Acknowledgment and Recognition
In addition to the physical sensory energy we receive from our environment, humans need nonphysical energy from other humans, in the form of recognition or acknowledgment. To feel that we are seen, heard, and recognized by another is one of the most healing forms of sensory energy. Simply being present to another can have a profound impact on their wellbeing.
We are a social species and our connections with each other, the earth, and the numinous are crucial ingredients for our wellness. The earliest forms of acknowledgement we receive in infancy are related to input from our physical senses of touch, smell, and movement. Tragically, these three sources of sensory input are often severely limited for Western infants.
Modern child-rearing practices that support leaving infants alone for long periods of time scar our young ones, to whom words such as I love you, I'll be back soon" mean nothing. These infants are left feeling abandoned and isolated. It is through touch, smell, and movement - the "near" somatic senses - that a newborn can continue to feel connected with her mother as she adapts to living outside the womb in an environment that is alien compared to the fetal environment. Of these somatic senses (in contrast to the cognitive senses of vision and hearing), the sense of movement is the most important, as it is the dominant sensory system in utero connecting the fetus with the mother. Similarly, postnatal movement from being carried on the mother's body creates an external "umbilical cord" that keeps mother and infant connected and bonded. See Child Wellness section.
These are our first real experiences of life - floating in a warm liquid, curling inside a total embrace, swaying to the undulations of the moving body, and hearing the beat of the pulsing heart. - Desmond Morris
Eye contact with the mother, as she holds the infant to her breast many times a day, begins to deepen the in utero connection previously established between the two and, more importantly, helps regulate the child's developing nervous system. Infants who are not held and carried most of the time, and who are not nursed while being held close to the mother's heart (the heart has been shown to radiate a strong electromagnetic field* and gazing into the mother's eyes, develop more slowly and are more prone to depression, violence, and addiction.†
While this connection appears to be largely physical when we are young, as we develop first our vision and then language, we become able to experience connection by eye contact from afar and through the spoken language - both the words and the tone of voice. The ability to experience and express love is directly related to how connected we feel with those around us. Compliments, appreciation, and recognition are deeply embedded in the greeting rituals of most cultures. ("You're looking well today." "Thank you!") Clearly, the value of such rituals has been recognized for a long time. Unfortunately, many greetings have deteriorated into robotic generalizations that have far less meaning than a genuinely expressed, specific appreciation, such as "Thanks so much for your email the other day. I loved hearing your story about meeting my daughter at the game." Specific compliments or recognition have much more value (energy) for their recipient than generalities like "Thanks." While this is probably related to the energy of the physical connection that we had (or didn't have) as infants, the energy that is passed between people in this kind of interaction defies physical measurement. It is significant, nonetheless, and it illustrates the power of symbols (words) in the flow of energy between people.
The beauty of this type of energy is that, when you give it, you usually receive as much energy back from the good feelings that arise in you when you allow yourself to really appreciate another person.
Love has been defined as being completely present to another (not a simple task). Acknowledgments, compliments, and appreciation are the building blocks of love - perhaps the most valuable form of energy on the planet.
* Childre, D., and H. Martin, The HeartMath Solution
† Prescott, J. W., "Breastfeeding: Brain Nutrients in Brain Development for Human Love and Peace" (1997), www.violence.de/prescott/ttf/article.html.