Thursday, November 15, 2012


There is already much research out there talking about the importance of attachment or what is sometimes known as "object relations." The theory stresses that the nature of the early relationships we form with significant others in our lives, that begin with our parents, whether positive or negative inform the way we do relationships for the rest of our lives. Some of us learn to avoid others because we believe that they cannot understand us, others of us learn to prize others while holding ourselves in contempt, others of us become confused about who we can trust and who we can't, and others still learn that we can trust others and partake in healthy relationships. Current information now leads us to believe that the way we learn to do relationships early in life is related to the way we approach our analysis of God and our attachment strategy toward him. This research suggests that God attachment can be explained in one of two ways: Our relationship with God directly mirrors our relationships with early significant others (correspondence model), or that our relationship with God can compensate for the failings of earlier significant relationships (compensation model).

The large implication of this new research is that it has the potential to explain the disparities we may sometimes encounter when considering why some individuals are resistant to conversion or belief in God, and why others of us have a hard time while in relationship with God. Many of us become so frustrated when because we feel that God is far from us because he is either angry with us, disappointing in us, or about to hurt us by abandoning us again to difficult circumstances. Some of us may feel that God is untrustworthy and manipulative, so we decide to keep him at arms length. This research interjects the possibility that if we could understand the dynamics of our relationships with others, we may be able to better understand our current standing, or struggles with faith. On the other side of the equation is the great potential for restoration in our broken relationships. A fresh encounter with a loving God may indeed have the potential to free us from past wounds, and usher us into a new world of experiencing relationships.

The point here is that however our current schema for deciphering relationships is shaped, we can glean some insight from those relationships to inform how we do relationships with our God. It is in my opinion that a small dose of insight can go a long way with understanding our frustrations, and encouraging our healing.

Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John bowlby and mary ainsworth. Developmental Psychology, 28, 759-775
Beck, R. (2004). Attachment to god: The attachment to god inventory, tests of working model correspondence, and an exploration of faith group. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 32(2), 92-103


  1. This whole topic of Attachment styles and the two relational theories intrigues me quite a bit. I think a topic like this shows how important it is for people, in general, to be self aware. Sometimes we can act a certain way and feel a certain way but not know why or where these feelings and views come from. Becoming self aware and realizing and understanding a baseline for these thoughts and emotions can better help us combat the negative "side effects" of poor attachment styles from early life. Your last sentence pretty much summed it up. Good post!

  2. John,
    I appreciate that you mentioned the idea of attachment to God either mirroring that of other relationships or compensating for them. In some cases, God completely fills the void of all dysfunctional relationships that have failed. Yet in other cases, securely attached individuals seek close proximity to God and consider Him a secure base. I can definitely relate to feeling distant from God at times, and I think it comes from my natural tendency to humanize God. Because of experiencing disappointment with other relationships, I sometimes create God in our image—believing the lie that He is not working for our good and will leave us. I am very thankful to the people who have brought this to my attention, and I like seeing little reminders of this truth (as seen in your post!). I agree that God can restore not only our view of Him—our perspective of His nearness—but also our broken relationships with other people. Sometimes, it does just take a little bit of new insight to gain the right perspective. I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

  3. Hey John, I thoroughly enjoyed the way you brought the attachment issue to the person and I believe that your conclusions directly speak to the way I can sometimes view the Lord in relationship. Before this class and your posts (and the others) I had never heard the concept of the correlation between spiritually and human relationship. I noticed that in the end you focus more specifically on correspondence theory and I am curious if this was intentional and something you think we are more prone to do as people. I think in class we said that both seem to be true, so I was wondering if you think that one tends to be more common. As a future counselor I am trying to learn which theory I tend to find myself in. Great post John, you always make me think!

  4. The way that we function in relation with others can in fact reveal some helpful information regarding how we view our relationship with God. In fact, I would say that the process of learning how to properly relate to God can even improve improper relationships with others. However, the challenge is certainly in learning that human relationship aren't exact parallels with God because he does not suffer from the same sinful complications that humans do. Yet, even though that is true, we can't escape our relational concepts that have been formed in us early in life. It takes hard work to analyze and improve relationships with others and also with God. Good post John.


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