The house is well built but the foundation is unstable – a great analogy for attachment and personality

Felicia Chiao’s drawing: “The house is well built but the foundation is unstable” is such a brilliant metaphor for the role of attachment and personality in our psychological makeup.

It’s the first 2 to 3 years of our lives that lay the foundation of our emotional lives for the rest of our lives. If were securely attached to our caregivers, we were lucky enough to have had the opportunity to build the resilience and social skills needed to be ok, emotionally speaking, in this life.

Our personality is the pattern of learned behaviors that we use to respond to the world. We perfect it as well as we can – honing skills and choosing which paths to walk and which to leave.

But if the foundation isn’t good, the reasons of responding like you do, lie not in adaptive responses of the present (i.e. what makes sense right here and now), but in adaptive responses of the past (what made sense then) but that are perhaps not so adaptive responses for the present.

It can go like this: You escape a forest fire – barely. Some years later you smell smoke in your surroundings, with no apparent explanation. You panic.

The adaptive response of the present would be to calmly go check it out.

The adaptive response of the past was to panic.

Body memories like these, called implicit memories, start ticking in on the third trimester – three months before you were born.

Like in the sample above, it’s often not adaptive to respond to the present with reactions from the past. That’s often why we get in trouble, and then beat ourselves up afterwards, not realising your body was just doing the same thing it did in the past, when he needed to.

Fortunately, we know today so much more on how to heal from a broken foundation than just a few years ago.

Finding a community that will support you is an important part of that process, and if not a community, someone that you trust to hold your pain.

You can do a lot with just attending regular yoga classes, dancing your heart out, especially with a community, singing, especially with others, breathing exercises, walking and running. Theater classes can often do wonders as well, as it gives you an opportunity to act out emotional scenes and show feeling in a safe setting.

In some cases, trauma therapy is advised, and in those cases remember; we’re a little like jeans, sometimes you gotta try a few on before you find the one that fits.

Good luck!