a multi-faceted outreach project aimed at encouraging happy, healthy romantic & parent-child relationships

Lessons Learned: A Student's Attachment Communication Speech

I teach an "Attachment Communication" course at James Madison University, with about 30 undergraduates in each class. At the end of this past semester, my students were required to write a creative entertainment speech about what they've learned and present it to the class as their final exam. It's a fun time for all of us to reflect over the last 16 weeks. As usual, the speeches this semester were so great. But for me, this one stood out from the rest. After everyone presented, I asked the student who delivered it (Colleen Coleman) if she would allow me to publish it here. She agreed. Enjoy her words below and read her bio at the end.

I have always loved quotes. I believe there is power to words that we don’t always fully acknowledge until we hear the right ones that change us or alter us in ways that we didn’t even know we needed. In the most fitting way I can think of in light of this, I wanted to start my speech with a quote I discovered recently.

“Do you think there is only one person out there for everyone? You know, ‘the one’?” she said...

“I used to think so” she responded…”But as I’ve grown older I’ve come to believe that maybe there are a lot of ‘the ones’, just for different reasons. The one that woke me up from my comatose life, the one that taught me kindness in the face of cruelty, the one that revealed myself to myself, the one that showed me how I don’t want to be treated. All of those ones prepared me for the one that is the beginning and end of everything, the one whose crazy has inevitably become my crazy too. Every love has a purpose if you grant it one and every soul has a story to tell if only you’d listen.”

Our attachment communication class this semester has taught me that every love does indeed have a purpose, if you grant it one. And that every soul has a story to tell, but that we must listen to understand.

For a long time, I didn’t believe that each love had a purpose. In many ways, I was cynical and angry towards the people I had loved, romantically or not. I didn’t want to be forgiving of the ways in which they had hurt me, betrayed me, or made me feel bad about myself. I felt abandoned and like I couldn’t trust anyone. Ever.

So I walked around campus feeling like people saw me as the most positive and friendly Colleen, the girl who saw the good in everyone and everything and yet, I actually saw the world as the Wild, Wild West; believing everyone was out to get me. Or if I did open up enough to trust them, that they would only turn their backs on me or find someone better. Little did I know that yes, while these feelings were valid, they were oh so normal of a “Fearful-Avoidant,” but also “Anxious,” person. The weight of these feelings felt so heavy at times... as if I would make friends and begin relationships, only to wonder when they would up and leave me. It killed me to hold these feelings in. I felt so alone and so afraid.

But our class showed me that I am not alone and that I don’t have to be afraid.

Yes, while some of us are secure (thank goodness!), not all of us are. We all have our attachment issues and tendencies; even those of us who are secure.

But what our class taught me most was that there is hope for me. Like the quote I shared earlier said, every love has a purpose, but also every soul does has a story. Our class taught me more about myself, but more than anything it taught me about the people around me... the relationships, past or current, that I was so embittered towards. I came to appreciate and to empathize with them. I began to understand that all of our stories play such a role in who we are. People are not who they are by accident, it is our stories that both make and break us. But most importantly, I learned that people’s stories need to be heard.

So to end with a quote that I feel fits our class and our professor, Therapist Jennie, so incredibly well…

“My therapist taught me to interrupt my anxious thinking with thoughts like, ‘What if things work out?’ and ‘What if all my hard work does pay off?’ So I am passing that on to you wherever you are, whatever you’re leaving, or whomever you’re becoming.”

There are far better things ahead than any we could leave behind. We all deserve love, so keep giving yours.


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