An Unofficial Guide to Affection- Alisha Rao

I always wondered about the way people conveyed affection to someone or something, and even for myself. How exactly does that work? Can it be broken down in a way that isn’t contrived?

It’s a fun thought process to embark on, and I managed to personally narrow it down to a couple categories. As formulaic as that sounds, it was strangely comforting developing this certainty, and I think we all seek that to a degree. First comes passions; next is hobbies/interests. After that comes important people in a person’s life, and finally, nostalgia. My goal was to see how universal this thought train could become, if at all. The journey commenced, and I developed my thoughts, drawing a lot of structural similarities from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Passions is what I define to be driving forces in a person’s life, forces that help orient their decisions for future plans and hopeful achievements. This is not limited to academics, but for someone that is passionate about what they study, they make plans to go abroad, apply to research opportunities, etc. in order to fulfill goals that satisfy this passion. I like to think of this is a starting point of sorts, because it’s the surface of knowing how much someone ‘likes’ what they do, or how important their passions are to them. I love learning about the Greeks because I grew up loving and reading about Greek mythology, which makes it a passion of mine and in turn brings me to my next category.

Hobbies/Interests are the origins of passions, so it’s in a stratum above it, but not the starting point itself. I have found that my passions emerge from things that were once hobbies in my life, but don’t necessarily view hobbies as a point of origin. This is most certainly contradictory, but hobbies and interests don’t necessarily translate to driving forces or passions, which makes this category scratching below the surface and not the surface itself. If someone loves playing instruments, it does not necessarily mean they wish to pursue something more professional or change the nature of that hobby, and thus does not evolve into a passion. However, hobbies/interests tend to expose more of why someone likes certain things, and can educate someone when entering the common predicament of buying gifts.

Important People is intentionally vague and broad because that is exactly what this category has to be; the ‘important people’ in someone’s life that receive affection for being important are never limited to family members or friends. When someone displays affection towards someone they consider important and worth caring about, I like to think of that as a portion of the relationship, whether it’s platonic or romantic. There is a transfer of affection made, and with that exchange, the aforementioned categories reveal themselves. When I care about someone, or think they have an important role in my life, I want to express my interests and what I am passionate about, as a by-product of already developing a kind of affection towards the person or people in question. Important people can mean something different for every person, which can make each person’s experience developing affection to be a unique one.

Nostalgia is defined as homesickness, but also wistfulness and longing, derived partly from the Greek word nostos (return home). This emotion is the primary conductor of displaying affection, directing it towards someone/something, and facilitates all of the previously mentioned categories. It is then what I call the defining and most critical factor to conveying affection in any way. What are you nostalgic about? Reflecting on times that may have been simpler and experiences that helped to shape each person magnifies what exactly the person fears, but also what the treasure. Being nostalgic is an interesting phenomenon, as it can remind someone of something they liked in the past, possibly something they lost interest in in the present, or maybe revive this dormant extension. When someone longs for something, a place to ‘return home’ to, it is usually most comforting to arrive at a home where affection is unconditional and welcoming. Nostalgia reflects affection’s journey through a lifetime, and how affection continues to evolve through these categories.

I find myself reflecting on this pyramid, since I like the idea of each stratum being broad (since there are only 4 categories), as it allows for change, and identifies the multitude of people and things I love and care about. It became interesting to build this up, almost like creating a main character in a story. The main character has their motivations, what they like, who they prioritize, and core memories that helped shape them as people. I think that kind of character is the best kind of character, and in the universe we call life on Earth, we are the protagonists of our own story that all have their own, unique ways of expressing what they like.

Photo by Daniele D'Andreti on Unsplash


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