The Women's March On Washington, Attachment Theory & My Mom

There were Sister Marches in over 600 Cities world wide-were you there?

Posted Jan 19, 2017

Art By Janet Wallace-Los Angeles- used with permission.
Source: Art By Janet Wallace-Los Angeles- used with permission.

We did it!! 60,000 marched in Toronto in support of the Women's March on Washington.

I was 15 at the time of the first Women’s March on Washington (1963) where Martin Luther King made his “I Have A Dream Speech”.  But I had been on my first of many marches 2 years earlier when I was 13. My mother, Judith, who supported Women Strike for Peace, and Another Mother for Peace, and loved the public library as well, took me on my first Civil Rights march at age 13. My father was a pioneer in Organizational Development work at IBM and thru the years, my parents supported Social Justice via many avenues including the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Photo by A.L.-used with permission.
Marching with my daughters and granddaughter.
Source: Photo by A.L.-used with permission.

On Saturday January 21, 2017, I marched with my two daughters and my 13 year old granddaughter at the Women’s March On Washington in Toronto. It was a good tradition to follow and a testament to my mom and dad, whom I respect and love for setting the example of standing up for Social Justice; something I am honoured to be a part of. 

But my parents weren’t the first in our family to stand up for Civil Liberties. My maternal grandmother, Yetta, marched in protest in Eastern Europe. So on Saturday, as I marched with my 2 daughters and granddaughter, we were representing at least 5 generations of women who have stood up for social justice.

Although I wasn’t militant in my younger years, I was affiliated with SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and SPU (the Student Peace Union). Many people associate organizations that protest, with modern day left wing activist groups, however, “Student protests over broader political issues also have a long pedigree” 1 “dating to Paris and Bologna in the 13th century and Korea where 150 students staged an unprecedented remonstration against the king in 1519.” 2  

Art By Janet Wallace-Los Angeles- used with permission.
Source: Art By Janet Wallace-Los Angeles- used with permission.

Social activism thru protest ended in my freshman year of university when, during a debriefing following a campus protest, I heard that proverbial inner voice. It said “peace starts within” and from that day forward I have pursued what we would today call Mindfulness Practice as my contribution to a world (both within and without) of harmonious diversity.

As Prem Rawat, often referred to as an “Ambassador of Peace”says, “The world doesn’t need peace, people need peace”. “When people are in peace, the world will be in peace.” 6

My 2 brothers and I have each in our own ways been influenced by our parents example. In the words of my brother Marc, "We grew up in a family that placed great value on human rights, respect for all people, and working to better the world.” Circumstances, however, have meant we have been separated across State lines as well as countries, and keeping connected has at times been difficult.

Pondering this, and also dismayed by it, I asked my mother a question in her later years. Now my mom, although an extremely intelligent woman scoring high in intelligence tests even in her mid-80’s, lived in a bubble of sorts and was not prone to sharing many of her deeper introspections with me. As well, she was a minimalist regarding reaching out only calling me on the phone once my entire adult life. But that day she said something I found both surprising and profound and it has stayed with me all these years. I asked, “Mom, why do you think our family is so distant”, and she told me that each of her parents, Yetta and Isidor, while in Europe and before they met in NYC, had witnessed people they knew shot “at their feet” during the pogroms. 3

What? I didn’t even know what a “pogrom” was! But that was all she said and I was left to ponder her meaning in relation to my question. Was she saying that the trauma of being witness to that violence wounded her parents in ways that affected their ability to be present- to bond and stay connected? Was she saying this set a tone for the way she was with me?  Could my grandparents have been victims of PTSD?  Could violence perpetrated as a result of  LACK of respect for social justice and civil liberties interfere with the ability to develop close relationships even between parent and child? I don’t know if this was indeed what she was saying but Attachment Theory says, “yes, this makes sense".

