Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Spiritual Musings

Holdings – the power of a cuddle

As parents, we don’t need to be told that holding our children is sometimes the most powerful and effective way of enveloping them in calmness and security. It’s a vital part of creating the secure bond of attachment that children carry with them throughout their future life, and, before our babies can talk, it can sometimes be the only way to communicate the strong feelings of love and protectiveness that we have towards them. As our children grow physically bigger, rambunctious, and more independent, the frequency, length and intensity of our cuddles with them often tends to fall away – it’s easier to keep hold of a slippery eel than an eight-year old schoolboy! As all that happens, it’s easy to forget the primal power that a loving embrace exerts over a distressed, disconnected child. Used in this situation, we at PTI refer to a cuddle as a ‘holding’. Read on to see how simple and useful a tool it can be in your parenting skill set.

What is parenting?

We all have the best of intentions for our children. By parenting, we seek to actively bring them up to fulfill their best potential, rather than just treat them as small relatives who happen to live in the same house as us. But we must still keep in mind that they are not our slaves, and we can’t change their fundamental personality or dictate their every thought process. It’s in the way that we respond to them, and the environment that we give them, that we exert a powerful influence over them, and we have to make the most of that while they’re young, because the older they get, the more they have to cope in environments that we have not prepared for them. There are no guarantees about how our children will fare in their life, yet through the environment we provide, we can increase the possibility of them doing well.

A child’s job is to find out how the world works, and ours is to show them. One example of this is by providing them with opportunities to learn that there are consequences for their actions. We can allow our children to make choices in order to learn responsibility, which they understand and remember. Thinking about this reflectively – and not in the five-second period that occurs when you realize that your carefully-planned back yard floral color scheme has been pulverized in the sand pit to make ‘soup’ – you try to figure out the motives behind their actions, and respond in a way that channels those motives to an outcome that will better serve them in later life. It’s totally great to want to make soup, but Mommy really loved those flowers – next time, come and ask for something else to use instead! We are parenting a new species of children. And some of us seem to be a new species of parents who are committed to turning out free, forward-looking children, with a positive sense of how they can live their lives, and how they can contribute to the community. By responding in the right way, we can channel, rather than crush, our children’s innate energy, creativity and passion.

What is a holding?

A holding is the process of unconditionally extending our loving center to our children. It is only an invitation and it is up to the other person to receive it or not. Holdings can be spiritual, in the mind, or physical; for children, we start out with the physical. We aim to create intimate contact between parent and child. It can be done at anytime, not just as a consequence for unsafe behavior. It is a gesture of love, which assists the child to release stored anger, frustration and rage, and creates immense intimacy and reinforces the bond between parent and child.
A holding invites your child into a controlled crisis, which, in the end is liberating for both the child and the parent.

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