The Question of Comfort

Jan 5, 2010

Could the answer to one simple question reveal significant insight into your current relationships?

According to Milan & Kay Yerkovich, the answer is a big fat YES.

In 2009 this blog focused a lot on how we can use our influence for maximum impact. This remains an important theme to me, and you’ll still see posts along these lines. For 2010, however, another predominant theme is emerging:

Intentional Connectedness.

I’m not talking about proximity to people. With international travel, the Internet, and cell phones, we have plenty of that. Instead I’m talking about intentionally moving those abundant opportunities for connection toward a deeper level of life-giving intimacy and relationship. Easy to discuss, not so easily done, which explains why many struggle with a growing sense of disconnect and loneliness.

As part of my ongoing research, yesterday I started reading the Yerkovich’s book How We Love. Leaning heavily on Attachment theory, the authors draw a significant connection between our earliest experiences with receiving love and comfort and our current patterns of giving and receiving love in relationships (namely marriage, although other relationships are certain to be impacted as well). They begin by posing a question they claim is, “The Revealing Question You Need to Answer.”

To be blunt, I’m resistant to digging into the past. Still, the authors argued persuasively in yesterday’s pages that this question is simply a portal to enhancing the present. Are you ready?

Can you recall being comforted as a child after a time of emotional distress? If so, what were the circumstances and how did your caregiver respond (or didn’t respond)?

The goal here isn’t to be negative, but merely exploratory. I’ll go first in the comments. More on this topic to come …

(Photo courtesy of bies, stock.xchng)

12 Comments

  1. Michele

    It took me longer than I thought to come up with something. I’m not sure why my memory is so foggy … When I was 6 years old, my family moved from Arizona to Illinois. This was traumatic for my little relational self, and I remember standing next to the drapes by the front window of our empty house crying, wishing there was something I could do to stop this cross-country move away from everything familiar. My memory ends there. I don’t recall how my parents responded. I’m sure they were busy packing!

    Reply
  2. Sarah Beckman

    oops, my comment got deleted. have to try again later!
    s

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth

    For a long time I resisted the idea that anything in my childhood affected the way I respond today, because I “felt” like I was making my own decisions rationally and was all grown up and independent of the way my parents worked. Not so! I’m going to a class on “Conjugal Spirituality” tonight that I hope touches on this regarding marriage relationships.

    Reply
  4. Diane Shaw

    When I was about nine years old we had a family living with us in our basement. I was carrying their baby down the stairs and I fell. Everyone was concerned about the baby and no one checked to see if I was all right. That incident still sticks with me and I struggle with feeling like I am not valued.
    Diane

    Reply
  5. alece

    (i hate losing my comment when i write the wrong captcha phrase! grrrr!)

    i don’t know if it’s my fuzzy brain or a lack of experiences like this, but i’m coming up empty-handed. i wonder what THAT means!?

    Reply
  6. Michele

    I’m so sorry, Diane. How heartbreaking that must have been for you. This book talks about how these significant moments in our youth leave an “imprint” that then affects how we respond to other situations. Already I can see some of my current response patterns have continued from incidences at an early age. Fascinating. You do a tremendous job of making others feel valued, so at the least your grief has become an impetus to doing something different. Alece, it took me a couple days for the fog to clear a little …

    Reply
  7. Michele

    Elizabeth, you’re going to have to fill me in on that class. Sounds interesting. And I agree with you … I’ve been resistant to looking back as well. But as long as this glimpse in the past serves for a stronger, healthier present, then I’m going to allow it. For now. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Tangie

    I don’t know if I really remember many specific moments where people comforted me or didn’t comfort me in childhood (that forgetful brain — babies eating brain cells, age setting in, brain damage, etc., etc. HA!), but I do know that comforting feeling that immediately sets in when I step into a certain place or even see a certain person. I’m sure many of them are related to experiences in my childhood. I am very much a comfort wanting person, maybe we all are, but I know I look for comfort in relationships a lot — I guess maybe that’s better than finding it in chocolate… :-). Anyway, I realized when I lost my mom that I had lost the earthly person who gave me the most comfort in life. Everytime I walked through the front door of the house I grew up in and saw my mom’s face, this warm, wonderful feeling came over me, and I noticed it more the older I got. Probably because I missed it more and more the longer I was away (and the further away my own family moved from my hometown). Sitting at lunch after my mom’s funeral, it all of a sudden dawned on me… I would never truly have that comfort feeling again. Of course there are many other things that I miss and love incredibly deeply about my mom… but that one had a huge impact on me.

    Reply
  9. Michele

    Oh, Tangie, you brought tears to my eyes … A beautiful example of how your mom’s ability to offer comfort is now carried out in your desire to give and receive comfort. P.S. I miss her, too. 🙁

    Reply
  10. Jerolyn

    Wow, interesting question Michele. I don’t have many “comfort” memories, which now that I think about it certainly has affected the way I respond to my children and spouse. 🙁 Think I better get the book.

    Reply
  11. Michele

    I don’t have many either, Jerolyn. When I had my own children, I remember thinking that I shouldn’t “baby” them. From what I read/learned, I needed to teach them to “self sooth.” Of course, that philosophy related more to bedtime rituals and ordinary daily experiences rather than a moment of distress or crisis. Anyway, this entire line of thought is making me rethink some things … It’s a good book, Jerolyn. I think you’d like it.

    Reply
  12. Denise Miller Holmes

    My mother was not often kind to me. When I was a little child, she would comfort me, but as I grew, she became judgmental. Today I don’t allow female authorities see my vulnerabilities. I do, however, get comfort from friends and my husband.

    Reply

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