The Need to Hold

Exploring: Feelings, Psychology

Humans have many needs. There are needs which are physical like hunger and thirst. There are personal needs like order or certain environments (for example, an environment which is overly sterile might drive somebody mad). There are special needs, like wheelchairs and communication aids. There are also psychological needs. The need to hold, or alternately be held, is one of these.


The need is very strong when we are feeling down: great enough that it impacts upon our emotions (as well as being accentuated by them) and on occasions, there is something like a physical tug inside us.

Not only do we need hugs: we enjoy them. Some embraces, from specific people, are incredibly special and we feel great contentment when they happen. Great contentment, reassurance and sometimes even security. All hugs are pleasant but some just become necessities in our lonely, stressful lives.

This does not only apply to people. No, there are lifelong friends in the form of pets whose role in our lives becomes equally significant. If the encounter of a pet is as frequent as that of a family member, they become characteristic of our lives: they grow to be part of one of those patterns we create in order to satisfy our desire for some familiarity in the world. The home, if you own an animal, comprises your family and ____, that character (cat, dog, another touchable creature) who has always been there, who maybe offered support when your family couldn't, who had some large impact on your life: your experiences; or who merely produces some happiness in your life. The pet is a wonderful thing.


The need to hold can often be as great as the need to be held. Perhaps this reflects on a need to possess. We like what we can call our own. We like to conquer, to know a discovery or knowledge is ours. We see this with the explorers who liked to set out and find new countries, the scientists who named chemical elements they had chanced upon after themselves. Today, the issue of plagiarism is so important to us because what we have written is part of ourselves.

If we apply this to holding, we like to know that who or what we are holding belongs to us. Mothers, in both humans and other animal species, are very protective of their babies - the child is obviously very significant in a parent's life. And isn't there a great desire to have things which are singular to us? We like to hold a teddy (maybe more when we're a child than an adolescent or adult) and think ‘Mine', we sometimes find it difficult to clear our items out. Anything we come to own starts to have an effect on our lives. Some of our belongings define us. They show other people aspects of ourselves and sometimes, there is that need to show people what we are like. Being judged unfairly is never nice, so we like to prove the opposite of someone's harsh criticism.

I'm not saying people or animals are objects: that's a horrifying idea. But possession for emotional gratification is important.

More on holding

We like to know people and animals will be there for us. We like to know that they offer us things like their love and concern: perhaps even their anxiety. There's pain in believing that nobody cares. And that's also why it's important to have something to hold. We need someone who or something which is willing to be held.

What happens when these people/ animals fade from our lives?  

This has much more to do with what we feel than any claim we wanted to stake over our loved ones.

Pain. Immense pain. A feeling of incompleteness, feelings of despair - we loved this person or pet. Dearly. And their absence is incomprehensible to us. We find ourselves looking for them, if not as we saw them when they were there, then by trying to find things that could prove they existed. Loss is an awful experience. Especially when what has been lost was one of our sources of comfort. Who can provide the same comfort?

End of chapter

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