Our human need for love: why it's the problem and why it's the solution

Science has amassed a wealth of findings that show human beings are wired for emotional connection. Without it, we suffer. There is much excitement about these insights, yet also much intransigence at the level of policy. What is keeping us from making the changes that the science clearly tells us would make for happier societies, happier families and happier budgets?

Suzanne Zeedyk argued that implementing the lessons of the science depends more on moving our hearts than on convincing our heads.

She recounted various stories to get participants to think personally about her argument, and, as she admitted, feel uncomfortable about practice. She highlighted the following:

  • In 1967, for the first time, countries could be linked by TV satellite.  So, 30 countries joined together in broadcasting two things that represented their country.  The UK entry was the Beatles playing 'All you need is love' and Cumbernauld New Town.  Both were significant for this conference: the idea of 'all you need is love' (a controversially emotional statement in 1967) and that (arguably the disaster of) Cumbernauld New Town was seen then as the model for the future.  We, 50 years down the line, are the future.  And where have we got to?
  • Humans are born expecting connection
  • The contradictions between policy and what is known to be good for children: for example free childcare for children is a good policy in itself, but at nursery, children may not receive what they need in the form of nurturing attachments - young children need to be cuddled and nursery staff are scared to cuddle children
  • Fear tends to govern policy.  Fears are about the future - we tell ourselves stories that make us frightened about what might happen, not what is happening.  And fears may introduce disconnection rather than connection and attachment.  We may simply not realise that or see it
  • In 1952, people did not realise that, when hospitals restricted the time that children in hospital could see their parents to one visiting hour a day, children experienced emotional deterioration.  Although children were stressed and distressed, professionals adapted by repressing their anxieties about this distress and developed a second skin (see James Robertson's film: A two-year-old goes to hospital.
  • Similarly, in current practice, professionals often repress anxieties about what they know to be right.  This can have a detrimental effect on children's lives
  • We need to be more aware, and at least, if we know that we cannot do what we think is best, we can do that knowingly
  • Predictive trauma experienced by children, such as the death of a parent, results in a child being 2.5 times more likely to disengage from school, have serious health issues and experience other ongoing difficulties.  These cost money and result in poorer outcomes for children
  • We need to try to prevent 'preventable' trauma of loss, illustrated by the story of a young child having only ten days to make the transition from longstanding foster carers to new adoptive carers, or, more routinely, when children arrive at and leave nursery; or when they start primary school.  The distress we see at those times is to do with loss/attachment
  • In 1967 we wondered about the kind of world we would be living in.  It is a world of fear.  And the answer to fear is love.  But it is hard for some people to get love.  And the idea of 'love' causes controversy
  • Children come with connection and they need to be able to celebrate that.  We need the courage of our hearts or we will damage our children

More information: http://www.suzannezeedyk.com/

Suzanne Zeedyk really connected with my current anxieties as a manager of a family centre providing the ELCC for twos. We need to fight for good-quality childcare through paying or childcare and early years workers well. Valuing them shows you value children. Participant