A full-scale investigation of the controversial and often misunderstood science of attachment theory, inspired by the author’s own experience as a parent and daughter.
When award-winning editor, writer, researcher, and longtime Zen student Bethany Saltman gave birth to her daughter, Azalea, she felt like there was something ‘off’ about her experience. She knew she loved her daughter, but would oftentimes be angry, short on patience, even unkind. She went in search of the reasons why, and how to better understand herself, her daughter, and their relationship.
Saltman launched a broad inquiry into the science of attachment, a field of developmental psychology that answers the question of why — from an evolutionary point of view — love exists between parents and children. Specifically, she focused on the data from a famous laboratory procedure, the ‘Strange Situation’, used around the world by scientists as the gold standard for measuring attachment security. What Saltman found by studying the Strange Situation is that love is unbreakable. Each and every one of us — including her — is built for it.
In this intimate, rigorous, and deeply personal rendering, Saltman discovers that while our behaviour as parents is important, what matters most is the way we think about our attachments, transmitted mind to mind from generation to generation. This is excellent news. After all, as Saltman’s decades of Zen practice tell her and her readers, the one thing completely within our power to change is our minds.
‘Strange Situation is a beautiful exploration of what makes us human — our relationships. By artfully weaving together her own experiences as a mother, daughter, and wife with the science of attachment and the fascinating life history of one of its founders, Mary Ainsworth, Saltman helps us to see ourselves — and our relationships with those we love — in an entirely new way.’
Lori Gottlieb, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
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‘Strange Situation is a book that will change you. Surrender to this seductive, searching, genius hybrid of social science and memoir and you will never hug someone, laugh, or hear a child cry the same way again.’
Wednesday Martin, bestselling author of Primates of Park Avenue and Untrue
‘Brilliant, brutally honest, and ultimately redemptive, Bethany Saltman’s powerful and meticulous new book, Strange Situation, made me see my own childhood and my own parenting in a fascinating new light. This book flooded me with emotions and questions, but unfolded like an epic drama. I couldn’t put it down.’
Amy Chua, bestselling author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations
‘This extraordinary book tells the story of attachment research and summarises the key findings of half a century of research in a gripping manner. It is a book that will appeal to everyone with an interest in early relationships, the nature of bonding, as well as the history of developmental science. It is an exceptional achievement for Saltman to have created a ‘pageturner’ that reveals the excitement behind the discoveries of attachment research. A must-read for anyone interested in childhood and those who have spent their lives studying it.’
Professor Peter Fonagy OBE, Chief Executive, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families
‘[A] fascinating deep dive into attachment theory ... Carefully researched and with copious endnotes, this is an excellent resource for anyone interested in child development.’
‘An examination of the psychological attachment between parent and child from both personal and more detached points of view ... [H]onest and complex. A thoughtful engagement with a topic that affects all parents.’
‘A beautifully written account of the courage, luminosity, and sheer audacity of loving someone.’
Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Love