“Only Connect” The Mutuality of Attachment in the Treatment of a Resilient Adolescent
Seth Aronson, Psy.D.
Only connect, only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height,
—E. M. Forster, Howard's End
When I First Met R, more than four years ago, he was thirteen years old. He came to my office with his uncle, who had recently become his guardian. R was unkempt, with unwashed, uncombed hair, and he shuffled into my office with his head down. His uncle was upset with R for losing items, forgetting tasks, and generally seeming “spaced out.” For the first nine years of his life, R had lived with his mother, an active IV drug user, who often prostituted herself to obtain funds for drugs. His father had died while R was an infant, presumably a drug-related death. Between the ages of nine and thirteen, R was shuttled between various relatives when his mother decided she could no longer care for him, only to change her mind and reclaim him after several months, weeks, or even days. He later revealed to me the extent of his traumatic childhood, which included sexual and physical abuse, extreme neglect (his mother's drug use resulted in numerous evictions from their apartment as well as lack of money to buy food for R and his sister), and caretaking responsibilities during his mother's periods of despondency and active suicidality.
Although clearly moved by R's story at the time, I had no sense of the deep attachment that would develop between us and the extraordinary gains he would make, in part due to our relationship.
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