This evening I’m watching The Wolf of Wall Street and a particular scene has just now invoked a ‘weird thought’ (I’m not on the toilet as we don’t have a TV in the toilet).
The scene in question showed one of the characters driving through the night with the street lights passing over him in a rhythmic way. Watching this, I felt that sudden Proustian nostalgia, not from the taste of something but from the sight of something. This scene caused me to remember sitting in the back of the car on the way back from Worcester to Stafford as a child and feeling comforted and lulled into a cosy doze by the passing of street light beams over me, over the seat in front, over the windscreen, in a rhythmic fashion: repeat, repeat, repeat.
This prompted me to remember other such comforting things. There are a number of other pulls on my senses that I frequently come across as an adult. Interestingly, they pull on different senses.
Radio 4 is one of them. I love Radio 4. This effects the sense of hearing. If I feel sad, I feel better if I listen to Radio 4. If I can’t sleep, I sleep if I listen to Radio 4. I have two theories as to why this is. Firstly, I’m told that my mum used to put the radio at the bottom of my cot to soothe me and it was often tuned into Radio 4. Secondly, on long car journeys (day or night) my mum would sit with a large radio on her knee, which would be tuned into Radio 4 (these were the days before in-car radios).
Another comforting ‘thing’ is for me squash, especially orange squash, this time felt by the sense of taste.
As for the sense of touch. A ribboned edging on a wool blanket evokes comfort for me. It might be fairly obvious why this causes me comfort. These types of blankets were popular in the 1970s.
These objects and the feelings they provoke are all based on my childhood memories. Children find comfort easily and the memories of this comfort continues into adulthood and although we might not don’t actively seek this comfort out, when we stumble across it, it makes us feel much better.
Psychologists call these objects of comfort, transitional objects. We gather these objects as children as we come to terms with the separation of ourselves from the mother. When we are born we don’t view the mother as a separate being. As we grow from babies to toddlers and realise that the mother is not part of the ‘me’, we become anxious. Then the transitional object acts as the bridge between those two realities. Often these objects are in human form (toys, dolls) or material-based (blankets).
As adults, coming across these old transitional objects gives us the same feeling of comfort and relief from anxiety that we got as a child. My transitional objects are easy to find: street lights in a car at night, old woollen things, squash and Radio 4. Were I to find all in one sitting, I think I’d be extremely happy.