Holidays and Attachments…(what’s the connection?)

Attachments Are Life’s Connections 


As we approach the holiday season it is a time of great pain for many people. Some are very clear about the source of the pain they feel, while for others the holidays evoke a deep pain that seems to have no clear source. Life hurts. The music, decorations, and pictures of family love and joy are stark reminders of what they don’t have. It takes them on a downward spiral into a holiday depression. Your attachments, or lack thereof, to primary people are a key to understanding your holiday funk. (Photo courtesy of Meilee Anderson)


(Photo credit © wittybear –

The Foundation –Many people these days build homes. There are essential steps in putting up a house.  The contractor must be very careful to have a foundation that is level and secure.  If there is a faulty foundation, the house will be unstable, not sound.  Ground must be level, smooth, and solid.  Even a small problem with the base will directly effect the rest of the building.  A competent, trustworthy contractor is very cautious in this beginning phase, being aware of the slightest detail. The owner of a house with an improper foundation will be in for a lot of work, worry, and expense.  Similarly, when our bonds are not secure we are in for a lot of pain and distress.

What is Attachment–According to Daniel Siegel, attachment is an inborn system in the brain that evolves in ways that influence and organize motivational, emotional, and memory processes with respect to significant caregiversThe attachment system motivates an infant to seek closeness to parents and to establish communication with them. [1]

Attachments are imperative for a child to seek out mom and dad for comfort, love, joy, and result in strong emotional/mental health when formed.  Attachments are foundational for organizing a healthy internal state of mind and for joyful, fulfilling relationships.

Secure attachment is one where parents attune, or are sensitive to the child’s needs.

clip_image009.jpg Insecure attachment is when the parents fail to remain sensitive at meeting needs.

Attachments are selective; only certain people will do when the infant seeks to bond.

Bonds form security for the infant that will be needed as he/she grows older and develops an independent and group identity.


By eighteen months, a child develops “evocative memory”.  This is a form of remembering through the image of faces, voice tone, smell, taste, and touch. [2]  Evocative memory is an internalized image in the memory, which brings comfort and security for the child if mom is unavailable.  Life giving interaction takes a healthy mom who can be sensitive to the child’s needs when it is time to build joy and when it is time to rest.  Early years are a fragile time for the infant.  If mom pushes joy building when the infant needs to rest, the experience becomes overwhelming and traumatizing.  Mom needs to be sensitive to what the baby desires, and what the baby does not need.  The ability to differentiate the two energy states strengthens the child’s mind, builds, and equips the emotional center.  The right hemispheric control center needs to be strong for all the roads an individual will travel, and emotions the child will confront.  The more practice, the better the child will be at regulating emotions and staying relational in distress.

Depressed 3

There will be no greater pain for a child than a parent who is distracted and unresponsive to the child’s needs and fails to respond when the child requires connecting.   Neglect, the absence of a connection, is experienced as a “death”, and the child will probably spend the rest of his/her life trying to avoid, mask, or numb the pain.  This child may experience relationships as anything but fun, exciting and enjoyable.  People may become a means to an end, objects of pain/pleasure, or bristles on a fragile wound.

Attachment pain can be the cause for addictions, compulsions, disorders, and a number of other symptoms and problems.  Attachment pain can instigate affairs, divorces, drug/alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and many other disastrous situations.  Oftentimes attachment pain goes unnoticed, unrecognized, or mis-diagnosed.










 (Photo courtesy of Meilee Anderson)

Attachment pain can be intensified during holidays by pictures of delighted children opening gifts, happy families gathered around groaning tables of food, scenes of happy shoppers, and the ever present joyful Christmas music.

This is the first in a series of five on attachment pain. If you have a short story about low joy and the holidays that you could share, please do. It may help someone who struggles emotionally this time of year.(Photo courtesy of Meilee Anderson)

[1] Developing Mind, by Daniel Siegel, pg. 67

[2] Developing Mind, pg. 71

Thrive Training Reminder…

Feb. 23-27, in Austin, Texas

July 26-31, 2015 in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Registration Information here.

May your joy be full,

Chris & Carol

Chris Coursey, MA Theology – Author, Speaker and Thrive Trainer,

Twitter – @coursey_chris

Carol A. Brown, Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive

Carol’s email –


5 Reasons For Pastors to Grow Joy!


Have you wondered if taking the time to learn how to grow joy would benefit you as a pastor? Here are five ways it does!

It Clarifies Communications, Improves Your Marriage, Repairs Ruptured Relationships, Restores Energy, and You Become a Model.

 1. Growing joy clarifies communication. When you learn how to share joyful times with friends, staff members and family, a bond develops between you; your brains learn to synch with each other. It is like growing a relational synapse over which messages can travel—much like a telephone line.

Sharing joy moments exercises your “empathy muscles” so that you “know” each other better and are less likely to impute motivations that are not there or make erroneous assumptions about intentions. Joy also creates an ease between people that makes it easier and less costly to ask clarifying questions. There is no longer the fear of rejection, name calling or judgment for not understanding in the first go round.


How would you grow joy that improves communication? An easy and fun way is to tell glory stories—stories that clearly demonstrate God’s fingerprint in your day. This is also an excellent exercise for the family at dinner time! It changes the dinner time atmosphere. You can find directions for telling 4+ stories on the Thrive website see below.


2. Growing joy improves your marriage. Joy is a very good feeling; in fact your brain is designed to run on joy so you intuitively seek it. It is much healthier for your brain to run on true joy then to substitute BEEPS or pseudo-joy. Pseudo-joy is like putting regular into the gas tank of a car designed to run on high octane. The real thing is always better than the substitute, right?

Experiencing true joy moments together strengthens the marriage bond and makes it more fulfilling. This is the testimony of Jen and Chris Coursey as they tested various strategies for growing joy in the midst of the hectic life of raising two active boys and developing a ministry. You can get the manual they developed below. These exercises work! Learning and using these joy building exercises will also make your marriage even more attractive to your people. They will want what you have.

 3. Growing joy can repair ruptured relationships.


Really? How would you do that? Very carefully. You could begin by some simple acts of appreciation…a “thank you,” “that was very thoughtful.” Or, “I appreciate ___________.” Or, it could be biting your tongue to prevent a smart retort that adds nothing positive to the mix. Then as communication is slowly restored, expand the topics you talk about, keeping the Lord central in it all.

Growing joy in ruptured relationships is like growing moss on the north side of the house. Keep it sheltered from “hot topics.” Start slowly and don’t stir things up by periodically checking on the root system by asking “How am I doing?” It starts to slowly form along the edges and then it takes over. It is a beautiful thing to see joy take over a ruptured relationship. Now, moss on the north side of the house is something else, but to grow it requires shelter from the heat!

 4. Growing joy develops strength, energy and resiliency. If you have been exhausted physically, spiritually and mentally, growing joy will fill your tank again. That scripture “the joy of the Lord is my strength” is not just a nice metaphor. It is reality!

 5. Bonus Reason: You become a joy starter, a model as others want what you have. You can spark little joy outbreaks which can become a flame within your congregation! If you would like to see one or more of these effects of growing joy in your life personally…

1. Download the directions for telling 4+ Stories (Glory Stories)       click here. 

Four Plus

2.And the joy building exercises for married couples click here


3. The Joy Starts Here small group study book to help create the joy outbreak in your church, click here


And then get back to us and let us know what is working for you!

 May your joy be full,

 Chris & Carol,

Chris Coursey, MA Theology — Author, Speaker and Thrive Trainer, 

Twitter – @coursey_chris

Carol Brown, Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive