Affection is a psychological phenomenon that, one way or another, we have intuition is important to our lives. It always shows up in conversations when we talk about personal relationships, or when it gives us food for thought about love.
However, what exactly is affection? Being a concept that we use intuitively, without stopping too much to think about its meaning, sometimes we fall into mistakes and see it as something that is just there when we relate to someone. But the truth is, it’s something that doesn’t come up and goes away spontaneously when we socialize with different people; it is still there and its effects mark us. Let’s see.
What is affection?
“All you need is love”; As this well-known Beatles song reminds us, love is something that moves us and gives us the strength to discover and see the world. But while when we talk about love we usually think of romantic love or what is given to the couple, there are many more. A mother cradling her son, a friend who’s in the band at the wrong times, a couple who makes you feel more alive than ever. They are all united by deep emotional ties.
Although we all know what it is and have experienced it on some occasions, it is not as simple as it seems to give a definition of what ailment is that is general and takes into account the various situations or circumstances in which it may arise. However, in general, the condition can be considered as disposition that a person or an animal has towards any other being or situation.
Affection is often identified with emotion, but while related the truth is that there is a difference: affection is directed at another person, being or thing and their levels can fluctuate but are usually more permanent, while the emotions are felt by oneself and are temporary. . Affection is usually identified and associated with feelings of love and affection for someone, a feeling of connection with another.
It is therefore an element of a relational nature, An interaction between several people or beings (let’s not forget that we can also feel affection for pets or animals, and they also feel affection for us and for each other). It is therefore not something which depends only on oneself, but which is linked to the relationship that we have with the person or being in question.
Characteristics of emotional ties
Affection is an essential element for humans, its absence being linked to various psychopathologies such as depression, sociopathy or even being a factor of great importance in the emergence of personality disorders. It also predisposes to medical illnesses or their worsening as well as a lower survival rate, such as in cancer or heart disease.
Affection is fluid and variable because it can change depending on how the interaction is. He expresses himself in different ways, usually investing energy to make the other feel good (either visibly or imperceptibly to others). These expressions of affection may in turn receive different types of responses from each other.
And this is it in many cases the affection is not shared either it is not given at the same level (one can feel affection for someone but not romantic love, for example), or it can even be unpleasant and undesirable by the other subject.
Although in this article we focus on affection as it is generally understood (the feeling of union with another), the truth is that we can also talk about positive and negative affectivity, depending on the emotional tone. general that we have.
Affection as a need throughout the life cycle
The ability to feel, give and receive affection is largely a biological thing., Intervention of different neurotransmitters such as oxytocin. However, it will largely be life experiences that will mark whether we feel affection for someone, for whom, and how to express it.
This happens early in our life, especially when we start to receive rewards in the form of caring, and the first people we feel are usually our parents or regular guardians, being some of the first beings that we are. able to recognize as our brain develops and allows us to recognize others as things other than ourselves. And not only after childbirth, but also the existing relationship with the mother during fetal development and the stage of pregnancy.
To feel and receive affection is one thing fundamental to our good emotional and cognitive development as human beings. As gregarious beings that we are and are part of a society, we need to feel part of the group, to feel united with others.
1. Early childhood and childhood
And this need is visible from birth: the baby needs a safe environment and the existence of a response to his needs. The physical contact and affection we received in our childhood will greatly mark our attitude towards life: a baby who has been loved will be able to face the world with confidence (Since their expressions and needs have been covered) While someone who has been neglected tended to see the world as something that does not meet their needs, they ignore it and distrust it.
Receiving affection will influence how we view ourselves and those around the world, while also making us feel safe, calm, secure, and able to view things with joy, enthusiasm, and curiosity. The mix between the baby’s temperament and his interaction with his caregivers has largely determined the type of attachment he shows towards them and the rest of the world.
As we grow up, emotional needs increase, start to have relationships with other people and beings beyond our caregivers. They begin to form friendships and bond with others like them. In the family, the expression of affection and support remains fundamental, being a stage during which the child absorbs not only the affection he receives, but also the values and ways of acting most. appropriate.
As for the affection itself, it is important that you receive it but also that you can give it, being important the reactions of others to these expressions of affection. The fact that in these childish relationships we can give and receive affection will also mark us to a great extent. And it should be borne in mind that affection is not only given to living things: toys and objects that are important to us also wake us up.
In general, people who throughout their childhood received affection they tend to be more empathetic, While those who are generally not more rigid, distant and more prone to anxiety and depressive disorders.
2. Adolescence and adulthood
But not only in childhood: adolescence is a stage in which we need a lot of affection, in which we learn to tell and we are going through different changes that interest us more in others.
Our interest moves away from the family and focuses on the peer group (in which we will invest a lot of effort), discovering ourselves and trying to forge our own identity. The experiences we live and have had, as well as the affection received along the way, will be important to achieve an integrated identity and with good self-esteem. Another type of affection also begins to appear, that of romanticism, following the first experiences of love.
Once we reach adulthood, the need for affection continues and will continue throughout life. life. While there are some individuals who don’t like company, in general we all want to share our lives with other people. Relationships become more complex and we are much more aware of how we are feeling, what we are doing and what we are causing. Romantic relationships become more important, albeit more serene than in adolescence. Family, friends, partner, children… they are all more or less important to us and will arouse different degrees of affection.
Although this is an aspect that is not taken care of by today’s society, old age is a difficult stage in which we gradually lose physical and mental faculties. In addition, many people we have felt affection for have already passed away or are in the later stages of their lives, with the fear of losing them. It is easier to lose autonomy and feel more fragile.
This is a vital time when affection is very much needed, but in many cases it is not given enough, which facilitates the onset of illnesses and the development of disorders like depression. And a lot of grandparents feel lonely.
- González, deputy; Barrull, E .; Pons, C. and Marteles, P. (1998). What is affection? Biopsychology [En línea] Available at http://www.biopsychology.org/biopsicologia/articulos/que_es_el_afecto.html.