I learned this week that seeking comfort from adults isn’t automatic in children. It’s a learned behaviour, and you only do it if you get chance (more here – https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/07/can-an-unloved-child-learn-to-love/612253/ ) It was something I’d suspected because when my son was born, I noticed that he didn’t find touch automatically comforting. It took a little while to build an association between touch and comfort.
I realise that I don’t seek comfort through human touch. I am not actually comforted by people touching or holding me when I am sad. It’s something I’ve tended to go along with when on offer because I don’t want to be weird with people who care about me.
It’s one of those curious coincidences that the article about Romanian orphans turned up in the same week as a kitten. I’ve been without a cat for a few months now. I note with interest that purring has a significant impact on my emotions, and how much distress I feel in my body. Having a cat sit on me, climb over me, even biting my hands, is immensely comforting. I seek comfort from contact with cats, not humans, and I’ve only just realised this about myself! Which frankly feels odd, but is useful.
Bodies are strange things, full of chemical reactions that we have set off by experiences, or we learn, or we come to associate with some stimuli but not others. We can end up learning very odd things. For my next adventure in body chemistry, I want to see if there’s anything other than preposterously long walks that kicks off a response from my reward centres. Hopefully there will be something other than walking until I can barely stand up that gives me those feelings. I’ll see what the kitten thinks…