We need loving contact like oxygen

Two experts team up to show how, all through our lives, we need loving contact like oxygen. Both Ed Tronick and Sue Johnson base their work on the relationship science of Attachment.

Dr Tronick’s famous “still face experiment” is in their video: Love Sense: from Infant to Adult. We see how young babies react when a parent stops engaging with them in the middle of a conversation.

Dr Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) approach, training and research is established around the world. This video summarises her work with a troubled couple and how they work things out.

Science tells us that bonding goes from the cradle to the grave. Staying close to a protective loved one is the main survival strategy of our species. The drama of romantic bonding is an adult version of the bond between parent and child.

The emotional dance defines so much of our lives and our happiness. if we love we will do anything we can to get a response from our loved one. We do not have many ways to deal with the pain of disconnection at any age. The basic dance moves are:

  • Each invites connection;
  • If we don’t get a response we protest and push;
  • Or we turn away and shut down to protect ourselves from rejection;
  • Or we finally go into meltdown;
  • In a good relationship we find a way to turn back and reconnect.
We need loving contact like oxygen

The videos of baby and mother, and of an adult couple, show all of this in action. Both the baby and Jill, Ted’s partner, go into a kind of panic when they feel cut off from their loved one.

The videos then show how the rupture is repaired. The moment of repair is what separates love that lasts from love that doesn’t.

“I’m here” says Mum to her baby. “You’re right, we have to talk,” says Ted to Jill.

Every bond has moments of painful disconnection. But as long as there’s a way out of the aloneness, the emotional connection can be restored and the bond becomes safe again.

We were together. I forget the rest.

Walt Whitman

When families separate, children still need loving contact like oxygen from all those who love and care for them.

Featured image from Big Think’s Youtube video with Richard Reeves on “Is marriage dying?”: