Attachment Theory and Analytical Psychology

Clinical, Cultural, and Developmental Considerations

Brian Feldman
Palo Alto, California, USA
Society of Jungian Analysts of Northern California, San Francisco

Don Quixote de la Mancha – A Prelude

While we are gathered here in Barcelona, I think it appropriate that we acknowledge that great archetype of Spanish literature, Don Quixote de la Mancha. Don Quixote de la Mancha (Cervantes, 1605) has been one of my favorite novels (and it was the first novel ever written), the one that has had a significant impact upon my life. As I was preparing this presentation I was led back to that part of the novel where Don Quixote and Sancho Panza make a grand entrance filled with excitement and anticipation into Barcelona, after their long quest for the impossible dream of redeeming Dulcinea, the Don’s anima, from her enchantment. What is interesting is that it is in Barcelona, actually by the beach in the city, that Don Quixote meets his destiny: he encounters the Knight of the White Moon who challenges him to combat for the honor of Dulcinea. The terms of the combat are that if Don Quixote losses, he shall have to return to his home in La Mancha and give up his eternal quest as a knight errant for his beloved but enchanted Dulcinea, and if he wins he will gain all of the possessions of the Knight of the White Moon.

As Don Quixote losses his battle with the Knight, he returns home, with a dejected yet still loyal Sancho by his side, and he becomes again Alonso Quixano, the old man who leads a quiet life in the country and reads books of chivalry, and no longer the grand squire, Don Quixote. He comes face to face with the reality of his own enchantment and illusions, and in this he reaches towards the depressive position; he can allow for the loss of omnipotent ideals, and he can still love and be attached, yet in a different and more secure way, to his image of his beloved anima, Dulcinea. In becoming Alonso Quijano, Don Quixote becomes more vulnerable, fragile, and human. He becomes an archetypal figure partaking of the self, able to accept the pain of loss, and while becoming a wounded hero gains in wisdom. He becomes more securely attached to his ideals, as he is able to accept bit by bit more and more of reality. Alonso Quixano can be attached to his ideal of Dulcinea in a more human way as he is able to integrate the capacity for the loss of his omnipotent fantasies. In this regard his attachment to the image of Dulcinea gains in texture and becomes more secure. The inner ideals and the outer realities become more integrated, much like what we find as an ideal of attachment theory. I hope that this presentation which has as it focus attachment theory can add something to this quest for understanding the interaction of the internal world with outer realities, and how this understanding helps to facilitate the individuation processes within the lives of our analysands.

I believe, along with Miguel de Unamuno, the great Spanish philosopher, that Don Quixote is a pre-eminent figure of the Spanish soul, who embodies the particularly Spanish concepts of passion, nobility, suffering, and the striving after ideals that are both spiritual and aesthetic. In this regard we can think of Cervantes’ creation as representing many of the ideals of a contemporary Jungian analyst who works at the edge of experience, that in-between space between outer reality and the inner world.

attachment_theory1 I would like to utilize the painting by Leonardo of “Anne, Mary and the Baby” which hangs in the Louvre in Paris, to help demonstrate a theory of attachment and infant development from a Jungian viewpoint. I think that Leonardo’s painting, which is contemporaneous with the Mona Lisa, depicts many relevant aspects of attachment theory, and is especially helpful in putting a Jungian lens upon the attachment processes. I would also like to look at the picture from the standpoint of infant observation, as I think that the skills we can gain from observing babies can help us to appreciate more deeply and observe more closely works of art such as Leonardo’s masterpiece.

I think that this painting says a good deal about our contemporary view of the attachment relationship. When we look at Leonardo’s painting utilizing a way of seeing that is based on infant observation, we can see how vividly the generational aspect of the attachment relationship is represented. Mary is able to hold the baby securely while she is firmly seated on her mother Anne’s lap. Mary gazes intently into her baby’s eyes which facilitates the baby’s capacity to hold onto mother’s gaze. The relationship between mother and child is being gently yet securely held by the gaze of the grandmother. The baby holds the lamb, a symbol of his future spiritual flock, in a playful yet firm way. The family appears to be seated upon solid rock which adds to the stability of this situation. This picture conveys much of the feeling that I will be trying to describe in this presentation.

During my years of work as a child and adult analyst I have developed an interest in the origins of the capacity for symbolization. This interest evolved out of my work with analysands who demonstrated difficulties utilizing symbolization processes such as dreams, fantasizes, play, and active imagination for the purpose of psychological growth and development. These varied analysands were children who had difficulty playing, adolescents who felt controlled by impulse and desires which often overwhelmed their emotional resources, and adults who experienced impasses in their relationships, work and creative lives. I have felt that findings from Tavistock infant observation and attachment theory to be helpful in understanding difficulties with the use of symbolization processes which foster emotional integration through the emergence of the transcendent function.

During the past fifteen years I have been engaged in what Mary Ainsworth (1967) has termed “fieldwork:” the observation of babies in the context of their primary attachment relationships and within the natural environment of their homes during the first two years of their lives. Attachment theory grew out of this type of participant observer anthropology. Mary Ainsworth, after working with John Bowlby at the Tavistock Clinic on research studies concerning the impact of separation, departed for Uganda and spent several years studying babies in relationship with their attachment figures in the natural surroundings of their rural villages, with the hope of documenting the evolution of attachment relationships in a non-Western culture. I have been interested in this area of study within attachment theory and have continued Ainsworth’s approach through the two-year weekly observation of a Mayan/Hispanic baby and her family in California. As I was interested in the micro-level of infant/caregiver interaction, I utilized video and will show you a sequence from this observation later. I have also been interested in two other major themes within the areas of attachment theory and infant observation: first, in understanding how the capacity for secure attachment, containment and self-regulation evolve during the first two years of the infants life, and second how the capacity for symbolization evolves from birth (or even before birth) through infancy and early childhood, and how these developments affect the adult’s capacity for symbolization in the context of analysis.

I was introduced to the study of infancy by Mary Ainsworth while I was studying psychology at Johns Hopkins. It was through my relationship with Mary Ainsworth that I first experienced a passion for babies and their development – a passion that was further nourished through ten years of study with Michael Fordham and through a twenty-year friendship and collaboration with Mara Sidoli, the Jungian analyst who did so much to further the study of infancy in the United States and Europe before her untimely death. I met John Bowlby while he was teaching and lecturing in the child psychiatry department at Stanford University where I was then teaching. Bowlby was open to Jungian psychology, more so, I think, than towards Kleinian psychology, which he opposed with much vigor, and towards which he appeared to have a personal grievance as his feelings were so strongly articulated. What Bowlby emphasized in his attachment approach was the interaction between the internal and external worlds, and according to him, any depth psychology that neglected this important relational component was in his eyes suspect.

Bowlby defines attachment as an affectional bond between individuals that has a survival value. According to Bowlby (1982, 1988), the human infant in the early stages of human evolution maintained proximity to his caregivers to help protect him from the danger of attack by predators. Bowlby describes attachment behavior as being activated when the distance between the infant and his attachment figure exceeds a certain point: in other words it always involves the concept of separation. According to Bowlby this propensity to form affectional bonds, and to maintain closeness to those who can offer protection and comfort, is wired into the human psyche and from a Jungian viewpoint can be termed archetypal in nature. While attachment is manifested through patterns of behavior, such as proximity seeking, the most important components of attachment are internal, structured within the psyche, and influenced both by archetypal and personal experience. These internal aspects of attachment are structured around feelings, sensations, thoughts, intuitions, memories, wishes, and expectations. In this sense Jung’s typology is of importance in understanding the interplay of temperamental characteristics with interpersonal attachment processes. I have found it very useful to try to understand an infant’s typology in the context of the typological characteristics of his primary attachment figures. There is much that can be gained from this type of study. The attachment theorists call the internal aspects working models, and they hypothesize that they are transmitted from generation to generation. In this regard they are close to Jung’s original theory that the child’s psyche is largely impacted by the psyche of his parents.

I have been studying the origins of these internal working models in the context of infant observation. I have found that the baby needs to be first conceived in the psychological space between the parents. Both before and during the pregnancy the archetypal “inner” baby is constellated as each parent has an image of the baby in their mind before the actual conception takes place and this image develops and evolves over time during the gestational period. Often the psychological/ imaginal impact of the baby archetype is filtered through the parent’s own perception of themselves, their self-image and their own deeply experienced psychological needs. One mother in the observation was convinced that she would have a girl baby. For her, having a girl baby meant unity, complete understanding and a sense of completion within herself. This archetypal image of perfection/completion was difficult for her to relinquish when she subsequently gave birth to a baby boy. Often the baby is seen as someone very special who will bring a sense of redemption and renewal to the couple. The couple then conceptualizes the baby as the savior of the marriage who could both link them together in a good way and help them cope with marital tension and conflict.

During the course of the infant observations we speculate in an on-going manner on the place that the baby has in the internal space of the parents. We wonder how the mind of the parent is brought into relationship with the baby. When things go well the parents can think about the baby empathically and keep him psychologically alive inside of themselves in a mindful manner. When mindlessness predominates the parent can potentially misread the baby’s messages and may substitute their own desires, wishes and needs for the baby’s desires, wishes and needs. Fordham (1985) believes that the mother holds the baby in her mind by reflecting about him, especially in a state of maternal reverie. The baby responds well to being held in the psyches of the parents in a mindful and empathic manner or else difficulties can appear in the infant such as either withdrawal or over-compliance.

Ainsworth was very open to the Jungian approach in psychology as she felt it was evolutionary in nature. She taught seminars that included discussions of Freudian, Jungian and Piagetian theories of development, in addition to attachment theory. My own sense in discussions with her was that she could look at Jung’s theory of archetypes as a kind of universal language that gives shape to man’s universal longings and desires. Ainsworth (1978) stressed the importance of seeing the healthy infant as having a capacity for agency and curiosity: the infant who is able to participate in co-constructing his universe in relationship with the significant others in his life. Ainsworth focused in her work on this interaction between what she termed the structured psyche and the environment. She felt that this interactional framework is fundamental in order to understand how attachment processes evolve during the entire life cycle. The structural aspect of the psyche from Ainsworth’s standpoint is related to those aspects within the individual which are activated, much like archetypes, through interactions with significant others. In Jungian terms, interactions with significant others humanize what I would call the attachment archetype. Ainsworth studied these interactions in Uganda and Baltimore and looked for those elements that led to the development of secure attachment.

In Ainsworth’s (1967) studies in Uganda she found that mother’s who enjoyed breast feeding, and who sustained frequent physical contact with their babies had babies who were more securely attached. These African mothers were able to soothe their babies effectively through physical contact when they were distressed, and were able to time their responses to be attuned to their babies’ rhythms. In Ainsworth’s studies both in the Baltimore and Uganda she found that physical contact between infant and caregiver was critical for the infant’s healthy emotional development. What Ainsworth believed is that it is essential for mental health that the infant and young child can experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his attachment figure in which both can find satisfaction and enjoyment.

I would like to relate this to Jungian theory, especially that developed by Michael Fordham. According to Fordham (1985), the infant is born with an integrated primary self that is separate from the mother. In order for the infant to come into relationship with the environment, reintegration must occur. The first deintegration occurs during the baby’s first feed at the breast. The first integration occurs when the baby falls into an undisturbed sleep after the feed. For Fordham, deintegration leads to a state of primitive identity, and as growth proceeds and ego development takes place, the infant begins to develop and individuation processes are set in motion. In this view the mother provides a facilitating environment that allows the infant’s natural growth processes to unfold. While breast feeling is not essential for the evolving intimacy between mother and infant to develop, I have found that by observing the feeding situation we are able to find out a great deal about the mother-infant relationship. I have observed some babies being able to utilize the nipple in a playful and creative manner and have then noticed that this has led to the evolution of their use of symbols and their capacity to play, an early form of pre-symbolic experience that involves sensory processes. The attitude of both the mother and the baby towards the breast and the feeding situation appears important in beginning to understand the dynamic interplay between mother and infant in their developing interaction.

Ainsworth came upon attachment theory’s defining metaphor in Uganda in her formulation of the concept of the secure base. Let me allow Ainsworth to talk in her own words about the secure base concept.

When most babies are able to crawl they do not always stay close to the mother but rather make little excursions away from her, exploring other objects and interacting with other people, but returning to the mother from time to time. The mother seems to provide a secure base from which these excursions may be made without anxiety. The child who is attached to his mother, if he is secure in his attachment, does not need to maintain constant proximity or contact with her. He is content to move away, as long as he knows that she is there. (Ainsworth 1967, p. 345)

Using the mother as a secure base emphasizes the possibility that a secure attachment helps in the development of the infant’s capacity for competence, separation and independence. I think that the secure base concept is highly relevant to the practice of Jungian analysis, as the analysand who can use the analyst and the analytic framework as a secure base is better able to explore previously unknown areas of their lives, and can incrementally internalize a secure base which can lead to the evolution of the capacity to use symbolization processes for the purpose of emotional integration. In my own studies in infant observation I have found that secure attachment and the development of a secure base in infancy leads to the evolution of a secure internal space where symbolization processes can unfold. I think of this secure internal space as being surrounded by a psychic skin that serves a containing and holding function. This primary skin functions to protect and contain inner feelings of goodness which are generated through the sensitive feeding, care, and holding of the mother. It is through the incremental accumulation of these positive experiences that a coherent body image is able to form, identity development evolves, and a sense of having a separate self emerges. In relation to the analytic process, a secure analytic skin can develop which helps to contain the emotional and symbolic material that emerges during any deep analysis.

My own contribution to attachment theory and infant observation has involved the development of a concept of a primary skin function that emerges in infancy, and helps in the formation of a psychic container. The primary function of the psychic skin (Feldman, 2004) is as a vessel or container that retains positive affects of goodness, fullness, warmth, and love which accumulates through the holding, feeding, care, affect attunement and the bathing in words which the caregiver engages in for the benefit of the infant.

I think that Virginia Woolf’s (1976) concept of “moments of being” is a helpful one in understanding the aesthetic and spiritural dimensions of this experience. Woolf talks about the ways in which ordinary experience can become filled with importance, and that these moments of being coalesce within us into a pattern or mosaic that forms the “invisible and silent scaffolding” of our lives (Woolf, 1976, p. 73). The primary skin function emerges out of these significant, yet often ordinary moments. When the containing function is adequately introjected the baby is able to acquire the concept of a space within the self and he can begin to conceptualize that both he and his caregiver are each contained within their respective skins. When the containing function fails to develop adequately the child will need to develop secondary skin function defenses to guard against feelings of having a fragile skin, or a leaking colander skin from which psychic contents can dangerously leak out and cause distortions in reality testing and interpersonal relationships.

I observed the evolution of a primary skin function in a bathing sequence that took place when this baby was five months old. This observation is of a Mayan/Hispanic baby whose parents had emigrated to California from Central America. When I arrive for the observation, mother asks me to go into the bedroom where the baby is lying in a basinet on the parental bed. Mother is about to give her a bath. While you watch this video, try to put yourselves in the role of an infant observer, and as observer of your own internal processes as you view the external images. I think that this moving sequence indicates how shared sensuous pleasure between mother and baby reinforces the experience of having a skin that can contain and hold feelings of sensuality, pleasure, goodness and fullness. Experiences such as these led the infant to become securely attached to her caregiver and facilitated the transmission of a healthy feminine body image. We observed that mother touched baby’s skin in a sensitive and at times vigorous manner, all the while bathing her in the sensuality of words and sounds. While I was observing this scene I had the feeling and intuition that mother was conveying to baby something significant yet mysterious about the beauty of her feminine body, especially her skin and genitals which were often the focus of her touch. This was indeed a significant “moment of being” that I felt privileged to witness.

