“See me…feel me…touch me…heal me”
The Rock Opera Tommy - by The Who
Touch is such an essential component to feeling connected, recognized and loved. We have all experienced this and especially the lack of touch in these socially isolating times of Covid-19. When we shake hands as we are introduced or maybe hug when we meet again, it’s more than habit or custom. Touching conveys our presence and availability as well as affords us clues and information about the presence and essence of the other. Touch is one of the first things we do when we feel happiness and joy. We hug, embrace and share.
Touch is one of the first things we do when we recognize pain, in ourselves or others. Bang an elbow on the corner of the desk and the first thing we do is touch it, hold it, soothe it. In doing so, our intention is comfort, care, healing. Sit next to someone in grief and the natural impulse is to extend consolation by an embrace or holding their hand. The power of loving touch is more impactful than the conveyance of any words.
Touch is intimate and is rarely neutral. When it is intentionally loving and caring it can melt emotional barriers. When deprived of touch, not only the physical body but the mental, emotional and spiritual nature of our body reacts. Studies have shown that babies in orphanages who are not held and cuddled, wither and fail to thrive. Just this morning I read a report by Dr. Atul Gawande, who has written extensively about solitary confinement, stating that “people experience solitary confinement as even more damaging than physical torture.”
The intention extended through touch, just as the intention through words or any form of communication is what is received. Everyone has experienced this. We hear words, but we feel their intention, regardless of their actual meaning. With touch, feeling the intention behind it either activates our receptivity or alerts our defenses.
Within our experience of sexual intimacy, the intention of our touch is how we communicate our love and pleasure. And, of course, there is the other side of the coin when touch is used to harm. Everyone experiences this as well and early; a shove on the playground, a spanking, or much worse. No need to elaborate here on the difference in touch when there is a lack of love tone.
Touch is fundamental to health and wellness. When skin and tissue are stimulated through loving, caring touch or massage, a pharmacy of healing chemicals is released that has health-promoting effects and greatly benefits our physiology. In addition to feeling wonderful, a loving healing touch or massage, detoxifies the body’s tissues enhancing immune function and slowing the aging process.
Underlying all touching is communication, intention, the gathering of information, the extending of ourselves, and the receiving of others. We sense a need to touch, we feel, we heal. In touching one another we are touched. Don't you long for the days before (and hopefully after) Covid, when touching was our natural extension of communication with each other? I do.