Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More on Being Attracted to Family

Ken Eisold, PhD, wrote about something we covered earlier: recent evidence about being attracted to the appearance of family members that can manifest in our attraction to people who aren’t family members, but resemble family members.

There is other evidence for this tendency -- as well as parallel perspectives. Neuroscientists now understand that the brain organizes input according to pre-existing categories. So the earlier experiences we all had with caregivers - those who were present and active in caring for us as children - become the templates for later relationships. That may be why, as Professor Fraley put it, we are drawn to others who resemble our kin.

Psychoanalysts have called this tendency "transference," since it seems that attachments to earlier figures in our lives are transferred to current figures with whom we are deeply engaged. That's why the people with whom we fall in love tend to resemble parental figures. That also helps to explain why we reproduce parental expectations in our relationships with the therapists we come to trust and on whom we depend.

So far, so good.
But those attachments can also become frightening if they are too intense or if they tempt us into actions that conflict with adult responsibilities. It is touching for a daughter to say she wants to marry her daddy when she grows up, but it would be shocking for her daddy to encourage those feelings and criminal to exploit them.

Yes, if a parent of a minor child grooms that child for abuse or emotional dependency, that’s horrible. But if not, and that child returns home with eyes wide open having seen what’s out in the world, and as and adult that child chooses to enter into a new level of relationship with a parent, that’s not a problem.
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