Importance of personal history

Coming back to Mary Main’s sample, the implication of her finding is that working at the emotional history is important for people to develop more secure attachments.[1]  This is both to understand the ‘scripts’ that may be organising a person’s understanding of themselves in the world in a way that prevents positive change, or might be an opening to change. Secondly however, the interesting phenomenon of memories of one’s own past and the ability to talk about them becoming more possible as more secure attachment is developed, suggests that exploration of such memories is a useful diagnostic approach. This is of course a reassuring finding for those whose work is informed by psycho-dynamic ideas, but it suggests to me that our agency needs to take a renewed interest in work that encourages the exploration of emotional history.

The ‘detective’ approach to emotional history has been unhelpful, but the ‘baby can be thrown out with the bathwater’. I came across a social enquiry report[2] recently that disposed of the offender’s formative years, upbringing and family experience, with the words that there was nothing in the history of relevance to his current predicament. It is interesting that family therapy appears to be able to hold together the contribution of a range of theories, so that family history can be alive and creative part of the work without slavish adherence to a narrow theoretical base.

[1] Main et al. 1985

[2] The name for probation court reports at the time

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