The longing epidemic


I sit here watching YouTube clips of Jamie Catto, musician, producer and leader of inspirational, spiritual workshops. He’s talking about feeling intense pressure on your chest, pain across your solar plexus and the benefit of noticing these interesting sensations. I’m feeling them. I feel a weight pressing down on my lungs, a sharp pain in my heart and a strangling sensation around my throat. Emotionally, I feel a confused amalgamation of anxiety and nauseating longing. As I allow it to expand, it gets intense and I sit back and watch with curiosity and affection. The feelings arising in me are actually in response to Catto himself, the intensity of which has come and gone for some weeks, since I met him. I feel like the kid, Kenny in South Park, who vomits every time he sees the girl he likes. My Somatic Experiencing therapist, Bevis Nathan, has tasked me with watching Jamie Catto and allowing the sensations. Although it would be easy to get confused; Jamie is a smoking-hot creative genius, wise teacher, loving coach, glorious embodiment of entrancing masculinity, dedicated single dad and actual live rockstar, I’m not taking this infatuation too seriously. I’m aware that this is a projection of my early longing for one parent or both.

Longing is a feeling I realise I know well. And as I reacquaint myself with it, I notice it everywhere. In lyrics of songs, artists expose themselves as stalkers and I realise I’m not alone. Billboards advertise to that longing, promising to numb or distract from the borehole in our hearts. Why is that sense of longing such an presumable part of who we are?

I know the deep longing that has accompanied me through life began the moment doctors tore me away from my mother at birth and left me for a five week eternity in isolation in an incubator. My exploratory gaze, communications and cries went unnoticed. I was longing to be held, to feel felt, to connect with the life force of my mother via her breast, to see her pupils dilate with love as she released oxytocin while looking at me. My long-suffering best pal can vouch that this longing has been triggered repeatedly throughout my life.

Mounting evidence suggests the answer is in the way we were welcomed into this world. Babies are primed to go through an innate sequence to bond with their mother from the moment they are born. In our medicalised birth culture this process gets interrupted when they are whisked away for routine, non-essential procedures. Eyes, searching for the unique features of the One who contained their body for their known existence… are finding their gaze unmet. The impassioned urge to suck and find connection at the breast, is being all too often plugged by an artificial teat.

The entire breastfeeding relationship is set up to wire us for connection. The Motherbaby physiologically aligns to become a single unit. Closeness is enforced by the need for proximity and the fact that you literally have to connect skin-to-skin many times a day. Relaxation, loving feelings and eye contact are inherently rallied by a heady cocktail of hormones. This level of intimacy is possible to recreate when bottle feeding, but with breastfeeding it is inadvertent. Emotionally, breastfeeding represents connection, warmth, relaxation, trust, abundance. Straying from our biological norm generally has consequences and emotionally, these can run deep. And even then, breastfeeding mothers in Western society are under multiple oppressions from popular parenting culture, pressure to return to work and isolation. In this climate, rather than a sacred time to connect, breastfeeding becomes a welcome break or an opportunity to reach out to others via social media.

We have normalised children’s unmet emotional needs and therefore a deep sense of longing, addiction and trauma. I think it’s this longing that drives us to devastate the planet in a misguided attempt to plug the boreholes in our hearts. It’s time to start taking connection very seriously for the sake of peace and sustainability.

It’s a sorry state of affairs when a married mother of two needs to project inappropriate feelings onto a man she barely knows. I’m grateful for the signpost to where I have trauma left to heal. I yearn for a world where all children know they are loved and worthy and won’t need to get themselves into such pickles.

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