Why we love teddy bears

Why we love teddy bears

Since the first teddy appeared on store shelves in 1902, he and his confrere bears have been serving as confidants, confessors, comforters, and loyal sidekicks. They've been dragged around by one arm, slept with, cried on, and nuzzled until they're threadbare. They've also been written about, sung about, illustrated, animated and used to market everything from breakfast cereal to hot water bottles. Each year, millions are sold around the world as gifts for bear lovers ranging from newborns to sweethearts. No one seems to know exactly why teddy bears have such an enduring hold on our imaginations and hearts, but the theories abound:


Many early cultures revered real bears as embodiments of sacred healing and teaching. Their cycle of hibernating in the winter and awakening each spring offers us a model of spiritual renewal. Drawing on the power of their real-life counter-parts, teddy bears convince us that everything will be better in the morning.


We now have research-supported proof that hugs (a teddy bear specialty) help lift spirits and calm anxieties.


For a century, we've sewn into teddy bears the most desirable and innocent of human qualities, traits, and features. Teddy bears are perfect combinations of naiveté, spiritedness, earnestness, and good will. In short, they're fantasy versions of how we want everyone else to be.


Anna is 10 months old. She can't talk yet. She can't read. She doesn't understand theories, and she's never been coached on how to respond to cultural icons. But here's what Anna did when she and her father happened upon the photo shoot for this book. He asked what all the picture-taking was about. We held out a teddy bear to show them Anna smiled, then squealed, then opened her arms wide for the bear. When we gave it to her, she immediately hugged it to her chest and cooed.

We may not be able to nail down the specific reason for teddy's appeal, but the phenomenon is undeniable. There's something about teddy bears that causes us to soften and open our arms and hearts wide. They give people of all ages permission to let down their guard. To let out a spontaneous "awwwww." To unabashedly admit--no, demonstrate that it's human instinct to hug a small, snuggly, friendly version of a bear and feel better for it.


Humans have a fascination with bears for deep unconscious reasons beyond our control. We identify with them because they can walk upright, their eyes are in the front of their faces, and they use mannerisms that make them seem almost human. In their teddy bear form, these wild animals we've watched from a distance since prehistoric times are transformed into accessible, cuddly friends.





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