The importance of social intimacy for individual growth.

I posted this on another of my blogs back in 2011. However, I thought it would be good to re-post:

In my last post I wrote something to the effect that our lives are like dances between self-aggrandizement and self-effacement, between self-expressive individuality and the need to pay homage to our collectivities, those groups and associations upon which we completely depend for life and prosperity.

All of us are caught in a tango of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand we need to express ourselves as individuals while not turning our noses up at our collectivities (societies, nations, families, workplaces, etc.). We ignore our collectivities at our own peril. It’s built into our genes. There is research that demonstrates clearly the importance social connection is to us. In 1945 Rene Spitz conducted research comparing children raised in orphanages and those raised with their mothers in prison. After four years, a quarter of the orphanage children were dead, the others seriously socially impaired. By contrast, those children raised by their mothers in prison were fine. The difference between the two groups of children was the amount of daily physical and emotional contact they experienced. Children in prison had lots of physical and emotional contact, those in orphanages very little sporadic attention. The sparse research done on feral children supports the idea that without human intimate contact we do not fully develop as humans. Our very intelligence (IQ) is dependent on social contact. A longitudinal study conducted by Skeels and Dye (in Roberta Berns, 2009; Shackne: starting in the 1930s and concluding in 1966 found that two children removed from an orphanage as hopelessly retarded and were moved to an adult facility that cared for retarded adults substantially improved within a few months and displayed increased sociability and intelligence. They subsequently moved 13 children to the adult facility and all of them improved dramatically. In a follow up study done 25 years later, “they found that all of these “hopelessly retarded” children had grown up to live normal and productive lives. Some even made it to college and became professionals.” (Shackne) In contrast, the control group of children left in the orphanage for ‘retarded’ children experienced no such improvement. More recently a study found the same kind of results with Romanian children confined to orphanages and moved to foster homes.(

So we are by definition social animals, so much so that in the absence of social contact we die or are severely cognitively and physically impaired, sometimes permanently. We are beholden to our societies for all that we are. As Ernest Becker points out repeatedly in his books The Denial of Death and Escape from Evil, our societies are the source of all power. It behooves us to keep a watchful eye out to make sure we don’t get irretrievably cut off from this source of power by exhibiting too much individuality. The glue that holds us together in societies is tested every day in every aspect of our lives. Shame, guilt, embarrassment and opprobrium are institutions that maintain strong social ties as much as love does. And we dance. We try a little self-expression and see how that goes. We try a little more and see how that goes. We test the limits of individual possibility. We retreat. We get up on the dance floor but soon sit down if we notice people noticing us too much. Our language is replete with mechanisms for enforcing and re-enforcing social ties and for allowing the expression of individuality without compromising our social connections.

Life is like that: staving off dementia

I haven’t posted on this site for some time because my life has taken me into other directions for a time now.  For instance, I’ve had physical injuries to consider and pain is my constant reminder of my humanity.  It also limits my mobility since some of the pain I’m experiencing is in my right knee.  The pain makes it difficult for me to walk any distance.  I also tore a rotator cuff and that’s a bummer.  Still waiting to see an orthopaedic surgeon on that one.  Yet, I’m happy to report, things are improving. The pain is becoming manageable and I’m taking fewer meds than I have been.  I’m trying to cut out some of my meds altogether but I’m no martyr so if the pain gets intense again, I’ll be right back there gobbling pills.  I’ve tried physiotherapy – different kinds – but the pain is not from muscular injury but rather from connective tissue damage so working on my muscles has limited effect, at least that’s what I think.  Besides, all that stuff is expensive and I don’t have a limitless pot of money to play with.  Still, things are moving along.

I’ve been able to help Carolyn in the yard putting railings on the stairs, etc., in preparation for the garden show we were featured in this past July 27th.  I love my woodworking shop and have been spending lots of time in there. The garden show was fun, but leading up to it was hard work and required lots of meds and rest times for me to carry on.  Maybe I’ll post pictures here soon of what we’ve been doing. Strangely, I’ve been indifferent towards painting and drawing recently although I’m now feeling the stirrings and I’ve picked up the coloured pencils again.  I have a painting that needs finishing. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and planning how to tackle the next set of challenges with it, but I have time coming up so I’ll get back to it soon.  Doing portraits for some people is easy but I have to work at it.  That’s part of the fun of it.  I’m also working up to doing some sculpture in wood.  I need to get my tools sharpened and that in itself is a challenge.  I need to get lessons on how to do that quickly and easily.

All this to say I haven’t been spending a lot of time posting on this blog.  I have been thinking about what I want to do with the blog, but I have lots of doubt whether or not any of this is worth anything.  It’s not as if I have nothing to say, it’s whether anyone is listening that is the issue and what difference it might make one way or another.  It may be that I use this blog to work out issues I’m thinking about with regard to politics, social action, evolution, economics and such things just for the challenge of getting my ideas straight. It might just help stave off dementia as I get older.  At least that’s what I want to believe.