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Davis, E. (2015). Thoughts about the Work of John Bowlby and Its Significance to Me. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 9(3):xi-xii.

(2015). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 9(3):xi-xii

Thoughts about the Work of John Bowlby and Its Significance to Me

Emerald Davis

I was not explicitly aware of John Bowlby's work in the early years of my nursing career. However I often wondered about the impersonal and institutionalised care patients received and often thought that there must be another way.

Looking back I now appreciate the relevance of Bowlby's understanding of attachment, separation, and loss to that thought process.

On the 1st October 1958, I arrived in the UK from Guyana to embark on a psychiatric nurse training. The UK's appearance was cold and grey, a stark contrast to the warmth and colour of the homeland I had just left. The experience was very traumatic to say the least and I struggled to mentally and emotionally stay afloat. The food tasted awful and the nights were unbearably cold. I always went to bed with my hot water bottle, which was earthen ware, only to be awoken in the middle of the night with the sensation of being in a freezing cold river. In addition to that physical shock were feelings of frustration and anger. I discovered to my horror that I was being made to work as a domestic instead of pursuing my psychiatric training.

It was during my general nurse training, while working on the children's ward that I could not help seeing the distress of the children. They had been separated from their parents and were only allowed to see them during short visiting hours. Their experience of separation and loss resonated with my own, particularly when I emigrated to the UK.

Much later, working in the community as a District Nurse I encountered the sadness and loneliness of the elderly. They were often isolated and out of touch with their own children. It deepened my understanding of the pain of separation and highlighted the importance of attachment throughout the life cycle.

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