It is observations such as these that have led me to value the importance of the aesthetic and spiritual dimensions of the infant’s experience, and how these experiences emerge during moments of deep synchrony between infant and caregiver. As a result of observing babies, I believe that these moments of being lead to the evolution of secure attachment, to the emergence of a secure base, and to the evolution of a primary skin or psychological containing function where symbolic experience can unfold and develop.


  • Ainsworth, M.D. (1967) Infancy in Uganda: Infant Care and the Growth of Love. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.
  • Ainsworth, M.D., Blehar, M., Waters, E, and Wall, S. (1978) Patterns of Attachment. New York: John Wiley.
  • Bowlby, J. (1982) Attachment. London: Hogarth Press.
  • __ (1988) A Secure Base: Clinical applications of attachment theory. London: Routledge.
  • Cervantes, M. (1968) Don Quijote de la Mancha. Barcelona: Editorial Juventud. (Original work published 1605)
  • Feldman, B. (2004) A Skin for the imaginal. London: Journal of Analytical Psychology.
  • Fordham, M. (1985) Explorations into the Self. London: Academic Press.
  • Woolf, V. (1976) Moments of Being. London: Harcourt Brace.

Japanese Ambivalent Attachment

Rika Sato-Tanaka
Fukuoka, Japan
Association of Jungian Analysts of Japan

In 1985, Miyake’s research showed that Japanese insecure attachment pattern was predominantly the “ambivalent” type and less of “avoidant” pattern. Within the cultural context, we find “the combined influence in Japanese infants of greater temperamental proneness to inhibition and crying, more proximal interactions, infrequent separations from the mother and less experience with situations approximating the Strange Situation paradigm.” Those who were born around late 1970s to early ‘80s are now between the ages of eighteen to twenty-eight, young adults. They are at that age when it is time to become parents, but many of them find it difficult to separate themselves from their original families. There are two significant types: (1) those who stay with the parents for good, either working or not; (2) those who get married because they are pregnant. I am sure there are many in between. What I want to say is that there is a tendency among young adults to deny the ambivalence of leaving the family by not leaving and becoming pregnant.

It is obvious that when those in this group were born, Japan was at the pinnacle of its economic condition. There were very few parents who had to struggle to survive and starvation deaths of babies were unheard of. However, now in the twenty-first century, there are newspaper headlines of child abuse, more of neglect and physical abuse. The Japanese economic depression has influenced to a great extent its culture, such as an increase in child abuse and also the attachment patterns.

Now there are more “avoidant” attachments than before. Still, as Miyake reported in 1985, “ambivalent” attachment seems to be an important issue in Japan.

From my clinical cases I observe that these are more medical than analytical; I would like to consider how the ambivalent attachment forms. Later I will show “withdrawals” – they are like agoraphobics and social phobics – adults aged between their 20s to 50s without work, bereft of social contact except that of their parents, and usually they stay with their parents for good. Japanese administrators of health and welfare estimate that there are between 500,000 to 800,000 of “withdrawals” in Japan. Other research says there are 1,000,000. They require medical and psychological assistance; however, they have not sought this assistance for many years. Those “withdrawals” show ambivalent attachment patterns towards their parents and society.

Case 1

In this case, I will show how ambivalent attachments develop in Japanese culture, especially when a mother is caught up in the collective. Even though they are basically not problematic parents, they form ambivalent attachments.

A woman, age 35, wants to discuss whether she should stop breast-feeding her one-year-old son right now or later. She has been married for more than ten years, has worked in marketing for a business firm. The couple had nearly given up hope of having children, but suddenly she got pregnant. She was ambivalent about becoming only a housewife and giving up her career. However, she left her job two months prior to her son’s birth. She told me, in a superficial manner, how wonderful it was to be a mother, but did not allow me to ask any questions about her ambivalence.

