Not Belonging

The Theory of Balanceology maintains that a basal need for all of us is the sense of belonging with other humans.  And, this sense of belonging needs to begin very early in life.  So I ask, “What happens if a child doesn’t have that those ties of bonding and being cared for by others?” In 1945, psychoanalyst Rene Spitz studied the effects of being institutionalized as an infant. Spitz discovered that as these children got older they endured a lot of sadness. He said these children developed anaclitic (lean on) depression or hospitalism (wasting away). Institutionalized infants lack someone to “lean on” and to care about them. And, uncared for children become uncaring adults. Uncared for children can’t give what they have never received. In the 1970’s, University of Wisconsin psychologist Harry Harlow studied the effects of isolating rhesus monkeys. Harlow studied what the effects of keeping newborn rhesus monkeys in an insulated chamber would be. A sequestered chamber having no physical or vocal contact with other monkeys or with humans. Within days these monkeys withdrew, became lethargic, and gave off signs of being depressed. In later posts,  I  will discuss the emotional and psychological importance of being touched by another human being. I view Harlow’s study as one about the need for belongingness, and how this need exists even with a Mammalian cousin of ours (the rhesus monkeys). I suggest that the Spitz and Harlow studies of isolation and not being touched are examples of the precursors that can lead to learned helplessness (review earlier post).

institutionalized children

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