Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why Hugging The Child Everyday Is Important

image by duchesssa, sxc.hu

So That, As Adults, They Stay Mentally Healthy

You see Johnny there, in the third cubicle - no not the one who's just joined, but the one to his right? You can't help sympathizing with him as you pass him by - he with his nails perpetually being bitten off between the teeth, the fingers always drumming the table when he is not biting them nails. The muscles of the face look screwed up with worry and anxiety all the time, you think he was born with that look on the face. The man seems to be breaking his back to meet his deadlines and assignments, but fumbles when the boss asks him for an update. Or talk to young Jane here. The woman who cannot hide irritation from her voice when she speaks - or is it frustration with herself, one wonders. The woman who is always pessimistic, and is unable to hide her disappointment when things actually turn out to be positive and happy and cheerful --- different from what she had forecast and predicted.

image by rissmu, sxc.hu

None of your or my business, but if you probe a little deeper, you will also stumble into a family life that is none-too-happy. Perhaps a separation / divorce has already happened, or is on the way?

image by predayshus, sxc.hu

These are people who have so gotten used to the emotion called worry that they have fallen in love with it. And they feel a huge void when there is no worry to worry about, no anxiety to be anxious about. So they go in search of the right worry and the perfect anxiety with which to fill the void. And can you guess why they have come to such a state? Because the parent or guardian or caregiver did not hug them every night, that's why. Because the senior did not pat them on the back and told them how much they were loved and cared for, that's why. Because the caregiver did not convey with words and actions that they would be there whenever the child needed them, that's why.

image by benipop, sxc.hu

Uh, the link between anxiety disorder and being-hugged-every-night-as-a-child looks incredulous? Well, this is not some mushy sentimentalist grandma mumbo-jumbo; this is the outcome of investigation conducted on the quality of relationship-with-primary-caregivers-during-early-childhood, and traits-and-worry-and-anxiety in adulthood. The study involved 138 participants - with 69 control subjects -, and was conducted by researchers from the University of Maryland (published in the journal "Behavior Therapy", article still in press, available online here:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2007.12.004.) The correct technical term for this condition is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, GAD for short.

image by planetka, sxc.hu

As a child, when you know that there are a pair of arms you can rush into whenever you are afraid or scared or traumatized; when you know that there is a secure base that you can turn to in times of need - a safe haven that will protect you from all evil in the world --- then you will grow into a self-confident individual who will always feel the warmth of the hug and the strength of the love you received in those crucial days. The reassurance that there will always be somebody you can turn to, lingers and carries on, even when the senior is no longer part of your life. But whenever you feel stressed and need comfort, instead of a reassuring pat on the back - you get rejection, disparagement and derogation and mocking and indifference --- you begin to view the world as a most dangerous place to live in, with no safe haven to take recourse to.

image by tombre, sxc.hu

But live you have to, cope you have to. So you begin by building your own cognitive support structure with your own internal resources; by first denying to your conscious self the welling up of all the anxiety and the worry and the perception of falling into some huge hole in the earth that has no bottom, a consciousness that is always on the lookout of the hole. You have no one to turn to, you see, and so you better be on your guard all the time, or else. That is where the constant worry and the GAD come in.

image by rissmu, sxc.hu

The support structure is therefore skewed, and built upon the scaffolding of the most easily available material - which is a negative emotion called worry. No wonder then, that you live a life which is bridled with a sense of physical and / or psychological danger at all times. Who knows what doom waits in the next step or at the next corner?

image by mikekorn, sxc.hu

A self-assessment. Are you a constant worrier yourself? A quick dip into the past could help you guess how you have come to acquire this trait. The article in wiki puts it quite well - "common sense action may be taken to reduce the level of anxiety." The internet is full of self-help material that you can read up on, and which you can use to rebuild the cognitive support structure that you have been living by.

image by urbaneye, sxc.hu

And if you have kids under your care, you know what to do. Hug them before putting them to bed. Assure them you are there whenever they need you.

image by planetka, sxc.hu

Who said bringing up children was easy? Here's another article for you to ponder, while on this same issue: Children Are Like Sponge. And how do you think kids with little affection to fall back on, fare in their online relationships as adults? This article here should give you a clue: "Don't Cry, Shopgirl".

image by sassy8877, sxc.hu

3 comments:

  1. awww this was an amazing article. 100% agree!

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  2. To me, hugging is love and approval .
    its super important.

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  3. This is the most plausible explanation I have ever read on the origin of worry and anxiety. Being a sufferer myself I could easily and vividly identify myself with the story. An indifferent and unloving parent have passed on this to me. But no regrets..they might be dealt with same thing..no rancour only forgiveness.All said I would like you to shed more light on coping strategies nay becoming normal again with this background in mind.

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