In Your Language

Friday, May 10, 2013

Egg Noodles...

Thumb sucking... "blankies"... teddy bears...

What happened to being comforted by people around us? Why is everything so impersonal? Are we failing our kids and each other that we have to emotionally eat for comfort, drink away our pain, press our oxytocin  pressure points as if we're getting real physical connection? Why are we okay with this?

For me, I have been starving for comfort most of my life... to the point where, I never liked sucking my thumb, blankies were awkward as talking to my parents, and teddy bears would fall overboard on my sailboat. I think the only thing I really found comfort in was writing (oh that's just cold) and my dog Murphy (personifying an animal- God bless him).

I know I'm not the only one. But this came up in my session with my Christian counselor. She said "where does all of this fear come from?" And without a specific childhood event, I think my fear came from perpetual lack of comfort in times of stress. And that's the caveat for your kids who are pleasers: they will many times starve themselves of comfort at the "reward" of being "the good child." Watch this closely... I know, I WAS ONE!

So my point is not that I'm blaming everyone in my life, I saw fruits of that pain - "oh what a good child she is" and tried to use it as a substitute for human comfort. And now, at thirty three, I'm sitting with my counselor realizing where I've gone wrong. And to some degree, I lean on my husband for my comfort. Thankfully, he steps up for me and shows me emotional mercy.

I'm not assuming I know everyone's situation, but I would keep an eye out for children who do not seek comfort from adults. They could be those "pleasers" like I was or they could be kids who have lost trust in adults to comfort them. We live in a culture where we try to substitute parental supervision with electronics, or tv, or bribes. But there is no substitute for human contact. Our brains require certain amounts of involvement at crucial developmental stages, or it won't fully develop in the structural hierarchy that it is meant to do with adequate interaction.

Dr. Bruce Perry wrote "The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog." It outlines his clinical work with children with varying degrees of trauma in their past and he combines their personal histories with the footprint left in their brains via stunted development (shown through behaviors/disabilities and also brain scans). Some people are not aware, but for many years, Romanian orphanages had a high mortality rate in their orphan babies due to lack of attention and physical touch. Once the caretakers started holding the children more the mortality rate declined- not surprisingly.  Even American researchers, the Harlows, noticed that baby monkeys would prefer a wire monkey with fur over a wire monkey with a bottle of food.

I don't think there is a quick fix to this societal problem. But the first step is always awareness. I have written a research paper on how autism (the awareness is astounding) can mask attachment issues as studied by Dr. Bruce Perry, email me if you're interested in reading my amateur paper at

And where we've come up short (which we all acknowledge if we are believers in Jesus Christ), we can give each other grace as we repent of our ways. There are many pathways to healing as children and adults. I just urge you to find them. God bless you!

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