Love and work are two cornerstones of adult human life. The capacity to love and work adequately was considered by Freud as important for our well-being.
Adult romantic or love relationships are grounded in childhood attachment patterns. As per the famous and well researched and validated attachment theory, childhood attachment figures and the quality of our attachment with the primary caregiver, serve as templates for future adult relationships.
Attachment theory posits that there are at-least three different kinds of attachment patterns- secure attachment (when parental care-giving is consistent and available) , insecure anxious attachment and insecure avoidant attachment. While there is bound to be some effects due to child’s temperament, the attachment pattern is mostly supposed to be governed by parental care-giving style.
Although the primary ‘attachment figure’ or care-giver can be any parent, its typically the mother. The father is typically the disciplinarian or primary ‘authority figure’.
That brings me to work. While love is connection and intimacy, work is a constraint and usually a necessity.
One of the important skills to succeed in adult work life is to be comfortable with legitimate authority and also having the skills and confidence to wield authority when in a position to do so.
It is my thesis, that adult workplace adjustment, as operationalized by acceptance and flourishing in one’s place in the hierarchical work system, draws upon childhood patterns of relating to the primary ‘authority figure’ or role-model.
It has been generally found that there are three typical parenting styles: authoritative parenting (where discipline is based on logic and mutually agreed/ humane rules etc), authoritarian parenting (where discipline is done based on the power of the parent and no logical reason per se) and permissive parenting (where disciplining is lacking).
When can hypothesize that this can lead to different forms of model of what an authority figure or role model is: for the child whose primary authority figure is authoritative , authority is acceptable and ennobling; for the child with primary authority figure authoritarian, authority is to be defied or used to subjugate others; for the child with primary authority figure as permissive, any form of authority, even one drawing from ones self esteem is problematic and to be avoided.
It is instructive to take a pause here and see the parallels with caring. While caring consistently for the child, leads to secure attachment and better love relationships later on, not caring or caring inconsistently leads to poorer outcomes in love relationships.
Similarly, pushing a child gently and consistently, leads to the child developing a healthy self-confidence/ self-esteem , while pushing a child too much based on pure ego and power (sort of like bullying by a parent) or not pushing at all may lead to poorer and compromised self -esteem and later on lead to relationship problems in the workplace , where one may suffer from superiority/ inferiority complexes and ‘power and competence’ related issues.
A look at the mediating mechanisms is also instructive.
Good caring or secure attachment leads to a presence of an attachment figure or safe haven where one can do curious exploration and find that people are in general trustworthy and loveable.
Good pushing or comfort-with-authority leads to a presence of a role model or guide with whom one can exploit a niche and find one’s own niche and be comfortable with one’ sown and others legitimate authorities and competences.
Of course while the literature on attachment is burgeoning and its relationship to adult romantic relationship is well established, there needs to be more research on parenting styles and its effect on self-confidence etc and how that impacts later real world work relationships especially those hierarchical in nature like with boss and subordinates.
As an aside, I came to this broad analogy between childhood caring and childhood pushing and there different adult outcomes via the well known social psychology effcet whereby we judge a person/ his or her face etc on two dimensions intuitively: trust/warmth (aligned to capacity for deep love-like bonds) and dominance/competence (aligned to capacity to deliver and execute) . One can see the sam analogy in whether the help we can get form the person is emotional in nature (love like ) or instrumental in nature (work like). Thus for every con-specific we meet, what we are most interested in, while relating to him / her is- what are his/ her capacities to Love and to Work!!