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Schwartz, J. (2015). The Unacknowledged History of John Bowlby's Attachment Theory. Brit. J. Psychother., 31(2):251-266.

(2015). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 31(2):251-266

The Unacknowledged History of John Bowlby's Attachment Theory

Joseph Schwartz, Ph.D.

I argue that attachment theory is a central part of the history of psychoanalysis, although in a form not easily recognizable partly because of Bowlby's unique formulation of the centrality of relationships in terms of attachment for understanding the dynamics of the human inner world and partly because of certain defensive features of psychoanalysis that makes changes in thinking difficult and results in the marginalization of dissident voices. Bowlby's unrecognized antecedents extend back to Bleuler in Switzerland and include White, Sullivan and Thompson in the United States and Fairbairn and Winnicott in the UK. A dangerous clinical consequence of the lack of acknowledgement of Bowlby's contribution to psychoanalysis has been a widespread ignorance of the difference between an attachment bond and a trauma bond. An attachment bond provides safety and a trauma bond provides harm. Victims of abuse can mistakenly be encouraged to remain in abusive relationships in the name of attachment because trauma bonds can be strong even though they are harmful. This is a dangerous misreading of attachment theory stemming from the marginalization and ignorance of Bowlby's work.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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