Bonding patterns form the basis of mental and emotional reflections of early attachment relationships — becoming the template through which one determines one’s perceptions of self, others, and the world. This includes our values and outlook on life.

We all have formed beliefs and expectations about ourselves, others, and life in general. These beliefs and expectations develop in a complementary fashion intrinsically linked to how we perceive our attachment figures. Children make sense of their internal and external worlds based on what they see and experience reflected back to them through their caretaker’s eyes and actions. A mosaic of other’s either accurate or distorted reflections, and as Peter Fonagy suggests, the contingency and markedness or lack thereof.

The interaction forms the core an internal working model of relationships that may look like, I am good/bad, lovable/unlovable, competent/helpless; caregivers are responsive/unavailable, trustworthy/untrustworthy; the world is safe/unsafe and so on.

These become internalized beliefs and expectations that later influence perceptions, emotions, and reactions to others. It is through the prism of these core beliefs that children interpret and remember events, get to know themselves, understand and validate or become confused by their mental states, and perceive social or intimate situations.

The internal working model is resistant to change because it provides a template and mode of operating that imposes order and predictability onto a complex world, both internal and external, and provides a strategy for dealing with the attachment figure. It helps us to make sense of our selves, caregivers and others, our society and its institutions, the world, and so on. Another way of looking at it is through Bowlby’s link between attachment pattern and the psychoanalytic notion of defense, and its implementation as a strategy to forestall anxiety and distress. And, as with defenses, which serve an adaptive (however maladaptive it might actually be) function, this is not an easy thing to give up or change.

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