Personal Growth

The Chicken or the Egg: 
Perspectives on the Attachment/Detachment Cycle

By Vicky Jeter

What is it about being human that keeps us questing after "meaning" in order that we may feel validated in living more fully? Why is it that "The Chicken, or the Egg" question can have the capacity to captivate our powers of rationale no matter how many times we've heard it? Why do we often sense with that unexplainable feeling that "the grass is greener on the other side of the hill?" 

And, how often is it most of us have heard as we grow up and, certainly, well into adulthood, when we have a challenge we have no control over, or even more so a person in our lives we feel challenged by, “You need to let it go; just let them go.”  Very often in our heads even we can see the sense in this.  Clearly, very often it is what we need to do.   In many self-help and spiritual development circles “compassionate detachment” is described as one of the practices of healing and growth.  But why is “detachment” so difficult for most of us to do, at least at some points or in some ways in our lives? 

These questions are, in significant ways, closely related.  And, impossible as it might seem, I'm beginning to sense that these questions are representative vehicles of the essence that sustains Life, itself--to ponder these, and similar questions is to dance with God.

In the beginning, God--Omnipresent Source, period.   According to physics all forms and waves in the universe or known universes literally boil down to being of a unified energy substance. Necessarily then, at least in perceptual experience, becoming a form, a person distinguishable from others is a process of detachment, from unity to apparent individuality. So, in the process of conception into human experience this is the initial phase of moving from unity-attachment, to individuality-detachment. Correspondingly, on a biological level, two uniquely individual and independent living cells, the sperm and egg, are driven by a biological imperative to attach to each other, and conception occurs.

In this phase successful attachment of sperm to egg substantiates the dynamic existence of a new unified whole, the zygote--as short as this independent unity may be, free floating from the fallopian tube into the cavity of the uterus within the mother's system. Yet, simultaneously, even as this dynamic process of two-becoming one unfolds, the next level of the imperative to attach emerges. For within a decisively limited window of time the fertilized egg must find its way to the uterine lining of the mother-host, and succeed in attaching, or die.

Thus, the independent life finding firm attachment settles into its uterine home, once again dependent on being  firmly attached to the mother, and the mother's qualitative life space in order to survive  throughout gestation into yet another more advanced life expression. Then, the onset of birth ushers in the next detachment cycle. The new baby must successfully detach from the womb and the umbilical cord with all bodily systems functioning independently to begin individual life on Earth.

But this is where really "getting" the ongoing necessities of this rhythmical attachment/detachment principle becomes most interesting and important to our questions about why we are forever looking to the next horizon, and why it can be so difficult to detach.   Notice that with each previous detachment, successful attachment in and through the next phase of development is an imperative--attach, or die.  Throughout the conception and gestation processes the conditions in which this imperative is driven are governed entirely by the intelligence of nature encoded in human biology, far beyond conscious human control. 

For human babies, who are born insufficiently developed to do anything for themselves, the next phase of the attachment imperative is as crucial to the infant’s survival as any of the previous attachment cycles.  However, the conditions required to insure that attachment will occur have dramatically changed; it is no longer solely driven by biological nature.   Now, the infant is entirely dependent up the conscious awareness, actions and control of parents and caregivers for survival.  The infant’s system is seeking to register attachment to the mother’s breast and body.  The baby’s body is fully equipped with special receptors in the nose particularly geared to register the smell of its mother’s unique body chemistry. 

Making connection with the smell the baby’s system has patterned during gestation signals to the baby’s biological system that secure attachment has succeeded.  According to Nature, the baby is where it is supposed to be.  For in-depth information about this crucial dynamic see the profound work on “latching on” by Dr. Marshall Klaus, MD, and Phyllis Klaus, MFT, LCSW, specially featured at .  The six-minute video was filmed in rural India, and illustrates a newborn successfully breastfeeding for herself the very first time.

When the first contact between the new baby and the mother immediately after birth is lacking, or in some cases, does not occur at all for hours or days, the baby’s developmental impressions and drive for secure attachment begin to adapt to the conditions actually happening.  A baby’s system will continue to seek to establish attachment, driven by the biological imperative for survival, until some consistent connection of attachment is sustained, with caregivers that are available and/or with the most consistent environments and objects in environments they become most accustomed to.  Depending on the specifics of a baby’s overall support structure long-term and how soundly feelings of attachment are established, the person may well be affected by what could be described as a driven need to attach, or difficulty in feeling attached throughout the growing years, and even into adulthood.  There are, of course, innumerable influences to exactly how each person comes to their own, personal experiences.

With this in mind, however, it is a short stretch of the imagination that perhaps the tendency to have difficulty “detaching” from circumstances, hopes, people, places and things may actually be rooted in not having felt securely attached at some earlier point along the way.  Thus, a “clinging” style of engaging in some relationships may develop.  This could also be expressed in feeling the need to hang on to things, as well as people in our lives.

It was when I discovered this dynamic working within myself and began employing means of strengthening my own sense of connection and security from within that I began to see how it was also influencing my general sense of fulfillment in life.  I struggled with a chronic sense that I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time.  If I was here, I felt like I should be “over there;” if I had or achieved one thing, it felt like I “really” needed something else for one reason or another for the majority of my adult life until I was my early 30s. 

I had begun a personal program to improve my sense of self-security, which included periods of daily meditation, 20 minutes at a time.  One day I laid down to meditate and the next moment that I was consciously aware of I was coming out of the purest ecstatic state of bliss I’ve ever been privileged to experience!  Now, the key thing about this is, I was not aware I was “in bliss” with my cognitive, conscious mind while I was in the experience.  But, once I moved out of it, I could reflect on how totally blissful the feeling was.  Wow!  The instant I opened my eyes and realized what had happened I wanted to get back there.  But, no matter how I tried, I could not make it happen.  So, it became a living example of the ultimate paradox for me.  Knowing that state is possible, I felt like I did not want to be here; I wanted to be there.  But, while I was there I lost the self-awareness of being able to feel the bliss of it.

As I let the experience move through me over the weeks and months that followed, I prayed about it, sat with it, wrote about it, I came to realize that, for me, this was the ultimate expression of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill.”  No matter where I had been, I wanted to be somewhere else.  And then it occurred to me like a bulls eye between the eyes that, no doubt, when we are in that ecstatically blissful state, where there is Self, but not self-reflective consciousness, there is in some way a longing or impulse to be here, experiencing separate autonomy, as if detached from Source. 

As soon as I hit on this, it made such perfect sense to me.  This is when I began to understand that what I am called to do is realize that Life is all about impelling us to move from what state or condition to the next.  Movement is Life.  Realizing that this longing is, literally, the impulse to Life, itself, my experience of it is no longer discontent.  I am much more easily able to feel like I am right where I am intended to be.  In that I can allow myself greater, more complete fulfillment in each moment. And that I can realize it is perfectly safe and right to let go; I can let go of situations, things places and people because the attachment/detachment cycle is truly a universal function sustaining everything.  As I detach at one level, the universe with swing me into attachment at the next level of my development.      


Hello. My name is Vicky Jeter, and for readers unfamiliar with my works, I am a Practitioner of Religious Science, in special training for pre- and perinatal influences on the experience of being human--that is to say any and all experience encompassed in the process of being conceived and born.  I live in Louisville, KY, with my husband, Vernon of 14 years.  Feel free to contact me for more information:






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