In Charles M. Schultz’s comic strip Peanuts, developed in the 1950s, there is a character called Linus Van Pelt. Linus carries his blue security blanket – his comfort blanket – everywhere. A security blanket is something – not only a blanket – that helps to ease anxiety. Linus is credited with making it okay for (real, non-cartoon) people to have an item of comfort in his everyday life.
Comfort therapy grew out of child psychology, in which an object, such as a toy, pacifier (dummy), or a ‘blanky’ helped a child to feel more comforted. It was a routine, everyday habit of carrying something familiar. Studies showed that about 60% of children carry some form of comfort object, so it is normal and quite beneficial. The comfort object could be held only at night, or during stressful moments during the day, or throughout the whole day and evening as a constant inanimate companion.
Paediatrician Donald Woods Winnicott (1896-1971) called it a ‘transitional object’ as an interim stage, meaning that eventually the child ‘grows out of it’ – grows out of the dependence on the object as the child matures.
This ‘attachment’ to an object also carries through to adulthood for some people, or is introduced in adulthood as a ‘soother.’ Such objects include stuffed animals, worry beads, good luck charms, key rings, photographs, or items from loved ones.
Take an object with you wherever you go, whenever you want to, or feel that you need to. If it is an item of clothing, wear it as needed. Studies show that having it close by is just as beneficial as holding the object, so it does not need to be constantly held. If it is small, pop it into your purse or bag.
It is usually comforting to touch the object because it could be cuddly, warm, soft, smooth, cool, furry, etc.
Some people like to touch the object in times of stress, take deep breathes, meditate, or repeat an affirmation or prayer. For example, holding a gemstone or ring or worry beads, and telling yourself some comforting words, or even a mantra, over and over again. This could include: ‘All will be well’ – ‘Just breathe’ – ‘Relax, relax.’ There is no right or wrong way to do this – it is personal and private.
Other forms or principles of comfort therapy occur regularly in medical and psychology fields, as well as in general society.
For example, Katherine Kolcaba (1944-) introduced comfort theory in nursing in the 1990s. She introduced three contexts – 1) relief (of pain or discomfort), 2) ease (contentment), and 3) transcendence (rising above challenges) in which patients receive physical, psycho-spiritual, environmental, and socio-cultural comfort. It is seen as an ‘immediate desirable outcome of nursing care.’
There are many approaches to self-soothing and self-comforting. These could include pacing, positive self-talk, reading, doing a hobby, combing your hair, rubbing your hands, listening to music, etc.
For children, losing a comfort object or having it removed can lead to distress and tantrums. It can also lead to obsessive traits.
For adults, some may view the act of carrying a comfort object as a sign of weakness or just silly, depending on the object. For example, wearing and touching a wedding or other sentimental ring does not evoke feelings of weakness – from yourself or others – but a stuffed pink elephant might.
Object dependence, relationship dependence, obsessive attachment, and deprivation may result from comfort therapy, particularly if a person has difficult self-soothing through other methods.
Deprivation can occur when the comfort object is lost. Emotions might become extreme – such as distress, panic, screaming, or frantic searching. Deprivation can also occur as a result of replacing an emotional issue with a comfort object, without addressing the initial issue or trauma. For example, if the comfort object is a substitute for a lost loved one, it may be beneficial in the short to medium term, but its benefits may diminish in the longer term as it does not necessarily address deep feelings of grief. However, since carrying a comfort object is not usually obvious to others, the benefits might outweigh the negative effects.
Comfort therapy does not necessarily address core issues.
“Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book.” – Bill Watterson, The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book
“I need voices of reason and of hysteria and of empathy. I need to have an Alanis moment. I need advice from Elizabeth Bennett. I need Tim Tams and comfort food.” – Melina Marchetta, Saving Francesca
” I collect stuffed animals, and toy stores make me happy.” – Grace Slick
DISCLAIMER: This website’s author does not dispense medical advice or prescribe the use of any technique as a form of treatment for physical, emotional, or medical problems without the advice of a physician or psychologist, either directly or indirectly. Therefore, information provided here is not intended to replace readers’ existing or other medical, psychological, financial, or legal advice. The author’s intent is to offer general information to help readers in their quest for emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, guidance towards self-empowerment, and/or for entertainment purposes only. Rainy Day Healing and Martina Nicolls shall not be held accountable for any loss which may arise from any readers’ reliance and implementation of any information provided. For information on courses and personal consultations, see TERMS AND CONDITIONS.