Can you imagine a world where touch is not important or touch-related words do not exist?
People would not kiss, cuddle, or hug their children or grandchildren. Friends would only greet each other with words. Team mates would not congratulate each other or cheer each other on with hugs, slaps, or taps. Spouses would not kiss, caress, or hold hands. Children would not stretch out their arms to be picked up. Family and friends would have to bear the grief at a funeral without a knowing hand on their arm or shoulder, or the full-body hug that allows the tears to flow more easily.
This world would not describe the words exchanged between people as heated or touching. Rough or smooth would not be ways to describe a day at work. People would not be softies, callous, or thin-skinned, and people would never say that they had lost touch with a dear friend.
Why has touch, more than any other special sense, infused our socialized and descriptive world? There are two main reasons.
Touch is primal and touch is essential. Let's explore our world of touch.
Touch can be categorized as being either passive, active, socially-essential, or therapeutic. Passive touch involves our awareness of being in contact with other objects, like your computer, or your clothing, or the chair you are sitting in. Active touch is intentional exploration with the hands or other parts of the body to determine the characteristics of an object. Shape, texture, and temperature are normally perceived through active touch. Socially-essential touch covers a gamut of activities, such as shaking hands, holding hands, kissing, back-slapping, hugging, or holding and rocking an infant.
Touch that is therapeutic includes intentional and systematic contact to enhance or assess the health and wellness of an individual. Nurturing or loving touch is a very special category of touch that combines active, socially essential, and therapeutic touch.
So.....when you touch someone, what is the best way to describe that moment....that instant when you yourself are being touched? Is it a brief interaction of epithelial tissues and nerve impulses? Maybe it is an interaction of two energy fields or a stylized social or business interaction? Perhaps it is a tender moment that can only be described by a poet. Regardless of the description, the sensations we receive from our skin are our guides as we enter and exit our lifespan.
As infants, our skin is the fundamental way we passively get information about the world. It is our way of knowing some very important things...if we are wet, hot or cold, on a hard or soft surface, or being touched in a harsh or caring way. Also, active touch is an infant's primary way of grasping and making sense of the large space it occupies. Historically, touch deprivation studies performed on infant chimpanzees alerted us to the devastating behavioral and cognitive effects when touch was withheld. Also, touch deprived children from orphanages have been assessed for cognitive and emotional development and found to lag far behind children who had a tactile-rich upbringing.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the emotional and cognitive well-being of children, and thus adults, is rooted in passive, active, and nurturing touch. In a very real way, touch is the cornerstone upon which we build our world view and form our self image.
All forms of touch continue to be important in our adolescence and our middle years, but recent studies have shown that it is extremely important in our later years. The benefits of giving and receiving nurturing touch include less anxiety, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, fewer episodes of depression, improved self-esteem and mental focus, and more meaningful social contacts. These benefits have been documented whether a person touches a pet, a grandchild, a spouse, or a friend in a nurturing way.
As you travel from place to place each day, watch others and observe how touch infuses our lives. Then, take a few moments and reflect on the importance of touch in your life. Once you recognize the importance and benefits of nurturing touch, a chain reaction should begin. This chain reaction may begin when you give someone a simple, knowing touch to show that person you support them in a crisis. Or, it can begin with a spontaneous full-body hug that communicates your caring and friendship. No matter how you start, begin today !
Be an Emissary of nurturing touch !!
Remember how fragile we are !!!
Michael D. Hudgins 1999, 2008, 2013