KAGAN: I agree. I only want to make the point that a focus on “secure attachment” doesn’t help us explain the experiences and states of most people. For example, after World War II, Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham studied 90 orphaned children who came from Auschwitz to a nursery near Hampstead, England. These were children who couldn’t have had a secure attachment. Many years later, Sarah Moskovitz, a psychologist from the University of California at Northridge, tracked them down and wrote a book called Love Despite Hate, which contained interviews with them. Most were living happy and productive lives. Many said, “I’ve made sense of my life. I understand what happened to me and I’ve gone on to have a good life.” But no one can explain why some had and some hadn’t developed a better adjustment. If we knew the answer to that question, we’d understand one of the great mysteries of life. Science isn’t there yet.
SIEGEL: Oh, I get it, Jerry. OK. So let me clarify something for me and you, and for everyone. Making sense of your life has nothing to do with what your parents offered you.
KAGAN: Correct. We still do not understand how or why the relationship to parents in the early years shapes the ability to make sense of one’s life. We’re far from having the full answer.
SIEGEL: For therapists, the important thing to remember is that even with people whose parents didn’t help them make sense of anything, there are still ways to develop relationships that can help them do that.
KAGAN: Of course.
SIEGEL: As we’re talking, I realize that you and I agree much more than you think. I don’t believe that if someone has a coherent life narrative on the AAI, it necessarily means they had a good relationship with their parents.
KAGAN: You shouldn’t call it an Adult Attachment Interview. It is more accurate to call it an Adult Coherence Interview? If you agree, then we have no quarrel.
SIEGEL: I love it! You know something—we’ve just achieved an unbelievable understanding.
KAGAN: Let me tell you something. This is the first time in my life that a conversation like this has arrived at an important insight.
SIEGEL: Give me a high five, Jerry. There you go!
KAGAN: All right!