Human beings are social creatures by nature. Some of us may be more needy or outgoing compared to others, but at the end of the day, we're all wired for engaging in social interactions with those around us. Sometimes a person needs to be surrounded by numerous friends and constant communication with others, and sometimes an individual is content with just their family members or a few select close friends. These needs vary depending upon the individual and their lifestyles, experiences, and preferences, but to go without some form of love and affection in our lives can cause problems along the way, especially if this lack of support and interaction begins at a younger age.
How Neglect Can Shape A Child Into A Damaged Adult
One of the most important times in a human being's entire life is their years as an infant and a child. During this period is when the most emotional, physical, and psychological growth takes place. From the moment they are born, a child begins to learn about the world around them, and this includes the people in it. You may have heard that "you can never hold a baby too much," and this is true. Being incapable of actual conversation and deeper understanding until a few years after they're born, babies relate to the world in the most instinctual methods of comprehension. They understand if their needs are being met or not. They crave physical attention and human touch. They pick up on verbal tones and learn to read faces before they can ever speak words in return. The experiences during the period in which they fully rely on others will shape them into the person they are as teens and adults, and it's why consistent attention and care are so important.
A child that has irresponsible caretakers may be left alone often or not be fed or changed when needed. They cry and cry and hope for someone to help them. When no one arrives, or they arrive too late, this baby's mind is learning that the world is a painful place in which there is not going to be anyone there to love or care for them. They feel isolated, lonely, and afraid, and this can severely impact their brain growth and development for years to come. They never learn at this important age to form bonds and to care for those around them because they don't experience it themselves. They have to be shown by example. Those infants who are held regularly, played with, and cared for as well as possible experience deep connections with their parents or caretakers and grow up with a far more positive world view, as well as the skills to form healthy and appropriate relationships as they grow older and make friends and find even more loved ones.
Those who have gone without learning how to form proper social relationships and that have impaired cognitive and emotional development as children have often been found to grow up exhibiting antisocial and delinquent behaviors as children, teens, and even adults. They will often show difficulty in the areas of language development, intelligence levels, and other social and cognitive skills as well.
With support and treatment, many can overcome the instilled negative beliefs and responses stemming from their infant and child-aged years, but the results vary depending upon all of the numerous factors at play in a person's life experiences over decades. At the core, though, the lack of love and affection can cause potentially permanent and life-long damage.
Neglect In Adults And The Elderly
Needless to say, age does not always limit when the lack of positive social interaction can be damaging. Loneliness and social isolation in those who need to feel love as adults have been shown to coincide with chronic health conditions and a decrease in overall health for those in their fifties and above. Older individuals with less social interaction and support were shown to have a higher probability of being hospitalized due to health concerns, having longer lasting stays when in a hospital, higher blood pressure, and a higher rate of morbidity and mortality. The potential damage to older adults without healthy relationships and a support system was even compared to the health risks of smoking. The risks of depression were significantly higher, as well as the risks of developing conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
Aging and getting less healthy over the years is difficult enough as it is, but the benefits of still having loving and affectionate interactions with those around you can help reduce some of the stresses and negativity associated with the changes as your body loses its vitality and illnesses come and go. Older individuals with families, children, grandchildren, or even good friends stand a much better chance at having improved health in their later years compared to those who are lonely and isolated, whether by lack of a support system or their health concerns being severe enough to limit their mobility and interactions with the world. Having people around you to lend support, positivity, and friendship makes each day a bit easier to cope with and gives even an unhealthier individual something to perk up and look forward to despite any conditions they may currently be struggling with.
What Does Love Look Like?
Love can take many different forms, and these variations can intermingle or exist separately on their own depending upon the individual. In the context of coinciding with affection, though, the relevant types of love would mainly be romantic, platonic, friendly, or familiar. These are the types of love that involve the interaction of a positive manner with another individual. For some, romance is the epitome of love and fills their needs for a passionate form of intimacy with another person. For others, their friends may be the best form of love for their lifestyle, providing them with plenty of close relationships that are like a family they've chosen for themselves. Families are a fantastic example of familial love, which may not always be appealing in that it's the kind of love where you feel strongly for a person but don't always like them (think siblings or parents-they can sometimes drive you crazy!). But familial love can provide the strongest feelings of support when healthily maintained because the relationships are often lifelong and provide ample opportunity for deep bonds, trust, and understanding. Some people may even find the deepest feelings of love to be for their pets, and animals have long been proven to be beneficial to people's mental and physical health regardless of age.
Why We Need Love
Human beings thrive off of social interaction and forming relationships, regardless of whether it's with a friend, a relative, or a pet. People have an inherent need for experiencing strong bonds and needing love to avoid the detrimental effects of real or perceived isolation and abandonment. The type of love an individual craves determines the course of their entire lives and futures, and without it, it's very likely that a person will completely lack any drive to bother doing anything with their lives and may experience depression and other health concerns.
Those who desire families will be provided with a lifetime of experiencing the joys of parenthood and often marriage as well. Individuals who enjoy meeting others will pursue a lifestyle that allows them to come across many different people from many different backgrounds and have a variety of relationships and experiences expanding their understanding of other human beings and other cultures. Those who aim for finding romance are satisfying their physical needs regarding the inherent impulses to procreate, as well as enjoy the thrills of passion and intimacy with another individual. People who love animals may not only be able to provide a loving home for a pet in need, but they can also reap the benefits of that often unconditional and loving bond. Pets have even been proven to lower stress levels, improve blood pressure levels, and help boost emotional and social development in children. Oddly enough, even a love of something material such as money has its benefits when it comes to inspiring people to work hard to achieve their goals and succeed in the financial world.
What Does Affection Look Like?
Affection can be defined as "any touch intended to arouse feelings of love in the giver and recipient." This can be anything from a kiss with your significant other or spouse to holding hands with someone close to you. A hug, holding a puppy or a baby, or even just stroking someone's arm or back qualifies as physical affection, and all of these are done with the intent to express our love for another person (or animal, for the pet owners). Even among friends, a hug or a pat on the back signifies positive emotions for the other individual, and all of these gestures are necessary for building strong bonds in our relationships.
Why We Need Affection
To love and to feel loved is important, but to express those sentiments and be the recipient of such actions confirming love are essential in cementing the beliefs of such emotions and the bonds with those close to us. Gestures of affection help an individual more easily feel the love that someone has for them, and as stated in the studies referenced above, physical touch is practically a necessity for human wellbeing and meaningful relationships.
In romantic relationships, a lack of affection or intimacy can cause doubts and feelings of neglect in a partner and lead to conflicts and concerns. It's okay to tell your partner, "I need love and affection in this relationship," because those two factors are the backbone of a healthy bond to last you a lifetime and it is expected when dating or exclusively being involved with another person, especially in more serious and long-term commitments. Family members have close bonds with one another when they're comfortable with showing their emotions via hugs and other forms of physical contact, and this especially applies to children, who learn to express themselves better as well as feel validated when receiving affection from their parents, siblings, and other relatives. Friendships may not always require as much affection to be still strong, but small gestures of an appropriate nature expressing your love and appreciation of someone close to you can go a long way in deepening the level of trust, comfort, and closeness you share with that other person.
Love may be the desired emotion itself, but affection is the key to expressing it to those important to you in your life.
If you're curious for more information on love, affection, and how to properly express these sentiments with your loved ones, BetterHelp has online counseling resources available to guide you on how to process your emotions and the expression of them to better your relationships. With the convenience of flexible scheduling, as well as being able to access the website from the comfort of your own home or from wherever you may be at the time, this resource is a great option for learning more about how to express yourself and form even deeper bonds with the most important people in your life.
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