When I first read the warm fuzzies tale in the early 70s, I was charmed by it; my friends and I tended to refer to it often when we were interacting with each other and viewing others’ interactions. Reflecting on the three kinds of “gifts” we could give and receive; we liked the idea that warm fuzzies melt against our skin and make us feel very good inside. The story also notes that the idea of scarcity leads to feelings of fear, jealousy, and envy. We start thinking that warm fuzzies are in short supply and could run out, causing us misery, so we watch others “like a hawk”, thinking that if they keep giving out warm fuzzies freely, none will be left for us; so we start using violent communication (see blog posting 4/13/23) to make them stop giving out so many warm fuzzies to others. We make comments that lead to fear, guilt, or sadness in the listener, so that they will save their warm fuzzies exclusively for us. For example, “you love our son more than me”, “I feel miserable when you are off having fun with your friends”, “if you keep being so affectionate with her, we could wind up divorced”, “you are pathetic the way you throw yourself at him with all that huggie-kissie stuff”. All of these comments could be viewed as “cold pricklies”.
The idea of cold pricklies is intriguing. The story mentions that in the absence of any positive interactions with others, we will accept cold pricklies as better than nothing, because we are at least getting some attention from the other person. For example, I have seen severely abused children hold onto their abusers for dear life, even though they were often hurt by them, as if even abuse is preferable to being ignored. Many of the forms of violent communication could be viewed as cold pricklies, when listeners are having many negative things said about them, e.g., “you are stupid”, “you are not loveable”, “you are never going to amount to anything” or “you will never be good enough!” These comments will not melt against our skin and make us feel good inside; quite the contrary, they are more likely to stick in our skin and cause us pain.
More subtle forms of violent communication could be what the story is referring to as “plastic fuzzies”, as they appear to be positive comments but when they are “placed against the skin” they are abrasive and definitely do not melt into the skin, e.g. “wow, even YOU were able to do that”, “I bet you are happy that you FINALLY made a friend”, “you gave it a big effort – TOO BAD that you did not make the honor roll”, or “I know you didn’t mean to SCREW UP so badly”. When a plastic fuzzy is given out, the communicator may think that he is giving out a warm fuzzy, but underneath the “warm appearance” of the comment is only a plastic fuzzy. It does not melt against the skin and it does not produce a warm fuzzy feeling inside.