A basic need
The experiment was stopped after four months. By this time, half of the babies had died. Austrian psychoanalyst Spitz wanted to know if humans can survive without affection. 20 babies received the basic care of feeding, changing and washing, but nothing more. The caregivers did not look at the babies or touch them more than necessary, and did not communicate with them. The environment was kept sterile so that the babies could not get sick. Two more babies died after the experiment was stopped.
When we are born, our nervous system is not yet fully developed. The part responsible for our social ability is developed through the connection with our caregivers. This connection is literally food for us. The touch of the parents, their responsive voice and loving gaze are essential to our existence.
This Spitz experiment involved a relatively small group with extreme conditions and extreme consequences. In reality, this is widespread in less extreme forms around the world. Many of us have not had the nutrition we need to function well socially. Simply because our parents and environment did not receive this themselves. This sounds like depressing news, but is it?
During a conversation, it’s not self-evident for many people to take space and give space in a healthy and natural way. Being yourself and expressing yourself spontaneously without having to prove yourself is not easy for many. What I’ve described here is normal, but is it also natural? There is an important difference between what we consider normal and what is natural. We call behavior normal when it is common, but that does not mean that it is a natural and healthy way of doing things. Could it ever become the norm that we feel empowered by the audience when we are on stage? That we enjoy seeing our friends and strangers shine because they are in their power? That social occasions nourish us and fill us with energy and inspiration? What would the world look like if most of us could connect as we long to deeply in our hearts? Would we numb ourselves more or less at parties? Would we feel more or less lonely? Would we call out “more” or “less” to Geert Wilders?
The good news
We all have the potential to live in full connection! Our nervous system, including our brain, is very elastic. It can reform and reorganise quickly, enabling us to grow to our full potential. This is possible when we embrace the defenses that have been built up. Think, for example, of a child who does not get what he needs and cries out of protest and frustration. If a parent cannot respond to this, the child’s nervous system will intervene to prevent exhaustion. The child shuts down and becomes silent. It seems like it no longer has needs, but the opposite is true. When this happens repeatedly, the child learns to suppress his needs so he doesn’t have to experience frustration and pain all the time. In his nervous system, connection is linked to pain and frustration. As an adult, this mechanism remains active in protection against pain and frustration by avoiding making deep connections with people.
The mechanism described above is an example. Each person is organised differently. But automatic patterns all have something in common: they play unconsciously and they can be broken when they come into consciousness. By understanding the operation and function of patterns, and embracing the emotions such as anger and sadness that feed them, they lose their power and create space for something new. Somatic Experiencing is a wonderful and very effective method that facilitates this process.
You are very welcome
In my psychosomatic work I work with this theme which is about our deepest longing and greatest fear. An invitation to a fuller life. You are most welcome to join a Conscious Meeting to explore this together.