In Your Language

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stop, Drop and Snuggle

My son Gabriel's instinct to roll and snuggle 

his blanket. He cries until he feels the softness on his face... and then slips into slumber...


He (like most people) has a hunger for comfort, for the touch of something soft and familiar. All it takes is a few seconds of feeling and smelling his blanket, then he ceases crying and falls asleep.

When my husband and I started dating, we spent a lot of time cuddling. I similarly felt drawn to slumber with the closeness and touch of this warm, safe human blanket being with me.

Mothers who nurse their child, might notice that they are lulled to sleep just by contact (especially skin to skin). What we don't see is a hormone secreting in our brains that is responsible for our feeling of well-being and attachment to each other. This is the hormone that is called "oxytocin."

 This physical contact is for honored relationships (rather than casual): family, friends and other organically developed relationships. This attachment hormone does not filter the good and bad people to get attached to. We must use  diligence to make sure that our oxytocin is functioning to solidify healthy, long lasting relationships. Otherwise, the withdrawal can be quite intense, like detoxing from drugs.

Recall a time when you experienced a hard breakup, or when your best friend was just beside herself immediately after a breakup. This oxytocin withdrawal is a big reason for "rebound" dating. At that point, "anyone will do" for the oxytocin "fix." That phenomenon was exquisitely captured in an episode of Alphas


 .: Life's Wildfires :.

When life gets tough, and it WILL get tough periodically, we will hopefully have attachment worthy people around us. In the event that we have "wildfires" AND quality people around us, we can (feel like we can) overcome these episodes with a good old person-to-person snuggle. Oxytocin will bring down our heart rate and bring a sense of calm with a great side affect of feeling supported and attached to people around us. What better  way to overcome any of life's challenges.

It does no good to have people around us if we don't "stop, drop, and snuggle." And by snuggle, that can be anything from touching a shoulder, holding hands, hugging... and on from there. Whatever is appropriate for the unique relationship. I'd go as far to say that we will be hard-pressed to reach our highest potential without the oxytocin imparted to us by key people in our lives.

{ Personal Snippet }


My son acts goofy a lot of the time. He doesn't appear to be  craving a hug. Yet, I am wrong. Fortunately I give him a hug often because my mind knows he needs it. I'd venture to say that the grumpy person needs the hug the most.

What surprised me is that, despite the fact that I didn't feel lovey dove-y before giving him the hug, but I did feel affectionate afterwards. He even looked noticeably "softer" after the embrace. Neither of us were damaged by such a gesture, even if it was awkward. 

It confirmed in my head that I do not need to "feel" lovey dove-y in order to give and get the benefits of oxytocin afterwards. I could reasonably conclude that if I was always led by my feelings, I'd probably be in oxytocin debt for the rest of my life.

Moreover, despite the fact that I was hugging him for him, I felt "different" after the embrace. I felt like I was under a gentle spell once we let go of each other. I imagine that if I am longing for a hug from my mother in Korea, hugging my child can give me the same chemical effect. And even if he's longing for a hug from his mother, my hug can give a similar chemical effect. What a relief.

 ~>  Takeaway <~

  • We can be oxytocin surrogates for people who are in pain.
  •  We can be there for each other and have mutual benefits. 
  • We don't even have to "feel" affectionate to start the sequence. As long as we make the conscious decision to be (appropriately) demonstrative. 
  • It can have the identical effect of a person who is feeling lovey dovey. After the whole painful (note of sarcasm ^_^) ordeal is over, we will also reap chemical and relational rewards. 

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