Thursday, February 15, 2007

Prejudice: Its Deep and Early Causes

"I'm interested in the fact that the less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice."
- Clint Eastwood

What right does a Hollywood type have to an opinion on such an important subject? As much right as anyone else. Being a man involved with the public in many ways for so many years, Eastwood likely has a better perspective about how people act than most of us because he has been exposed to so many insecure people in filmland. Hollywood is a Mecca for insecure people.

Assume his observation is correct for the purpose of this discussion. What we have are two important parts to his statement: insecure people and those with extreme prejudice.

Why would anyone be insecure? A genetic defect? A nasty mother? Abuse as a child? The number of people who suffer from feelings of insecurity suggests that the cause is more pervasive than any of these. Almost everyone feels insecure about some things, or they should because they cannot know enough about every problem or situation they face to be able to cope with it effectively and efficiently.

The kind of insecurity that Eastwood was speaking about is basic, far deeper than not knowing enough about the kind of flat screen TV to buy. This kind goes back to childhood, specifically to unfulfilled needs.

A baby spends nearly a year in the womb before birth, 40 weeks in constant touch with its mother. After birth, the need for constant touch continues, but the amount of touch time between mother and child decreases dramatically. As the child gets older, the need continues, though not to as great an extent as before birth. The child can look after itself in childhood passtimes. A fair amount of touching is still needed. It continues throughout our lives.

That need for touch in adults is vastly underrated by most people. How it affects single people (unattached to a cohabiting other of any kind), married people who become separated or married people whose spouse dies or becomes alienated in another way is seldom addressed to the extent it deserves. A man whose wife leaves him may be a bomb waiting to explode because he doesn't know how to cope with the loss of touch as well as the loss of a way of life.

Studies have shown that we each need the equivalent of 12 hugs per day to be satisfied with our lives. The ideal would be 18 hugs. But who has time for that?

Most of us do, if we make time because we know how important touch is to our welfare--both emotional and physical health. It doesn't always have to be a hug. It could be a touch while passing in the hall, holding hands while having coffee or walking together and sleeping next to each other. A kiss and huge when leaving each other and when meeting again counts as two each.

An insufficient amount of touch will make anyone insecure to some extent. The degree will vary and it's hard to measure. In general, all unhappy people lack sufficient touch from a loved one to satisfy them. Those who have extreme prejudice have accommodated themselves to insufficient touch for many years. They may even deny their need for touch.

A prejudiced person needs someone to hurt, just as bullies do. The unfulfilled need for touch for far too long has caused them to want to hurt someone else the way they have suffered themselves. They seldom want to talk about how they hurt or about their need.

Prejudice and bullying function at an emotional level, which is where our need for touch comes in. Lack of sufficient touch shows itself in emotional hurt, which may demonstrate itself in inappropriate behaviours. Sometimes the inappropriate behaviours involve touching the other person.

Now you know something about human needs that most people do not. Use your knowledge wisely and productively.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring important human needs out of the closet.
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