In the 1950s, researcher Harry Harlow, decided to study love. At the University of Wisconsin, Harlow used rhesus monkeys, which are more mature at birth than humans, to learn about love and attachment. He took monkeys at birth and separated them from their birth mothers. He replaced the birth mothers with two artificial mothers: one mother made out of wire which dispensed milk and the other mother was made out of soft cloth.
The babies rarely chose the wire models, even though the wire models could give them milk. Instead, the babies often preferred the cloth mothers for cuddling, especially when they were scared. In conclusion, the babies preferred a soft warm mother instead of a wire mother that only met the physical need of food.
Harlow’s experiment speaks volumes on our basic need for love and attachment. As babies, we are born into this world wanting connection, not just food. We thrive on connection.
Connection can come through emotional intimacy and through touch. Touch can be extremely soothing. Perhaps, patting a friend on the back, giving a hug to a parent, or putting your arm around your intimate partner’s waist- these are all ways to deepen your connection with the other person. However, if you have experienced previous abuse, then it is important to seek a psychotherapist to help you deal with the trauma so you can feel more at ease with physical intimacy.
If you’d like to read an article by Harlow on socialization with monkeys, you can click here: http://www.pnas.org/content/54/1/90.full.pdf+html