The Human Touch
September 15 2021 · 4 min read
Humans are wired to be touched. From birth until the day we die, our need for physical contact remains. The power of touch is profound – whether it is accidental glazing from a stranger or a gentle hold from someone close, a hand squeeze when your nerves run high or a pat on the back for a job well done. A quick kiss on the forehead becomes gentle and more anticipated. It can strengthen connections, heal, communicate and influence. A little human touch can go a long way in making us feel good or bad (when touched with wrong intentions).
Of course, the touch can be dishonored. For a very good reason we made movements to protect ourselves, and those we can have the type of touch that can have catastrophic consequences. There are strong limits for the correct use of touches, and this is a good thing that we have to feel safe. However, "Safe Touch" does not have to mean "No Touch".
In discouraging the wrong touch, we need to be careful not to make ourselves vulnerable to ‘touch hunger’. Being touch starved (skin hunger or touch deprivation) occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living things. It is a condition that takes place if you do not get so much physical contact if you are used to it or any at all. They crave contact, but they cannot for some reason. People may develop touch starvation because of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it can happen with any lack of physical touch, with anyone. However, due to pandemic, many people are losing out on workplace handshakes, friendly hugs, or encouraging touch on the back, which can result in feelings of touch starvation.
Importance of touch:
Human touch is a great deal as we communicate with others. We shake our hands with our colleagues and embrace our relatives and mark our friends. We bind by physical touch. Skin-to-skin contact is vital not only for mental and emotional health but physical health, too. Skin is the largest organ in your body and sends good and bad touch sensations to your brain.
The significance of touch begins at birth. When babies are born, doctors suggest mothers hold and comfort them often to promote healthy development. This human-to-human interaction keeps up throughout our lives. Even in adulthood, human touch helps regulate sleep and digestion, build your immune system, and fight infections.
When you engage in pleasant touch, like a hug, your brain releases a hormone called oxytocin. This makes you feel good and firms up emotional and social bonds while lowering anxiety and fear.
If you do not get enough physical touch, you can be stressed, anxious or depressed. In response to stress, your body makes a hormone called cortisol. This can make sure that their heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and respiratory rate with poor effects on their immune and digestive systems ascend. These things can lead to worse sleep quality and a higher risk of infection. Other medical diseases, including diabetes, asthma, and hypertension, can become worse. Touch hunger could even cause traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).
Things one should know:
We need touch. We need comfort, the connection the security, the powerful emotional and physical health benefits that come by being touched in safe and appropriate ways. Not all touches are equal. We all have a zone of personal space that feels comfortable but the distance of that no-fly zone depends on the culture and social norms, length of touch, context, relationship, and where the touch is.
- Right touch and wrong touch.
- The touch has to feel non-sexually harassing.
- Being touched on the face by a co-worker or anyone who touches you without your consent.
- Touch in the waist area is not appropriate and harassing.
Fear of being touched:
Being touched by strangers or without consent can make many people uncomfortable. Of course, physical touch is not always welcome and not always appropriate. Between strangers, it can be an act of violation. However, if the fear is intense, appears even when touched by family or friends, and if it causes significant distress, it may be ‘haphephobia’.
In the end, we all have an inbuilt need to be touched. When it is done respectfully and appropriately, touch is a vital part of the human experience. Though we need to stay protected and be wary of unsafe touch, we also need to be careful not to rob ourselves of the nurturing, healing, and connectedness that comes through basic human touch. Indeed, humans need humans. It has always been that way and it will always be. It is important to define what is right and what is acceptable and to have boundaries where necessary, and at the same time leave space for what will nourish our health, our relationships, and our spirit.