The Importance Of Safety, Security, Connectedness, & Physical Touch Needs

With the increasing use of technology, there is a growing disconnection between physical interactions within social and home settings. The point of this blog is not to say “technology is bad,” but to inform you and to encourage you to think about your own daily habits. Technology has paved the way for many advancements in our world and it provides opportunities for connections in places that are inaccessible without it. However, it is important to recognize that while technology allows distant connection, we also must focus on the social and emotional connections that are physically right in front of us. To summarize, this blog is going to focus on the importance of safety, security, connectedness, and physical touch needs to improve overall well-being. This blog will be applicable to many situations including families, romantic relationships, friendships, and even the workplace.

Why Are Physical Interactions Important?

You might be reading this and wondering what the importance of genuine, personal, physical interactions has to do with a person’s overall well-being. First, humans were designed to be social beings and have been proven to have a significant decline in their overall well-being (physical and mental) when social interaction is significantly decreased or non-existent. That’s why it is commonly known that inmates do not respond well when put in solitary confinement. Yes, you can absolutely have social interactions virtually, but these virtual interactions are missing a key component our bodies are biologically programmed with – physical touch and attachment.

Harry Halow’s experiments with monkeys supports the importance of comfort and physical interaction by finding that when physically isolating infant monkeys from their mothers and others, the infants became disturbed. Even with reintegration, the monkeys still suffered and remained distant and isolated because they didn’t know how to interact. From another control group in Harlow’s studies, monkeys without an attachment figure, who had some peer interactions, faced social conflict. Harlow also found that when monkeys were provided with two surrogate mothers – (1) One made of metal that provided food and (2) One made of soft/warm materials that did not provide food – the monkeys spent all of their time with the soft, warm mother except for when they needed food. Then, they would instantly return to the soft, warm surrogate mother once their need for food was met. This study also showed significant dysregulation within the infant monkeys when the soft, warm mother was not present.

Evaluating Your Interactions

First, let’s think about a few things:

  • How much time have you physically spent with those around you?
  • How much time did you spend interacting through an electronic communication device, like your phone?
  • Did those interactions give you warm fuzzy feelings, no feelings, bad feelings, indifferent feelings, etc.?

If you are getting warm fuzzy feelings from a screen – more power to you, I envy you! But, if you struggle with feelings of connectedness, certainty, safety, security, and physical felt sense, I wonder if your basic social and physical interaction needs of human development are being met. Are your child’s needs being met? What about your partner, your friends, or those in your work environment? Being more self-aware is important. Increasing social involvement and physical attachment on a daily basis, with appropriate and trusted individuals, increases the sense of safety, security, and connectedness needed to navigate everyday challenges and experiences.

Next, I want you to think back to yesterday and identify all forms of electronic communication technology that assisted you throughout the day (examples: phone, computer, TV, gaming systems, tablets, etc.). Think about the conversations and the people you interacted with without using any of those technology devices. If you had a single conversation or interaction without using electronic communication technology, I want you to think about these questions:

  • What was that interaction like for you?
  • Was the interaction easy, hard, awkward, and/or nerve wracking?
  • What was different about that interaction versus an interaction using technology?

If you did not have any interactions without the use of technology, I want you to reflect on your current thoughts and feelings regarding your relationships and interactions. How would those interactions have been different if they had been in-person, physical interactions?

Regardless of the types of interactions you had yesterday, I want you to think about these things:

  • Were your emotional and physical needs met with the interactions you had?
  • Did you feel safe, secure, and connected in your interactions?

Practical Ideas To Meet Your Safety, Security, Connectedness, and Physical Touch Needs

Below are a few ideas to help you meet your safety, security, connectedness, and physical touch needs:

  • Eating main meals together or with someone
  • 30 minute screen free times
  • Engaging in a 20-30 second hug or kiss
  • Give someone a high five/fist bump
  • Pat someone on the back/shoulder
  • Sit in the same room and do your individual tasks while silent or conversating
  • Play a game together
  • Open the door to your office
  • Acknowledge others with a greeting when you are passing by their cubicle, room, office, play space, etc.
  • Give someone or yourself a massage
  • Make eye contact with a person in the same room as you
  • Get to know your environment and who’s in it by walking around the space
  • Go to the park and people watch
  • Cuddle your animal(s)
  • Wrap up in your favorite blanket, hoodie, t-shirt, etc.
  • Meditate
  • Deep breath
  • Light a comforting smelling candle
  • Utilize a heating pad for warmth
  • Go drink or get a cup of coffee with a friend

Counseling Can Help

If you are looking for additional support to help you improve your overall well-being, counseling can help! Garrett Counseling has offices in Jacksonville, Albertville / Boaz, and Huntsville, AL, as well as telehealth options. Contact us today at (256) 239-5662 or online to get started.

This article was written by Jessica Mentzer, a mental health professional at Garrett Counseling in Huntsville, AL. Learn more about Jessica here.