Humans thrive on love and secure attachments. Peter Fonogy, Fonagy, Peter. Attachment Theory and Psychoanalysis. Other Press, LLC, 2010.  often referencing John Bolby, outlines the distress and subsequent behaviour exhibited by infants who are deprived of a secure attachment and the numerous ways in which this affects their systems of behaviours. According to attachment theory, the (caretaker) bonds we form as infants and children affect our relationships with ourselves and those around us and our behaviour thru out our lives. The “dance of intimacy” that plays out in all our relationships is informed by our earliest experiences with secure bonding and attachment- which in turn is dependent upon our ability to turn to others for comfort and connection and to count on (trust) people to give that to us. Some of what we look for is a reliable and consistent return of “bids for attention4 and emotional availability. Reciprocity plays a significant part here as well. The “Still Face” experience (Edward Tronik 1975) and the “Strange Situation Procedure” (Mary Ainsworth 1965) are examples of this. 5  It follows that a parent experiencing any degree of distress or trauma is not available to provide the secure attachment every child needs in order to be well functioning and successful in forming harmonious reciprocal relationships.

So what do attachment theory and family dynamics and my personal history have to do with the Women’s March and why I marched with family, friends, and strangers?

Research demonstrates that the way we feel about ourselves affects how we relate and interact with others and is vitally important in determining our over all state of well being. Simply, our self-esteem and sense of safety and connectedness in the world around us, set the tone for our interactions in family and society.

If you have ever been marginalized, bullied or even ridiculed or treated with contempt, you know how shaming, degrading and disruptive it is to your self worth. Being treated in these ways has an effect on our emotional state, stability and nervous system. Imagine being a victim of this marginalization because of things you can’t even control or hide-like race, gender identification, who you feel drawn to express physical affection and your sexuality with? How can you be secure and pass security on to your mate and children and family when you are likely to be in a near constant state of mild to severe turmoil and it’s resultant agitation, emotional withdrawal or numbness (fight, flight, freeze)? The answer is "you can't".

Art on Scratch Board by Tony Kroes-used with permission
Source: Art on Scratch Board by Tony Kroes-used with permission

The Woman’s March on Washington- though it may for many have been prompted by the policies and attitudes attributed to now President Trump, was a rally not a protest. It spoke to human rights and liberties. It’s about the birth right and necessity for each human being to be treated with respect and tolerance. For each person to live a life free from fear of persecution based on attributes that simply reflect diversity and basic human rights.

As you can guess from the life events I have written about here, and perhaps other writings of mine you might have read in Psychology Today,7 I think that little voice that spoke to me on the campus of Syracuse University in 1967 was correct-Peace starts within and the more we do to reduce shame and foster repect and tolerance for each other’s differences, the more that inner security, safety and well being can develop within each human being- perhaps even leading us to celebrate our diversity. In this way we encourage cooperation rather than defensiveness, communication rather than attack, collaboration rather than competitiveness and perhaps, dare I say?, with these actions we can each contribute to fostering a world where the norm is based not on a model of Either/Or or Win/Lose.  But one which embraces Both/And and Win/Win.

This is why I marched. That is why I invited my daughters and granddaughter.

With thanks to Hank Davis and Kris Scheuer and my brothers for their editing help. 

To read my other recent blog go here: http://m.psychologytoday.com/blog/try-see-it-my-way/201701/trusting-your-gut-maybe-its-not-what-you-think

and https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-heart-my-sleeve/201701/shouldnt-we-support-melania

The Unity Statement of the march starts off with these words:

 “We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women - including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women - are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments …”.

And includes statements on:

ENDING VIOLENCE

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

LGBTQIA RIGHTS

WORKER’S RIGHTS

CIVIL RIGHTS

DISABILITY RIGHTS

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

See full statement here https://www.womensmarch.com/principles/

The ads that appear here occur randomly and have not been chosen or endorsed by me.

References

1 Wikipedia Boren 2013, pp.9-19

2 Wikipedia p. 65 ISBN 8994125124

3 Pogroms “A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at the massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews. The term originally entered the English language in order to describe 19th and 20th century attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire” Wikipedia 

4 What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal. Dr John Gottman Simon & Schuster 2012

5- visit YouTube to see demonstrations on the “still Face”  by Tronik and the “Strange Situation Procedure” by Mary Ainsworth both with narration (respectively) by Tronik and Ainsworth. 

6 For more info on Prem Rawat and his message of peace- go here https://www.timelesstoday.com/

To see blogs from Hank Davis -Caveman-Logic-go here http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/caveman-logic/201701/trusting-your-gut-exc