I was talking with her in my consulting room while her son and husband were in a different room. She said that her best friend, who used to live in the United States, told her that it was because of her over-protectiveness that she was still breast-feeding her one-year-old. She felt hurt by her friend, but her son has become angry when she did not give him her breast. She was also worried if weaning would traumatize her son. I asked her how she felt about this. She said, “I come here to hear a specialist’s opinion, I suppose you will tell me what is best.” I said it was always best if things went along with the mother’s instinct. She looked at me with suspicion and told me how baby care should be in America; Japan was backward, and so on. I was caught up with this issue for a while. She values the American way and wanted me to say, “stop breast-feeding now.” A specialist would then authorize her opinion.

Besides her wish, I also raised the issue of her anxiety on weaning. She told me how difficult her son was during the night. The baby wakes up three to four times each night, and does not fall asleep again unless she gives him her breast. I was sympathetic regarding her insomnia and commented on how difficult it was to choose between either an ideal childcare or a peaceful night.

At this point, her son began crying. I was more anxious than she was and said, “let us check how your son and his father are.” When I knocked on the door and opened, the baby was standing in front of us. He stopped crying but looked stubborn. The mother’s face looked angry but she said with a rather sweet voice, “What is the matter?” The baby did not respond for a while and then he smiled and walked towards his mother. The mother cuddled her baby.

I saw this mother-baby couple’s attachment as “ambivalent.” His mother responded to his crying with an angry, furious face but with a warm voice. He was not sure whether to turn to her or not. It took less than a minute to turn to her, but he displayed ambivalence. I am very familiar with these kinds of blank and empty moments. It is very common amongst school-phobic teenagers who are very shy and do not speak well. When I ask them what that they expect from me, they look at me with little eye contact but do not speak. They want to be helped but are ambivalent. This is a similar blank and empty moment.

It is extremely dangerous to generalize that those school-phobic children had ambivalent attachments when they were infants. However, I wonder, why not? They know they require help but find it very difficult to express this need. They probably cannot bear the risk of rejection. Typical Japanese mothers normally find it difficult to display openly their negative feelings in public, but they do so, and very often, at home.

Consequently, the child may become confused by his mother’s display and form an ambivalent attachment.

Later, I will discuss the “withdrawals.” It is not surprising that one in three of withdrawals had a history of school phobia. I often see school-phobic boys or girls turn into “withdrawals.”

Back to Case 1. The mother, apparently, is an ordinary, non- psychotic, anxious mother. I cannot think of her as one who abuses her child. Yet, she delivers mixed messages to her child and me. To her son, she offers help, but at the same time she conveys to him she is not happy to offer it. To me, she asks for help and at the same time orders me to justify her weaning now as a developmental task. She does not want to take any responsibility for her wish to separate from the baby, as it might cause psychological damage. If “it is the specialist who told her to stop breast-feeding,” she will feel safe. Her husband and relatives cannot criticize her. In other words, she was pretending to ask for my comment, but in reality what she really wanted was that I take responsibility for her ambivalent feeling, which she has difficulty bearing.

Towards the end of the session, the mother, father, baby and I were together in the room. The father played with the baby, the mother complained about her husband. Her husband was critical about her always reading “child care text books.” I felt she wanted me to say, “it is good to read.” I did not make any judgment until the end. Instead of colluding with her, I offered practical advice on how to make the baby sleep all night, in a general way. For instance, playing a lot in the daytime, providing the maximum amount of milk at the last feeding in the night. The father was a more relaxed personality, playing with the baby and talking at the same time. Even though she was negative, this man was tolerant and warm. I felt relieved by him. I saw a securely attached father and baby. However, I wondered if he was very busy at work.

In all the “withdrawals” that I know of as a clinician, the parents are housewife-mother and busy-businessman father. This family structure is the mainstream in Japanese culture. I will discuss this point later.


