Pouty was a Gerbera daisy I received from a very dear friend over 10 years ago. I had many seasons of Pouty bringing me joyful blooms. I moved Pouty from Michigan to Texas because I was just that attached- the thought of leaving him behind didn’t even cross my mind. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object. Transitional objects (also known as comfort objects and the infamous ‘security blanket’) are objects that provide psychological comfort, in particularly unusual or unique situations.
It would seem Pouty was much more than a plant. He literally would, at times, take on human-like characteristics. If I neglected him for a couple days he would ‘pout’, hence his namesake. Like any good ‘parent’ I would water and talk to Pouty in an effort to comfort him back to his usual perky self. And for over 10 years this seemed to work. But all good things, and lives, must come to an end. Today I mourn the loss of Pouty. Honestly I am still in a state of denial that his blooms will no longer bless me. Pouty not only survived countless moves in his time, and the hot Texas summers, but also survived Hurricane Harvey where he was submerged in 4 foot deep flood water for over 3 days. He was a survivor. Was.
Pouty recently became infected by insects. Even after changing and treating his soil, he continued to pout and eventually retuned back to Mother Earth. Crazy as it sounds, it left me devastated. I cried and cried.
Why do we grow so attached to inanimate or transitional objects? There are several theories. In childhood we typically grow attached to a stuffed animal or blanket. These objects bring us comfort in time of need such as when our parents are away. (Don’t lie! I know some of you still have some of these objects…and a select number of you still sleep with them!) I have an entire plastic bin filled with the stuffed objects of my affection from birth to adulthood. I can’t seem to part with them. Why? Because in some strange way they still provide comfort. They provide positive memories of cherished times and people.
In adulthood, our transitional objects change and for many carry a sense- or at least part- of our identity. Research has shown that these objects (to include our beloved pets) have been shown to relieve stress, calm anxiety, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and provide an overall improved sense of well-being.
So what then, becomes of us when we lose one of these treasured objects? Well, I suppose that depends on the type of person you are. Studies have indicated that for some adults, losing a transitional object can trigger anxiety, depression, and a sense of loss. It is even thought that in the absence of transitional objects we may experience bouts of loneliness. If I may use the ‘beaten dead horse’ example of Wilson, Tom Hank’s characters’ volleyball in the movie Castaway, the character nearly lost his mind when he couldn’t find Wilson.
While all of us are not on a deserted isle, understanding the act of anthropomorphism is important in understanding human emotion and connectedness. In fact, people who anthropomorphize on the regular can mean that they have a deeper sense of empathy and, emotional and social intelligence.
Ever hear the advice that before you embark on a new adventure in a romantic relationship, having kids, or owning a new pet you should buy a houseplant and keep it alive for a year to make sure you’re ‘ready’? There may be some practical truth to this. It is hard work to keep a plant alive and it basically depends on you, in many ways, to take care of it. You essentially become the ‘parent’ of a plant. You begin to care about the well-being of the plant. It is a living thing. It becomes part of your ‘family’. Transitional objects, such as plants, teach us how to be nurturing and caring. I know Pouty taught me these things, as well as patience! Waiting for a plant to bloom can be like watching paint dry.
I suppose on a deeper level, my deep mourning for Pouty can be attributed to a sense of loneliness. Recently, I’ve had friends move away, have babies, and find different jobs. Having Pouty’s bright green leaves and occasional blooms provided comfort in a world that seemed full of loss and change. I mean, Pouty survived a flood for crying out loud! I lost so many things in that natural disaster, but it was OK, because at least Pouty made it. I even bought Pouty a ‘girlfriend’. (I know…a bit much, but he was lonely, too!)
I thought Pouty was my ride or die. Turns out I was actually his.
So, I dedicate this post to my beloved, Pouty. Thank you for all the comfort, joy, and kinship you brought to my life over the past decade.
In closing, I’d like you to think about your own transitional objects. What things do you anthropomorphize? What do these objects mean to you? And better yet, what would their loss mean?
(On a side, but serious, note…if you feel you have an over-attachment to an object- or objects- feel free to reach out. This may indicate an unhealthy obsession or compulsion. Especially if your attachment of said object(s) has been noted by friends and family. It may be time to ask for some help.)