, maybe, but not attachment ones. They might be possessive, but they aren’t protective. They might be able to understand the perspective of others, but they aren’t that interested to try. They don’t care about maintaining relationships all that much, so they lie and they cheat and they might even steal.
Someone like that looks to others to give them something. They are utilitarian. A child raised by a parent with an impaired ability to attach is merely an object, usually a defective one. But the idea that there is joy just in being with the people you are close to is not going to enter into that parent-child relationship. The child will see themselves as being worth what they can do. The parent will most likely rage at that child for falling short of the parent’s expectations of providing the appropriate service, so falling short is going to get tied to shame and a sense of defectiveness for the child. There will be lots of other problems, because the parent doesn’t care about meeting the child’s needs and there aren’t the normal checks on certain behaviours.
When the parent is pleased with the service being provided, there is this illusion for the child of an attachment. The parent seems to respond to the child, and so there is this feeling that the parent must be given satisfaction in order to feel a bond to the child. This is not really what is happening. Maybe the parent is merely in the mood to respond when they have been satiated. Maybe they are providing a reward. Emotionally diminished people still seem to understand the idea of rewards and punishments. But I think what happens in the mind of the child growing up is a sense both that one must be able to provide the specified service in order to have relationships or be valued and also that poor performance of the service is going to result in a loss of attachments.