Showsight May 2017


my clients. It has a lot to offer as we consider the importance of our relation- ships with our pets. Attachment theory considers our ability to allow ourselves to care about, perhaps even love, others in ways that are both meaningful and contributory to our own personal sense of well-being and happiness. Bowlby believes that our early childhood experiences with caregivers are the determinates of our ability to positively participate in inti- mate relationships as adults... meaning- ful relationships with our primary part- ner, our children, our close friends and, yes, even perhaps with our pets. If you have lived long enough, you have probably experienced the impact of the emotionality that sur- rounds an unfulfilled or non-continuing intimate relationship. It is part of the human life experience for most. By defi- nition, in our willingness to explore a desired relationship, we accept, perhaps unconsciously, the risk that we may ultimately be rejected or abandoned.

Such rejection or abandonment can be psychologically intense and potentially damaging as it affects our willingness to seek out subsequent relationships. Bowlby’s theory states that with each successful experience of having our childhood needs met at a time when we are personally incapable of caring for ourselves, such as feeding, warmth and diaper changes, we become secure and trusting of our relationship with the world and less fearful of rejection or abandonment. Hence, as adults, we are more willing to seek out intimate relationships in spite of the risk of pain- ful rejection or abandonment. We have confidence that our needs will, at least sometimes, be met. Consider the unique attachment that evolves from our loving relationships with our pets. We may even consider a relationship with particular breed based upon our expectations of the length of the breed’s expected lifespan. This could ultimately become the crite- ria we use to determine whether or not

we even explore such a relationship. So, in most cases we voluntarily enter into an intimate relationship with our new pet with the knowledge and expecta- tion that our own human life span may well extend beyond the life span of our pet. We accept the potentiality of an emotionally charged loss experience in exchange for the extended joy and intense pleasure we receive from our pet and the resulting relationship. In effect, we’re agreeing with Tennyson: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” Our willing- ness to participate is highly psychologi- cally enhancing as well as a sign of our positive personal attachment ability. The psychological consideration of all that our pets have to offer us is never ending in scope. As with every meaningful relationship we enjoy during our lives, this relationship is made up of a myriad of challenges and fulfilling moments. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A resident of Bainbridge Island, Wash- ington, Will Gibson, PhD, is a profes- sor of Marriage and Family Therapy in Seattle. Will specializes in attach- ment, relationship and bereavement and loss issues. He consults profession- ally in the area of parental grief and teenage suicide. He is also an avid pet lover who shares his home with his family and four rescued dogs.

140 • S how S ight M agazine , M ay 2017

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