A new word for you

Back in the 1960’s, I heard the word ‘affirmative’, which I figured out means ‘yes’.  Later, I came across the word ‘affirm’, which I learned meant to ‘support’ or ‘to agree’.  Over the course of my life, I have been involved in mental health counseling, and have done quite a bit of reading on the subject.  Thus, I was rather surprised when a new word entered the lexicon of therapy.  Especially as the word referred to the process of building someone up, of giving them reassurance, of making them feel wanted, a member of the group.

The new word was ‘affirmation.’  Until the early 1990’s , the only definition for ‘affirmation’ was ‘a legal statement,’ such as a ‘sworn affirmation.’  But scientists discovered that there is a process performed by family members, members of a group, or basically anyone who demonstrates concern and compassion for someone, a process that strengthens our self-esteem, helps us to feel more valuable, and dispels anxiety.  One of the most fundamental processes in human interactions, and no one even bothered to give it a name for decades!

Affirmation is essential for developing egos, such as those in children ages 3 to 5, when belonging is a very desired state.  Humans know instinctively that their chance of survival by themselves is almost zero, that the only way to have any hope of bringing another generation into the world means being part of a group.  How much affirmation a child receives is direct feedback on whether they are being assimilated into the group or not.  But, in modern society, there are hardly any people with time on their hands to give children affirmation.  Children need for adults to listen to them, to pay attention to them, to interact with them.  Without enough affirmation, a child can conclude that they are not wanted, that they are inferior, broken, undesirable.

The world that we live in provides most young children an environment where only one or two adults are around, and they are always busy.  A child who hears, “I don’t have time for that right now” frequently, is in danger of loss of self-esteem, self-hate, anger, depression.  There is an epidemic of low self-esteem and depression in the United States today, and I blame the break up of the extended family for most of it.  Having three or more generations living under one roof is essential to the proper development of children, I believe.   Someone has said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  How many children are raised by villages today?

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