BY KIM THOMPSON
It is proven in studies that a human child must experience consistent love from his caregivers.
An infant in his early development will seek the intimacy and affection of his parent with a profound and primal longing. Thus, if this same child is denied the nurturance he demands and indeed needs, he will grow frantic in confusion, escalating into desperate shrieks. A raw panic ensues, along with deep emotional suffering.
If a child grows accustomed to such a pattern of neglect, she will eventually grow numb with each rejection, but cling fiercely with hope to any affection she can find. It is unlikely she will ever develop the sort of self-love one really needs to navigate this world; she will never fully understand her glory, her sheer might or her innate and divine value. She may know these things intellectually, but to know them emotionally will prove almost impossible.
This suggests a child cannot be “spoiled” by a great deal of affection, but can slowly be weaned of such attention into a healthy dose of self-reliance, one that is assured of a safe world where one will no doubt find unlimited love. Eventually, our healthy youth finds all the lovely ways in which he or she can nurture one’s self, seek comfort from a myriad of others and eventually know how to walk the earth with solid independence, even mastering the joy of occasional solitude — no matter what is happening all around them or within their close relationships.
But this doesn’t happen for all of us.
Unfortunately, there are children in the world who have or will know little of what they need. They may be intelligent, athletic, cultured and brave, but if they know a void such as the child who was not held or spoken to softly or better yet heard, they will spend much of their lives wondering how it is they cannot seem to find peace.
Naturally, they will reach for all the externals that have been held out to them all along, like pretty baubles and fine platters of cuisine, luxurious textiles and medicinal cures. They will seek to serve their desires in wine or women or war. They will wonder why they are so lonely the moment everyone goes home. They will surely revel in the glittering casinos, drumming nightclubs and romance of a yacht or a Ferrari — always searching among the beautiful ones and, sadly, never finding the very necessary depth of self-love that could only have been granted naturally when the timing was so crucially ignored.
When this maturing adult begins to recognize that time is slipping away, and the emptiness remains, after all these years, he would be wise to take notice of what few options are still at hand.
On the one hand, he must stay where he lives and look about, taking stock of all that is available to him, all that he still has to sustain him, despite the internal turmoil. To be rooted in one’s home, one’s community or career, one’s friends and kin is to on some level understand one’s own identity. That is a foundation that should not be dismissed. We may have holes in our heart, but the heart is still pumping blood.
One the other hand, if he never travels beyond the realm of external comforts, if he never goes within and taps upon the core of his pain or ignites the sparks of his soul, the very reason he is lost or empty or increasingly scared with each new gray hair, each tiny wrinkle, something much worse will occur, worse than the initial pain of his infancy — the utter and unbearable possibility that his self-love will remain unobtainable. And we all know that a lack of self-love means finding true love is impossible. Without the search for true love fully realized and fantastically lived, I am unsure of any point in living at all.
Kim Thompson has three sons and has been teaching high school English for 26 years, 20 of them at Stillwater schools. Her family has resided in Stillwater for six generations.