The Essence of Touch
The first sense that develops in the womb is the sense of touch. The first languages a baby understands after being born are touch and crying. In the first few months after our babies are born, we communicate and answer their cries mainly through touch. Unlike animals, our human babies are born not able to walk or move around on their own. Our senses of sight, smell, hearing and taste only fully develop after birth. But our sense of touch develops while still in the womb.
How we fit in socially with others, mainly depends on our experience with touch. Touch has the potential to heal or break down, nurture or abuse. Touching helps us to build relationships with one another. Many of today’s anti-social behaviour could be reversed if we start to meet the touch needs in each other – especially those of our children. Things like early sexual activity, violence, depression and eating disorders all stem from an unmet need for positive and loving touch.
Touch deprivation can be just as damaging as harmful touch. Touch can comfort us. Reassure us. Relax us. Heal us. Even arouse us. Or it could make us very uneasy. Threaten us. Hurt us. It can be aggressive, invasive or destructive. If someone touches you in a caring manner, you may feel loved and calm. If they touch you in a hurting manner you could feel stressed and threatened. As humans we have an amazing hormone called oxytocin – the love hormone. It’s the antidote of the “fight-or-flight” response and instead creates a calm response. It is released during orgasm, while giving birth and during breastfeeding. But it’s also released when we are touched or also doing the touching.
No one is exempt from needing to be touched. Humans need to touch and be touched, just like we need food and water. The connection between touch and well-being is far more than skin deep. From the moment of birth our tactile sense is being stimulated. The need for bonding, or close physical contact with another human being, remains with us throughout our lifetime. It generally feels good to have another human being’s skin come into contact with our own. Some of us repress our craving for warmth and affection, while others go to extremes to obtain it. Much of how we function as adults, depends on how we were nurtured during infancy. We have all experienced moments when the touch of a hand on our shoulder or a reassuring hug was all that was needed to reduce our fear, anxiety, or loneliness. Touching is an act of love, a way of communicating without words.
When we touch someone in the form of a massage it is important to always have clear intention and awareness of how we are within ourselves. If we would like to offer healing touch then we must take time to heal ourselves, leave our own story at the front door and be fully present with our mind and heart in our hands. Never underestimate the message your hands are giving…the signals which are coming from you…and don’t deny them their innate intuitive nature…when the mind is clear the hands may do the walking and the talking…let them explore…we must simply trust that process.