Community and attachment psychology

I am posting this merely as a placeholder, a reminder to come back to, as I have been reflecting quite a bit on the feeling I have had over the years of “not belonging”, while also “belonging everywhere”. This has been a paradox of my experience, which on the positive side has allowed me to serve in the role of “connector” across silos of various groups. I do believe that for community to really work, that it needs to be “attachment-related”. An “attachment-related” community is what is needed, imo. One very good resource, encyclopedic and practical, is the text by Dan P Brown and Dr. David Elliott. I recommend it and the link is here

Hi Durwin, when you get back to it, could you say a little more about what an “attachment-related” community might mean? It sounds a bit clinical, though I think I get where you’re going; and I would ask, attached to what or whom?

Are people not supposed to be detached, or unattached, fully differentiated and individuated, pure consciousness? Isn’t this what it means to be free?

I often think about the recipe for a perfectly harmonious group/society… Perhaps “nonattached, but in enduring solidarity to”. That’s what I get out of Buddhism anyway: nonattachment to particular forms (freedom to move among them), but deep identification with the shared ground of all other sentient beings, thus establishing a mindset of strong compassion (allocentrism in action), and an acknowledgment that: every act counts, every kindness will ripple into further manifestations of kindness, every injury will ripple into further injuries, so one’s purpose becomes “creating life-affirming conditions for both myself AND other beings (because we are one).”

I relate to your comment, Durwin, about feeling confident/comfortable enough in my body, my skin, my situation, to “belong anywhere” (with humility, openness)… while also encountering a lot of static from others when it comes to expressing my natural self, since many around me (especially in the United States) are so repressed and hurt in ways they haven’t processed… thus I seem to “not belong” in many traditional group forms and identities from an early age. I also think our society is obsessed with defining in-groups and out-groups as a driver of consumerism/advertising, so there’s very good sociological reasons that all of us “individuals” yet feel so “left out”.

@DurwinFoster , echoing @madrush, I 'd like to hear more too about your thoughts…


For some reason this caught my eye, and I thought I might add a few thoughts.

For a community to really thrive, the core (at the very least) and certainly those immediate concentric circles that surround it, need to have healthy attachment styles. They need to know how to generate relationships in a generative way, which is to say - that over time, generate more relationships.

Most communities don’t think of the collective itself as having its own attachment style, which it does, and which is based on the styles of the individuals, who in turn are not always aware of their own attachment styles, which unconsciously influence the way in which they develop relationships, and which in turn will influence the development of the community.

And all this really has nothing to do with freedom, non-attachment or individuation, at least directly. It has to do with the unconscious programs that we run in relationships specifically in relation to give and take.

And just as a general intro the classic attachment styles are - secure, avoidant, dismissive, and disorganized, though they do have different names, and variations.

An easy way think about it is that there is really only one way to do healthy attachment, and a thousand ways to screw it up.

Thanks for bringing this up.


That sounds like Tolstoy, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Glad to hear your voice on this, and hope you’ve been well.

I haven’t thought about this community in these terms, but it’s very interesting. I’m curious to hear more.

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I hadn’t thought about the role of advertising and those who “persuade” for a living, in terms of their negative influence on people’s sense of belonging. Thanks for bringing this up!

Zachary did a really good job of providing an overview of attachment psychology.


Ah. I look forward to the day when “persuaders” are grossed out by their jobs and leave en masse, because they realise what a disastrous effect it is having on Us. It upsets me to see so many people happy to be involved in perpetuating what is nothing more than public relations and thinking it’s value free.

This conversation is fascinating. I’d love to hear more of everyone’s ideas on what advertising actually does to our collective sense of belonging. I’m reminded of Gebsers definition of the magical, which is fhe level advertising works on, and though i know intellectually how it works, it seems I never tire of others talking about it. It’s almost like I need to regularly ponder it as some sort of inoculation, even while I am not influenced to compulsively buy even if I had any money with which to do it.

I feel like the proper attachment and the proper detachment are two wings of the same bird, and you can’t be properly detached in the Buddhist sense without being properly attached to begin with. Or at least it will be ongoing hard work. But can you truly be properly attached living in the culture we do? Or if you won the family jackpot and was born into a good one, and lived a secure childhood, is that all you need to have a secure attachment style even while the culture boils around you? I guess even if you do, on another level we are all in the same boat when it comes to the biggest life work of loving the Other as You. A constant grappling with a reactive limbic push to demonise. Which is our culture’s modus operandi.

Durwin, I’d love to hear more about your work as “connector” across many silos. I think this is super-important work in an age of super-specialisation.


This discussion interests me greatly. I have only had experiences with a few very small communities of co-workers; mothers’ group, book club. In each of those small circles there was a general shared purpose and shared interests, of course, but also disagreements. Some of the “members” were less cooperative and some were more so, but generally the group was supportive and functional, and sometimes even got good things done. Control issues and fearfulness were the most disruptive individual elements.
I always wondered how to address those elements to keep the good of the group and its core activities moving forward. I’ll come back to this thread, I would like to see more. Thanks.


I am reflecting on what I can say about the role of connector that would be useful. That activity on my part can feel both useful and helpful but can also have a compulsive quality I think related to an anxious attachment style from childhood. The useful part was what allowed me to work in connecting various leaders from academia, business and spirituality with Ken Wilber, as well as being able to get one of Ken’s books into the hands of the Dalai Lama…Although who knows if HH took an interest in it.

