Is This Normal: “I Still Sniff My Childhood Blanket to Fall Asleep”
In this series, we dig into our strange phobias, fixations, and neuroses, and ask ourselves — Is This Normal?
It has engaged in transcontinental travel. It has won out over boyfriends. It has hidden from the probing, cleanliness-obsessed hands of my grandmother. It has binge-watched hundreds of television shows. It has stuck with me through thick and thin, always consistent, forever welcoming. It is my ratty, old blanket that’s fraying at the edges and smells a little like me.
Over the years, I have had to replace it thrice, to my great chagrin. The previous ones either succumbed to the vagaries of time or fell victim to a diabolical family member who decided that it just isn’t normal for adults to have comfort objects. White with red stripes no. 4 is alive and kicking, thank you for asking. To everybody who has had to relentlessly fight for their right to cuddle with a harmless nighttime companion, today is your lucky day.
Children need emotional support in their early years. It’s usually a blanket or a soft toy, but really could be anything that helps them sleep, feel at home in a strange place or provide a sense of familiarity when they’re away from their guardian. Deemed ‘transitional objects’ by British psychologist Donald Winnicott, they help graduate children from dependence on (usually) their mothers, to a pseudo-independent state wherein they glean comfort and quell feelings of fright or anxiety with the help of an inanimate object. The goal is to transition out of that state of dependence completely and learn to soothe your own self without the help of aides, a practice that is considered an essential rite of passage by most.
“Despite myths to the contrary, transitional objects are not a sign of weakness or insecurity, and there’s no reason to keep your child from using one,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Or your adult from using one, according to me.
Hospitality company Travelodge polled 6,000 people in the United Kingdom about their relationship with their comfort objects, after hotel staff discovered more than 75,000 stuffed animals left behind at 452 partner hotels. In their attempt to return these sentimental keepsakes back to the guests (bless their hearts), they learned that 51 percent of adults said that they were still holding on to their teddy bear from childhood, according to the study. 35 percent of the surveyed guests said they cuddled their stuffed animal to sleep; 25 percent of men said the stuffed toy was their perpetual travel companion on business trips and that it reminded them of home.
So, there! We’re definitely not alone in loving our transitional objects. Now for some Web MD-style fear-mongering.
In a community sample of 80 people, it was found that those who harbored intense adulthood attachments to their transitional objects were more susceptible to a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality Disorders. Manifestations of BPD are “characterised by tumultuous, unstable personal relationships, difficulty being alone, and an inability to self-soothe,” according to the study.
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Those people reported instances of trauma in their childhood, recounted experiences of lacking support from their childhood caregivers and reported having attachment problems as adults. That’s a two out of three for me. Yes, there could be an underlying pathology to heavily relying on transitional objects, I will admit. Is it normal? Absolutely. But maybe go check out a therapist if you have time.