Human Interpersonal Relationships and the Love of the Trinity -- By: Maria L. Boccia

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 25:4 (Autumn 2011)
Article: Human Interpersonal Relationships and the Love of the Trinity
Author: Maria L. Boccia

Human Interpersonal Relationships and the Love of the Trinity

Maria L. Boccia

Maria L. Boccia, PhD, DMin, is a marriage and family therapist. She is the Director of Graduate Programs in Counseling and Professor of Pastoral Psychology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Charlotte, and maintains a private practice in the Charlotte area. Dr. Boccia brings the experience of more than twenty years of biomedical research on attachment and the long-term emotional and physiological consequences of early loss, most recently at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Before being trained in theology and Christian counseling, I spent a considerable number of years as a biomedical researcher. In that role, I invested my energies in understanding what we might call the science of love. In scientific terms, we call the love between a mother and baby, or baby and mother, and the love between husband and wife attachments. The person to whom that love is directed is referred to as an object, an object of our love. The idea was created by John Bowlby, a British psychiatrist, to explain why maternal deprivation leads to depression, anxiety, anger, and delinquency.1

Basic attachment theory

Human beings, especially children, rely on attachment objects (safe havens) to protect them from danger and help them cope with threats. The attachment behavior system functions like a thermostat. A thermostat regulates the temperature of the room by monitoring the “set point” temperature. If the room temperature goes below the set point, it turns on the heat. If the room temperature goes above the set point, it turns on the air conditioning. The attachment system regulates nearness to the attachment figure as the “set point.” If the infant senses any threat (danger in the environment or the threat of losing the attachment object, for example), the attachment system will activate to re-establish close proximity to the caregiver. When the threat abates, other behavioral systems such as exploration and caregiving can be reactivated. The attachment (a.k.a. love relationship) serves as the emotional sea in which we live and move and have our being.

Bowlby’s seminal ideas were first tested by Mary Ainsworth, who created a laboratory procedure that allows us to assess the quality of infant attachment to her or his mother.2 This led to an explosion of research exploring the nature, quality, and consequences of infant attachments. It was discovered that infants can develop different ways or styles of attaching to their caregivers.

These main categories of attachment styles were secure and...

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