It is not easy to state that the housewife-mother provides a pathological environment. However, as with the mother in Case 1, it is still very common for a woman to give up working when she becomes a mother. In the same way, they think that they made the decision, but unconsciously they feel that Japanese culture forced her to give up being an individual and allows her only to be a mother. “To look after a child under three by mother‘s hand is the best” is still strong in Japanese culture. Collective common sense is the first priority and instinct is second.

Women are happy to be mothers, because it means they they are successful as women. However, their unhappiness as individuals who quit their jobs is denied. They should be pleased to concentrate on childcare. This “perfect mother complex” may cause ambivalent attachment patterns. They have a “perfect mother” persona over a depressed individual. Once she becomes a mother, a woman speaks as a mother and not as an individual. However, a child experiences his mother’s complexes. One of my patients told me, “My mother and I were always together, she was holding me tight and was warm, but I knew her heart was empty.”

In order to cheer up his poor mother, the child behaves as a lovely boy. Forming a second skin becomes permanent if the mother’s depression persists. These shared narcissistic wounds create a family culture insisting that “we all have to be a happy family. All negative feelings stay out side us.” When a father joins this paranoid-schizoid position, he abandons his individuality and becomes a good working father; and the child has no space to develop his or her own individuality. The child is obliged to be a stereotypical good child.

This perfect family story ends when the children become adolescents. At puberty, when they get agitated, they criticize the parents and withdraw from society by refusing to go to school or even by dropping out. The parents cannot understand why their children are so angry or hostile towards them. Although individuals differ, their descriptions of their parents looks almost identical. They say, “My mother has no talent except housekeeping and she is over protective. I do not know my father well. He is never at home. What I am sure is that they are simple, ordinary, boring people.” Under the thick persona, “withdrawals” fail to develop their individual uniqueness. They were used to being diligent, quiet and good children.

What they are most angry about is that they are boring, simple, unattractive young individuals, which is what they believe. They do wish to grow but they do not want any help from others. Ambivalent attachments to the parents reverse the relationship, such as controlling the parents and revolting against them. Twenty percent of them avoid any exchanges with the family, fifteen percent of them destroy things in the house. If they are women, eating disorders are common.

Interestingly enough, some of my colleagues have told me that there are “withdrawal” cases where only the parents attend support meetings; the “withdrawals” never participate. When parents become more relaxed, they began to develop and enjoy with others.


As Miyake (1985) and Caudill (1969) stated, Japanese mothers are physically very close to their babies, breast-feeding is mainstream, and sleeping together till the stage prior to adolescence is common.

They even share thoughts unconsciously, such as the “perfect family complex,” but they cannot take the same path as individuals. This fantasy exists as the family’s unconscious skin. However, this only lasts till the child becomes an adolescent.

Takao describes Japanese psychological character very clearly in his book, The origin of Japanese consciousness: “In Japanese psyche, persona is inflated and integrated, while shadow is primordial and vague, “and, “collective consciousness dominant.” This culture inhibits individuality but the younger generation is not willing to follow the same path.

Avoidant attachment patients, because they are rather distant from their parents, have a better prognosis. They are also far from the mainstream culture; so they can keep away from the “perfect family complexes.” It is difficult for me to say more about secure attachments.

In some ambivalent attachment cases, they are able to become aware of the shadow aspect of their relationship with their parents, and they get better. They give up the fantasy of being perfect and give up the urge to live in a paranoid-schizoid position by accepting their individual perceptions, which releases the individual from the power of collective.


  1. Caudill, W., & Weinstein, H. “Maternal care and infant behaviour in Japan and America.” Psychiatry, 1969, 32. 12-43.
  2. Colin, Murray Parks, J Stevenson-Hide, & P. Marris (1991) Attachment Across the Life Cycle. Longdon: Routledge.
  3. Miyake, K., Chen, S., & Campos, J. (1985) “Infant temperament, mother’s mode of interaction and attachment in Japan: an interim report,” in I. Bretherton & E. Waters, eds., Growing Points of Attachment Theory and Research. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, No. 209, 50.
  4. Takao, H., The Origin of Japanese Consciousness (2001) Japan: Shinyosha.