There’s an excellent documentary by Adam Curtis called The Century of the Self that looks at the history of how the advertising industry learned to use Freudian psychology to create (and manipulate) a consumer class predicated on the notion of a separate self whose primary function is to satisfy its desires, avoid death, and belong to profitable social groups.

It’s a really fascinating story. I reviewed Curtis’ more recent documentary HyperNormalisation, and ended up watching The Century of the Self as well.

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I think the modern/separate self was an evolutionary emergent, though – not only a creation of outside manipulators. That said, the modern project went “awry” fairly early on and we are dealing with that dissociation. That said, a friend of mine recently also told me about this one, which is related to this theme of manipulation by powerful elites: Merchants of Doubt

Speaking of advertising, I received a promotional email today that I found to be compelling.

It was for an online course with the Zen teacher and group facilitator Diane Musho Hamilton called “Willing to Feel.”

I tend to look skeptically at online courses and spiritual teachers in general, because I’ve worked with a number of them and seen first-hand the often less-than-stellar reality behind the promotional facade.

I don’t necessarily means scandals and abuse—though that too—but mainly the “human, all too human” stuff, which the marketing covers up by creating the illusion of some ideal profitable self that can be achieved through spiritual means.

Diane, however, is good at keeping it real, and you can probe for her integrity and she will meet you. To be fair, I’ve known her for a while and helped edit her previous book, so this is hardly an objective review. And of course, I’ve experienced her (as I am myself) as “all too human,” too. But she has a way I admire of turning that into a strength.

In any event, I ended up on her website and watched this video, which I think speaks quite well to the topic at hand, specifically to the dynamics of belonging / not-belonging within a community or organization.

I would love to take her course, btw, and I think the price is fair, but I need to hold on to my money until I feel more financially stable. (Money-relations are another big factor in the coherence of a community, and perhaps even its “attachment style,” which I’d love to discuss.)

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That’s a fair point, @DurwinFoster.

@sue brought up Gebser. It seems the alienated consumer self is an expression what Gebser calls the “mental structure of consciousness”—gone awry—as it becomes dissociated from its “archaic,” “magic,” and “mythical” roots, leaving a void where outside manipulators can enter into the psyche and exert power.

It also suggests, it seems to me, that through reclaiming these dimensions of self, one can counteract the power of the “deficient mental” (as Gebser put it) and its various absurdities and atrocities. The ability for individuals to achieve this reclamation (in part, through becoming “willing to feel”), and for a culture to support this kind of vertical integration, could be another import aspect of a “secure” style community.


Interesting! Reclaiming these dimensions of self might not be unlike doing attachment-based therapy which deals with a similar terrain of the archaic, magic and mythical roots. or at least the archaic and magic, and then it looks like there may be a second component called the “core conflictual relationship theme” – currently being researched by me – that addresses more like the mythic level. I am making some broad correlations across the more clinical domain I am familiar with, and the more aesthetic-philosophical terrain that i believe you prefer :slight_smile:.


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You go, Durwin! I think these are fruitful correlations to explore…

PS. “Core conflictual relationship theme” sounds like a form of primal drama. Isn’t this what ancient Greek theater was all about :wink:

LOL! I think the point you raise about the money-relations, or socio-economic aspects (LR) as relating to the attachment style of the community (LL) is very important too. The first community that manages to differentiate and integrate all these aspects wins!

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I would like to own what is my attachment style. Because I have done so much healing and growth work, it is secure most of the time. However it can also be anxious-preoccupied.

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@DurwinFoster: I think Sloterdijk’s Spheres has a lot to do with “attachment,” in the sense you’re getting at here, especially as he examines our earliest relationships and how we grow into more expansive spheres of intimacy:

From p. 44-45 of Bubbles:

…The open secret of the historical world is that the power to belong together, which is experienced in examplary fasion by select couples—and, why not, by burning bushes and prophets on fire—can be extended to communes, teams, project groups, and perhaps even entire peoples.

We refer to this connecting force, using a creaky word from the nineteenth century, as solidarity. The nature of this force, which allies people with their own kind or a superhuman other in shared vibrations, has never been examined sufficiently seriously in the history of thought. So far one has always persupposed and demanded solidarity, has attempted to raise it, politicize it and sabotage it; people have sung its praises and lamented its fragility; but never has anyone inquired far enough back into its origin. At this point we have at least realized that solidarity between people must be a transference phenomenon outside of primary couple relationships and primal hords. But what is transferred here? The strong reason for being together is still awaiting an adequate interpretation.

( Emphasis mine.)

Could we say that an “attachment-related” group is one that has strong solidarity? I suppose this word has stronger political undertones as well…

Not sure if you’re reading the book (it’s pretty big, a commitment) but when I came across this passage I thought of your post and wanted to cross-pollinate. :slight_smile: :bee:

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I’m not reading the book right now because I have done a lot of philosophical exploration with Quintero and that feels like enough at the moment. But this seems really good stuff! The word “solidarity” might evoke the age old class conflict, but then on the other hand, psychology circles have tended to avoid discussion of socio-economic contexts so I think using it is fair game :).

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