Continuing on in a series exploring “The Six Ways of Attaching” from Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté’s book Hold On To Your Kids:
Through our Senses – “Stay in touch!”
The first way we connect is also the first connection we experience in our lives – we touch, smell, hear and see each other. Babies even taste their mother’s milk, most often. In other words, through our senses and physical proximity.
Physical proximity is the goal of the first way of attaching. The child needs to sense the person he is attached to, whether through smell, sight, sound, or touch.
Although it begins in infancy, the hunger for physical proximity never goes away. The less mature a person is, the more he will rely on this basic mode of attaching.
Quote from Hold On To Your Kids
This one is easy for me to understand – and to recognize all around me! I like staying “in touch” with people! That might mean quite literally: being in the same room, cuddled up on the couch, a touch on the shoulder or hand, a hug, a smile, a phone call.
Although there’s nothing wrong with staying connected through our senses, it’s the easiest (and therefore the most common fall back) strategy and the one that is most shallow. Being connected ONLY through contact lacks the complexity, depth and intimacy that gives relationships what I’d call staying power. Once you’re NOT in physical proximity of another, it’s easy to feel anxious or disconnected!
No wonder it’s so hard to ignore the “ding” of our devices! Adding technology to the mix makes this way of connecting even more seductive. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, flickr, Instagram, text messaging, etc… all make it really easy to stay in touch. We share a quick thought, an observation, a picture, or a link – but do we share something of ourselves at the same time? How much depth we allow through these mediums varies, depending on our choices and comfort with vulnerability – but it tends to invite a more shallow use. Or at least that’s what’s most often and easily seen, in my experience. Particularly with kids!
This remains the most basic and “primitive” way of connecting with others, but also very powerful. A touch and a smile go a long way to bridging the space between us. I often think about what impact we’ve had on relationships to make it “taboo” or at least awkward for teachers or other adults to hug kids, or that we look suspiciously at adults (particularly men) who are “too” friendly. Is there a balance we can find of appropriate, non-sexual ways to touch each other (and support healthy relationship building) while also keeping our children safe?
I also think about changing relationships between kids and parents. Texting has made my relationships with my kids richer and more connected. I’ve been able to provide coaching and support through a few minutes of text messaging or facebook chat – that I couldn’t have not that long ago! And yet, it’s also hard to begin to rely on that channel of support for my highly emotional kids, then have it severed once they walk in the door of the school. Do you think the logistics of agreeing on and teaching kids the expectations of “appropriate use” of personal devices will make it possible to honour all the ways our kids and parents connect or communicate? What has to change before personal devices can “come out of the locker”?
What are your thoughts? And what do you wonder about?
The rest of the series: