ADVANTAGES

Developmental psychologist, Sharon Heller, writes that what distinguishes a securely attached baby from an insecurely attached baby is "the degree to which each could feel ownership of their mothers' bodies and therefore assurance of protection" (Heller, 1997 p.58). That feeling of ownership requires touch by sensitive, attuned parents. Through sensitive parental responding, infants receive accurate feedback about the effects of their behavior and they learn that, when they signal a need, they can expect a prompt, predictable, and soothing response. This makes it unnecessary to develop dysfunctional emotional defense systems. Infants who signal a need and are responded to by a sensitive, attuned parent feel a sense of control over their lives. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized. Feeling in control, one feels greater assurance of psychological survival. Feeling less need to control, one can more easily form closer relationships and benefit from the emotional satisfaction of bonding needs. One who feels in control is less likely to commit acts of violence, will have fewer physical problems, and live longer (Heller, 1997). The converse is true as well, just as sensitive, attuned touch gets etched in our developing neural pathways enabling us to reach out and touch in that same way throughout our lifetime, touch that is absent when necessary, inappropriately sexualized, cold or abusive, gets recorded in ways that cause us to draw inward or to strike out. Most abused children do not grow up to abuse their own children but those who do abuse their own children have almost always been abused in their own childhood: Violence begets violence. James Prescott (1975), a neuroscientist formerly with the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and welfare, reviewed forty-nine societies and concluded that a lack of bodily pleasure derived from touching and stroking during the formative periods of life was the primary cause of violent behavior in adults.

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