Thursday, September 10, 2009

Aunt Sally (of the Sunday Times) and Attachment Theory

Sally Brampton is the resident advice columnist in the Sunday Times. Every week she presents a thoughtful analysis of a reader’s problem in the Style magazine – just inside the back cover. Her column is always the first thing I read in the Sunday Times on a Sunday Morning.
Sally is one of the few people writing in the mainstream media who seems to be aware of Attachment Theory. In previous columns, she has recommended that people read Bowlby and often writes well about the concepts underpinning attachment theory.
In last Sunday’s piece, she is responding to a man who keeps having affairs. The man in question’s own father left him when he was an adolescent and Sally advises him that:
“Crying over movies where the Hollywood dad comes good for his kids may mean you’re stuck in the adolescent phase we inhabit before we separate emotionally from our parents. Sadly, you never had the chance to go through the process of separation, so you’re still emotionally attached.”
She states that he is still attached to his mother and has not had the chance to separate. Separation from the mother is a concept that is not discussed much in mainstream discourse. Sigmund Freud initially put forward this concept of separation and emphasised the father’s role in this process. There is a good discussion of this here. However, it was Lacan, who developed it further and wrote extensively about the role the father plays. See this article.
Interestingly, Sally refers to how patterns of behaviour repeat themselves from generation to generation which was one of Bowlby’s central themes. She refers to how he is repeating the same pattern of behaviour as his father, by having an affair and avoiding emotional connection.
It is nice to see academic research transfer into mainstream media.