For some years now, after finally getting a grip on rational, oppositional logic in grad school, understanding the use of “warrants” (evidence) to construct systems for the use of institutions, and finding that that realm always favors the status quo and the people in power, I’ve turned to the organic, the biological, and the metaphorical which may be contradictory to the standing order — esp. those that punish and exclude various groups within the whole, whether those are human or planetary, whether stigmatizing certain populations or demonizing certain species or sacrificing some landscapes.
So in this short piece (I aim for 1,000 words) I will address the issue of attachment/separation because the realm now labeled narcissism versus co-dependence (attachment to a narcissist in a way that helps them). The idea of ecology — how things fit together in a protective and inclusive way that allows “space” for evolution — is highly relevant as a criterion. That is, things fit together and the better that works, the “higher” and more valuable any new element of the process is. "Fittingness" is the key.
The issue of N/C (if I can use an acronym) is about “love” but we get into a lot of trouble because the term has been captured, deformed, monetized, and otherwise rendered problematic. So I’m going to talk about “attachment” in the most basic biological terms, when the blastosphere stage of a conception of a mammal has begun unfolding into a new individual. Some of that blastophere becomes the placenta through which attachment to the internal lining of the uterus happens. If it doesn’t happen, the beginning is lost. It dissolves. If it works, the mother both accepts the attachment and begins providing the supply of materials necessary for the embryo to keep developing.
Sometimes the attachment is insecure, leaky, or in a bad place, like blocking the birth exit from the uterus through the cervix. I consider these problems part of a parent’s job, a beginning that continues right on through birth, the formative primary years, the identity-developing time before puberty, and then the sexual development. It is a principle of evolution that every mutation builds on what went before, whether subtracting, diverting the function, using something previous to create something new, or simply duplicating. It all hinges on whether the change supports survival. A happy infancy means a successfully individuating child means a person who can handle sex and pair-bond if they want to start a new family.
Whether survival is helped or hindered also depends on the environment, especially the mother’s body, the adult caretakers after birth, the siblings and age cohort, and whatever institutions are there. It also includes the quality of air and water, the molecules floating everywhere, viral and bacterial creatures in the gut or living in the skin, and animals, both household and wild.
In the past these were “organic” (maybe mineral) but now we have the ability to create molecules, genes, and even simple chromosomes. We can go to a work bench in a lab and MAKE the constituents that go into living creatures. For example, many insecticides and other formulations have been based on attacks through the female-hormone-based molecules in bugs without any realization that these would affect humans as individuals or as populations.
They do. Investigators say that the human penis (in the aggregate) is shorter than it used to be, and male sterility (two-headed sperms or sperms who swim in tight little circles) is increasing. A recent discussion about our evolutionary predecessors, the Neanderthals, suggests that the mystery of why they died out or were absorbed into “us,” is due to the Y chromosome, that “little” chromosome that is missing a leg that is on the X. But it’s not that the Neanderthal Y chromosome was lacking something — they evidently had on their Y chromosome a few mutated genes that caused male conceptions to be destroyed by the mother, who interpreted them as an intruder. (They were, of course.) The attachment broke.
The only cross-breeding between “us” and Neanderthals that were passed on were through the female. This kind of phenomenon is not unusual. My next door neighbor endured a tragedy because she was carrying a boy with a kind of cerebral palsy (Duchenne) that affects only males. The boy was not lost as an embryo or as a young child, but lived to be a near-adult who was much loved by his family and friends and who was capable of love.
We do not attach to people because they are perfect or because there is some “cold” or “dry” reason, but economics has a lot to do with settling for incomplete or painful connections. We come to love each other when we “know” each other, which is — of course — a euphemism for sex used in English translations of the various languages of the Bible. Dependency is a kind of connection that is vulnerable to circumstances and to emotional “shapes.” That is, if a way of attaching was learned in very early years, it’s like a kind of structure or genome that persists — the irritable child, the impatient family, adults who enforced with abuse, are all phenomena that affect everything afterwards. There can be something like "aborting" in which an unfinished child is ejected.
If something is faulty in early days, sometimes it can be corrected. My cousin was born with no thumb, so the surgeons transplanted her big toe to become a thumb and it worked fine. But there are many invisible faults in the ability to attach emotionally that don’t come along until adolescence when formation of pair-bonds become pressing as a developmental stage. It’s painful in that the next generation may be conceived without a real family. Biology doesn't always consider psychology. If there are institutions who can do “surgery” whether law or missionary or therapist or collateral family, are they justified? What if they’re no good at it and, in fact, use and abuse those dependent on them? Who decides that it’s even happening?
We can analyze the genomes of viruses to the extent that we can distinguish among “families” of them and thereby trace them back the way we trace Neanderthals. If we can do that, what would prevent us from meddling in their genomes? Skill and motivation. If we can do that, isn’t it possible to create new viruses or at least to modify existing viruses to make them more virulent or targeting specific populations? One is not born with morality. The Chinese are already altering human conceptions.
Interwoven with all our powers to create and destroy are our natures as human beings with all our experiences of attachment or abandonment. We abandon some people, attack others, protect those we care about. Most people make deep intimate attachments outside their birth families as beginning “conception” of a new family. Our experience is shaped by these relationships and experience interacts with capacities to understand to help or hinder.