Following the popularity of the allegory, A Tale of Three Mice, which formed the prologue to the first edition of A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder, when I was asked by my publisher to prepare a Second Edition I extended the story to a fourth mouse.
Let me know what you think.
Once upon a time there were four mice.
The first mouse lived in a house that contained, along with furniture and other household goods and possessions, a button and a hole in the wall from which food was delivered. Each time the mouse pressed the button he would receive a tasty morsel of his favourite food. The mouse understood that, when he was hungry, all he had to do was press the button and food would arrive via the hole. The mouse took great comfort in the predictability of his access to food and only pressed the button when he was hungry.
The second mouse lived in a similar house, also containing a button and a hole in the wall from which food was delivered. Unfortunately, the button in his house was faulty and delivered food on an inconsistent basis when he pressed it, such that he might receive food via the hole on the first, fifth, seventh, or even the eleventh time he pressed the button. This mouse learnt that he could not always rely on the button and that he had to press the button many times, even when he was not actually hungry, in order to ensure that he would have food. Even after his button was fixed he found it difficult to stop pressing it frequently and displayed a habit of storing up food.
The third mouse also lived in a similar house, containing a button and a hole in the wall from which food was to be delivered. However, the button in his house did not work at all. He soon learnt that he could not rely on the button and would have to develop other ways of gaining access to food. This belief, and his associated lack of trust in the button, persisted when he moved to a new home with a fully functioning button. He developed unconventional strategies to access food, such as stealing from his neighbour’s house.
A fourth mouse was most unfortunate of all. In addition to presses of his button failing to result in the delivery of food, there was a malfunction with his underfloor heating, such that suddenly and without warning the floor would become electrified and he would receive a painful electric shock. In a further twist, the button that was supposed to result in the delivery of food when pressed became the means by which the electrification of the floor could be switched off. This mouse never strayed far from the button and focused intently on it, even when moved to another home where presses of the button consistently resulted in the delivery of food and the floor never became electrified.
To learn more about the meaning of this allegory, access a copy of the book.
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