The Taser's Edge

More Touching

I kind of hate sex-based generalities (and I really hate when authors use their professional titles, all of which fairly easy to legitimately gain in some fashion and none of which evidencing actual expertise, hence “John Gray, Ph.D.“) and yet here’s an astonishing thought or three from Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson (who is actually a legit psychologist), pp. 191-192:

We have a vital need from our earliest moments to the end of our days for touch, observes Tiffany Field, a developmental psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, who argues that North Americans are among the world’s least tactile people and suffer from “touch hunger.”  [Reference: Touch by Tiffany Field (MIT, 2003)]  In children, a lack of touch, of holding and caressing, seems to slow the growth of the brain and the development of emotional intelligence, that is, the ability to organize emotions.

Men may be particularly vulnerable to touch hunger.  Field points out that right from birth, boys are held for shorter periods and caressed less often than are girls.  As adults, men seem to be less responsive to tender touch than are women, but in the men I see, they crave it just as much as do the women.  Men do not ask to be held, either because of cultural conditioning (real men don’t hug) or lack of skill (they don’t know how to ask).  I think of this whenever my female clients complain that men are obsessed with sex.  I would be, too, if sex were the only place apart from the football field where I ever got touched or held…

We cannot funnel all of our attachment needs for physical and emotional connection into the bedroom.  When we try, our sex life disintegrates under the weight of those needs.

My basic thoughts are along the lines of (1) wondering how this sex-based difference in touching received from a young age forms “maleness” and (2) if I ever have a son, I’ll be more aware of how I relate to him tactilely.

Tuesday Reading Roundup

City of God by Augustine of Hippo
The first time I tried to read this was in high school.  Clearly that wasn’t going to work out.  The current attempt is probably about a year in the making (or more).  Part I was really interesting to the type of person that such things are interesting to (like me and others interested in Greek and Roman antiquity).  I started Part II today, and it is kind of amazing thus far…

When ‘God rested on the seventh day from all his works, and sanctified that day,’ this is not to be understood in any childish way, as if God had toiled at his work, seeing that ‘he spoke and they were made’ by a word which was intelligible and eternal [ed. note: JESUS! THE WORD!], not vocal and temporal.  No, the ‘rest of God’ means the rest of those who find their rest in him, just as ‘the joy of a house’ means the joy of those who rejoice in that house – even if it is not the house itself but something else which is responsible for the joy.  How much more appropriate it would be if in fact the house itself were to make the inhabitants glad by reason of its beauty.

Culture Making by Andy Crouch
Interesting thing to read alongside City of God as Crouch’s work stands in that work’s direct shadow, with Crouch working toward an understanding of Christ, the church, and culture which is about creating culture (as opposed to the many other ways that Christians have tried to relate to wider culture in the past).

The writers of the Bible would have been the first to insist that human attempts at fashioning images of God are doomed to failure or worse.  But God, it seems, has no such limitation.  God himself makes an “image” of himself.  Humankind’s “images of God” are always deficient and destructive, the Hebrew Bible insists, but God’s own “image of God” is the summary of everything he has made, crowned with the words, “It was very good.”

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson
Cheesy title or not, this book is hip-hop-happening.  Its basic claim is that the take on what makes romantic relationships work which has been mainlined into American pop psychology and pop culture through sitcoms and romcoms (that ‘take’ being communication, communication, communication, all five words containing ‘com’ of course) doesn’t actually hold up.  Johnson argues (and has research to back it) that in the same way that infants have to form strong attachments with their mothers in order to thrive into adulthood, we continue to need to have strong bonding attachments in order to thrive.  All of our relationships, but particularly our most intimate ones, are marked by a need for healthy attachments which help us to feel safe and secure in all areas of our lives.

Two reasons that this sounds brilliant to me.  (1) Safety is the basic human need that I personally learned was necessary for every successful chaplaincy interaction I had during my chaplaincy residency, and which (I believe) I learned is necessary for every fruitful human interaction, period.  (2) This revision make clear how ideologically individualistic the “all codependency is harmful” school of psychology is.  The need for making adult attachments in order to be healthy individuals is much more in line with a Biblical theological anthropology of interdependency.

We have to dive below to discover the basic problem: these couples have disconnected emotionally; they don’t feel emotionally safe with each other.  What couples and therapists too often do not see is that most fights are really protests over emotional disconnection.  Underneath all the distress, partners are asking each other: Can I count on you, depend on you?  Are you there for me?