Spiritual Attachment Disorder (SAD)

Once upon a time, there was a loving Parent who walked with his children in peace and security—Paradise. But then something terrible happened: separation. The children were disconnected from their Caregiver. The relationship was severed because of rebellion, because of sin. Now, to this day, those children wander the Earth seeking to fill the void that was created in the loss. But, as they desperately attempt to connect with the world around them, only emptiness is found. Nothing can replace what once was. Nothing can make the children whole again except a reconnection to their life source.

This phenomenon of the Fall, the separation of God and man, has essentially created an Attachment Disorder (AD).

What is AD and what are the repercussions?

AD is a psychological theory which describes what happens in a person’s life as they mature without having properly attached to a primary caregiver. Here attachment means “the affectional tie between two people” (Nancy L. Thomas, When Love is Not Enough, 5). Primarily, we are talking about the bond between the mother, or primary caregiver, and the child. This relationship is absolutely, the most important relationship in a child’s life for it will inevitably form the pattern of relationships for the rest of that child’s life.

Now speaking specifically of AD, it is defined as “the condition in which individuals have difficulty forming lasting relationships. They often show nearly a complete lack of ability to be genuinely affectionate with others. They typically fail to develop a conscience and do not learn to trust” (Thomas, 5). This damage mainly occurs within the first three years of life when a child is abused or separated from one primary caretaker, and it causes the child to grow up with an inability to trust others to take care of them. Therefore the child rebels against authority or any attempts from others to help manage their life. Since the child never successfully attached to their caregiver, they will be unable to attach to anyone else. They are essentially disconnected from the rest of humanity.

In spiritual terms, we all suffer from an attachment disorder. We all suffer from Spiritual Attachment Disorder (SAD) because sin has torn us from our Primary Caregiver. Consequently we have difficulties in trusting our Heavenly Father. We spend our lives trying to find meaning and purpose elsewhere. We put our identity into anything and everything. But nothing fits, so our entire livelihood suffers. If we do not know God’s love, then we can never receive nor give proper love.

How to overcome?

For those afflicted by SAD, the human race, the true Father has a message: “On the day you were born, you were unwanted, dumped in a field and left to die. But I came by and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, ‘Live!’ And I helped you to thrive like a plant in the field. You grew up and became a beautiful jewel” (Ezekiel 16:5-7).

God did not abandon us. We rebelled against him. We created our own detachment. But God offers to bring us back regardless. To assist children dealing with AD, therapists help the children to learn some basic functions of life: establishing respect, teaching self-control, establishing healthy boundaries and expectations, forming responsibility, teaching the child to think for themselves, and building a positive self-image. Not surprisingly, God does those same things for us. Ultimately, when a person has formed an attachment disorder throughout their life, they must allow Christ to transform their mind (Romans 12:2). It requires a complete overhaul—a total rewiring of the brain.

One last fascinating point on remedying AD is that of holding therapy in which the caregiver simply holds the child to offer comfort and security. “Holding therapy has been documented by research to be highly effective. Since 1972 it has been safely used with excellent result” (Thomas, 22). As God’s children, we often just need to run into the arms of our Heavenly Father. We only need to rest in his embrace to find protection and provision. We can find that he is indeed trustworthy. In him is found peace, security, and identity.

At some point, everyone leaves us, everyone fails us, whether a person dies, moves, or disappoints. But God never leaves us nor forsakes us. He is the only one who is always there and never fails. Stop striving. Rest in him today!

Finley is a Master’s research student at Liberty University. He and his wife Carmen serve as house parents at His House Children’s Home in Miami, helping children who have been disconnected from their earthly caregiver to reconnect with their Heavenly Caregiver.

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