Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Nurturance as a Primary Motive

Originally posted on March 4, 2012

Freud made sexuality a primary motive; and aggression another deep motive. Today I realized that nurturance is another profound motivating force—quite deep! I was cutting up a plum for my sweetie and realizing that I got a kick out of feeding her the way a momma bird is driven by the nonverbal cues of hunger exhibited by the baby bird’s flapping wings and wide mouth and high-pitched cheep. Indeed, these hunger cues drives her (and sometimes it’s the daddy bird!) to go and get a worm! She’s driven! She has got to get that worm! (Indeed, we role played baby and mommy bird!) That baby is hungry! And the relief of the parent at “providing for its family” is like a sexual orgasm. It’s not genital, but it’s something and it brings that much of a relief.

I considered the need for a man to get feedback that he has indeed provided for his family. We contemplated (Allee and I chat about such things) and became aware of the plight of a minority breadwinner who seeks work and sees majority people being hired—perhaps less experienced or qualified—yet they land the job instead; and this happens over and over again. It can make a guy crazy bitter! (There has been a major continuing prejudice about work that any man can get a job if he’s not too picky. The idea that this is not so is truly swept off the table, marginalized. But the truth is that in many situations, there are in fact no jobs to be had!  Or as I said, only certain races or ethnicities need apply. Or what does it mean that only service jobs manned by teen-agers for “helping” with college or spending money are the kinds of jobs available?)

But these are spin-off contemplations from the original idea, which is that nurturance should be more clearly recognized as a primary  motive. (And the opposite, frustrations in being able to nurture, to provide, can be deeply demoralizing!) For mothers, the ability to breast-feed a baby, the feeling of sufficiency and nestling into one’s arms in contented sleep, is registered in the mirror-neuron system. And the appreciation by wife and family of a man’s work in providing for his family—that feedback—is similarly gratifying. Or, putting it the other way—having kids not thank you, not acknowledge your work in providing for you—it’s more than stuff for comic strips—it’s truly galling and demoralizing! (Dare I even consider the politically incorrect idea that perhaps a large, perhaps only a small factor that permits adultery is the lack of deep appreciation being shown by a spouse?)

So, backing off, just contemplating the importance of a little song-chant sung in some Sufi and neo-spiritual dance-rituals: “From you I receive; to you I give; together we share: and from this, we live.”

2 Responses to “Nurturance as a Primary Motive”

  • Adam, I find your treatise on Nurturance and primal instinct quite interesting. I am a drama therapist myself and happen to work with children ages 5-8 where I am constantly balancing my primal instinct to nurture and my learned behavior to maintain boundaries. The two are always in play – sometimes they are in battle, and when they are in battle, nurturance always wins!

  • David says:

    Totally agree: Nurturance is core! Though sometimes it’s not without conflict. One of the most primal reactions I’ve felt is when I came home from my first time hunting with a backstrap of deer and cooked it for my wife and boys. I Provided… hunted, killed (harvested, as some say), and cooked it up. And the looks on their faces as they enjoyed it was very rewarding.

    I do wonder if one of the key problems with older populations is that they don’t have people or things to nurture. Thus, the power of pets or family or projects or friends to keep people going.

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