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Comfort Objects

By Nik Shultz

I am taking a break from talking about dolls now, on account of the contest we are currently holding. If you haven’t seen we are accepting writing on the theme of comfort! So I want to talk about comfort objects this week.

What is comfort? Well, it’s both a verb and a noun. You can be comforted and give or received comfort. It’s also a state of being, to be comfortable. Comfort is connected to an idea of safety and relative ease and/or lack of pain.

But maybe looking at the word itself is too abstract and directionless an approach. Comfort is connected to something deep in our core. We have biological desires to comfort others, and biological means of doing so, which we aren’t always aware of. Comfort is something we need when in pain, grieving, frightened, sad, or confused. Comfort is something we seek out in our long-term goals, i.e. “I just want enough money to live comfortably in retirement.”

Children often have “comfort objects,” such as a blanket, stuffed animal, or toy. As we grow up, we become less comfortable with showing off these precious objects in public, but they may still be something we keep in our childhood bedrooms, bring to sleepovers hidden at the bottom of a bag, or dig out of the closet to hug while crying over high school drama.

I am 21 years old. I could go to a bar and order any alcoholic beverage I want. I have worked multiple paying jobs. I have signed a lease on an apartment. I have voted in several elections. I file taxes. And I have slept with a stuffed animal my entire life. As I am writing this I am sitting in bed with a pile of stuffed animals beside me.

For the social circles that I occupy, it’s not that unusual to continue having comfort objects in adulthood. For ADHD and Autistic people, stim or fidget toys may be necessary to emotional regulation, and these neuro-types also lend themselves to rejecting arbitrary social rules. Queer people are more likely to reject the ideals of which genders are allowed to like “soft” things. College students have a particular inclination towards a “Screw it, I’m an adult and can do what I want” attitude.

You don’t stop needing comfort when you’re an adult. Do you have a song that cheers you up on a Monday morning drive to work? Do you enjoy wearing a loved one’s clothing because it smells like them? Do you have mementos from your childhood you keep in a box, maybe to give to your children? A key chain that you hold onto for luck? A favorite chair? A worry stone? These can be important emotional regulation tools.

We don’t stop needing comfort as adults. So let’s not judge each other, or ourselves, for our stuffed animal collections, or whatever else bring us comfort. Especially right now, in times of turmoil, we all could use a little comfort.

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