What happens when human connection is lost? When we become overly concerned with virtual connections? How do we fight back against obsessive technology-use in our homes? This is part 1 of a 5-part series, “Love Touches: Being Human and In Tune; Why We Need Human Connections in an Increasingly High-Tech World.” The series concludes with my ATTUNE formula to help couples and families truly connect and form lasting, loving relationships.
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Humans are hardwired for connection with other humans. The worldwide scientific research that supports this thesis is so prolific that I can’t even begin to cite it all. One that is especially interesting and relevant is a 2007 study published in Science magazine which found that infants who received meaningful human connections – consistent, long-term, endearing love from a parent figure – did much better than infants raised in institutions.
The study looked at healthy, parent-less infants and tracked what happened to those who were placed in foster families versus those who remained in institutional care.
Foster infants grew faster, had better brain development, and had higher IQs than infants who stayed in orphanages. Children taken from orphanages and randomized to foster care had half the rate of conditions like anxiety and depression compared to those who remained institutionalized.
About 52% of those who ever spent time in an orphanage developed some form of mental illness, compared to 22% of those without that experience.
A lack of love caused the body to physically, mentally and emotionally shut down.
Bruce Perry, Ph.D., is a psychiatrist and author who wrote the book, “Born for Love; Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered.” Perry and co-author Maia Szalavitz assert that infants need nearly constant physical touch, rocking and cuddling, smiling and singing for the brain to stimulate normal physical, mental and emotional growth.
The authors further conclude that human connection develops our ability to empathize, which underlies the qualities that make our homes places for us to learn – such things as right from wrong, how to appropriately interact with others, and how to love and be loved. Our homes and families are the foundation of who we are and become, and it is through our homes and families that we can achieve our greatest joys.
And, researchers have found, the empathy we learn in our homes lead us to practice important societal values such as trust, altruism, collaboration and charity.
Likewise, common religious beliefs shared by many faiths help explain why connection is so vital to our lives. Regardless of your specific faith or belief system, most believe we were created and sent to earth by a Divine Being, where we live as families, to learn to love and be loved.
Being in a healthy, loving relationship – a relationship with successful bids* – is a central part of God’s plan of happiness for His children. Thus, it should not come as a surprise that we are hardwired spiritually as well as biologically with a deep-seated desire and need for familiar (family) human connections.
In Part 2 of this 5-part series, I discuss research on hand-holding and its effects on the human brain, as well as the effects of tech-caused disconnect.
*John Gottman, Ph.D, originally identified failed vs successful bids in his research on couple interactions. A failed bid is that moment when a person seeks the attention of their partner, and the partner does not respond or mis-responds. A successful bid is when a positive connection is made.
First off, you need to know your partner. Are rom-coms cheesy or cute to them? Do they find love songs sappy or sweet? While all gestures are appreciated as thoughtful, you want to try to hit the bullseye on the target, so it feels romantic. Try asking and answering the following questions:
-What movies or shows do you find romantic? Why? What parts?
-What sorts of things (words, actions, gifts, etc.) feel romantic to you?
-What is the most romantic moment you remember having? What made it so romantic?
-What romantic things does your partner do that you see and appreciate now?
-Name one romantic gesture that would mean a lot for your partner to give you.
Planning something romantic sounds daunting to many, so it may be difficult to know where to begin. It doesn’t have to be anything grand. Think of a normal thing you would do, then ask yourself: how can I take this one step further? For example, you are going out to dinner like you do every Friday. To take it one step further, you could plan to go somewhere new, recreate the first date, plan something fun after dinner, show up with flowers beforehand, feed your partner bites of dessert, or suggest taking a loved-up photo. By giving these examples, you can see how knowing your partner is so important.