Importance of touch


Few publications have ever touched on the way we touch and what it means to us. My dictionary lists 60 separate meanings of the word touch.   It is one of our most basic forms of communication.  Author Desmond Morris says, "Something special happens when two people touch each other physically, whether it be a handshake, a pat on the back, or a slap on the face."

Touch is communication

One thing is sure: touch establishes communication, and what is transmitted has more meaning than words. Touch communicates involvement. It means you care that you are really supporting the other person.

From the moment of birth, touch is the medium through which we first become acquainted with the world.

Psychologically, it is the first means of communication between the newborn baby and the mother. It has been proven that a large percentage of babies who are raised in an orphanage and are not handled and touched, rarely get past the age of two; they literally wither away.

Messages the baby picks up through the skin are enormously important. The way the parent holds the newborn, the pressures, the caressing, the cuddling, influence the way he or she grows and develops. The frequency with which you were touched as a child as a direct relationship to your responsiveness as an adult. As a child, for whatever reason you were touched, whether it be play, punishment, bathing, etc., it all had an effect on you today .

Chances are, if you were touched often and lovingly as a child, there will be no area of your body where you will not want to experience the pleasure of your lover's touch. On the other hand, if your memories of being touched by parents, relatives, other children, bring forth visions of punishment, rejection or abuse, even though you are a grown person now, your body will withdraw from touch fearing further hurt or the return of painful memories.

This is your mind getting in the way, telling your body not to enjoy feeling today, because of some unpleasant experience in the dim past. Without touch stimulation, humans cannot function properly. Those of us who have not received enough touch stimulation early in life quite likely can't establish "good contact" with others. They "rub"' people the wrong way. Many of our delinquents today received little touch during childhood.

Our attitudes towards sex

Our early touch experience is so important that it becomes the basis for the most massive of all touch stimulations-sexual relationship. People who have had proper touch experiences are not as hung up about sex as individuals who have not. Unfortunately, most Americans are non-touchers. A well-brought-up American will apologize to anyone they touch by accident. It is considered almost an attack on one's integrity.

You probably have never thought about touching in these terms before, but now is the time to start. It can be a whole new beginning for you in the world of sensual, sexual, loving touch. Granted, deeply ingrained fears aren't easy to overcome, but aren't the rewards of a full, deep, ever-expanding sensual fulfillment worth the effort?

Studies of primitive peoples indicate that they know the importance of touching. And because of this, they seem happier, healthier. Today, the value of touching is more openly accepted by younger Americans. They are no longer afraid to put their arms around each other. They're not as worried about remarks people may make. They're beginning to feel freer about it.

Hugs are good

All of us should realize that the taking of the hand or arm of another or putting your arm around another's shoulders without feeling self-conscious is fundamental at appropriate times. You ought to be a warm, loving, cooperative human being. One of the essential ways of demonstrating this to others is through the way you touch them. You touch them with words and ideas. And you touch them physically with love and affection .

The importance of this touching can no longer be denied. At the end of social gatherings, you have heard, "Let's keep in touch." You've heard of "touching scenes." Both expressions tell us more explicitly than literal language how people feel. For example: a touchy subject, a soft touch, a touch of genius, put the touch on, rubs the wrong way, your words touch me, etc. Personal touch is a basic biological need.

The Importance of touch is evident in the way people greet each other in different parts of the world. In Russia, it is the bear hug; in France a kiss on both cheeks; in Rome a pinch on the cheek. Polynesians greet each other by rubbing noses and patting various parts of their visitor's body. In South America some tribes paint their visitor's body and adorn it with feathers, and in Hawaii the tourist is adorned with a garland of flowers around the neck by way of greeting.

Americans use the handshake, a form of greeting which tells us more than we may realize. For example, the cold, limp, withdrawn hand conveys a feeling of not being welcome, whereas a firm, warm, friendly hand can become the sign of a pleasant meeting .

And note that one of the largest selling records of all time was the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand." The touch experience is an important part of the boy-girl relationship.

We all have a certain touch hunger, the need to touch and be touched, whether we are aware of it or not. In developing a boy-girl relationship, we go through certain stages, and touch plays an important part in the increasing intimacy of a relationship.

Stages of a relationship

The first three can happen in seconds, or may take months.

  1. Eye to body contact. If attractive, you move on to stage two.
  2. Eye to eye. In viewing each other, eyes meet. Normally, you look away and break eye contact. If you are acquainted, you produce a mutual greeting, signals such as smiling, raised eyebrows, arms, voice, etc.
  3. Voice to voice. Vocal contact, usually starts with a question, initially about trivia, which allows further signals - ear to ear, dialect, tone, accent, mode of verbal thinking and use of vocabulary permit a whole new range of Information fed to the brain. By keeping to small talk, either can retreat from further involvement.
  4. Hand to hand. The first touch contact (if not a handshake) can be disguised as supporting aid, body protection or directional guidance, usually irrelevant to the true mood of the encounter. Neither states the fact this may lead to greater intimacies, so one can back out without hurting the feelings of the other. Once openly declared, hand holding (or arm) becomes prolonged and usually develops into an undisguised intimacy.
  5. Arm to shoulder. Bodies have not yet come in close contact. When they do, another threshold has been passed. Physical contact down the side of the body indicates a great advance from early hesitant touching, usually a shoulder embrace, man's arm placed around woman's shoulder, to draw the two partners together. This is the smallest next step and least likely to meet with rebuff. Walking together this way gives a slight ambiguity, half way between friends and love.
  6. Arm to waist. A slight advance. This is more of a statement of amorous intimacy.
  7. Kissing (mouth to mouth). Kissing on the mouth, combined with the full frontal embrace is a major step forward. It is significant that the first kiss often takes place as a farewell, borrowing innocence from family and friend farewells.

Touch, skin and body contact are an important part of the overall continuing relationship. One researcher in writing one of the best-sellers on the subject, recommends keeping a hand or some part of the body constantly in contact with your partner while together.

Try touching your partner lightly with your fingertips. The ends of the fingers will communicate their own language to the person touched. This language will be a personal conversation between the two of you.

Try placing the heel of your hand in contact with your partner's arm or hand, making little circles with your finger tips ever so lightly. The nerves of the partner's skin will tingle and the body hairs stand up , the ends of the nerves "reach out" and try to establish contact with your hand.

Get to where you do the light finger touching (moving your fingers) up and down the arm, touching with their fingertips, and even inside the middle of the palms, while talking, waiting, riding, etc. You will enjoy this as much as your partner and it becomes an important method of communication of your feelings toward each other.

When they are out with others, they will become aware that it is not the same as being with you. They do not feet the same - they feel better with you - because you have learned to use touch to communicate .

Yes, touch is important and how you touch affects the male/female relationship. If you advance too fast or skip some stages, some people think you are "fast." If you take too much time and get hung up or stay on any stage too long, you can drive your partner up a tree because you are too slow.

You must look for response before advancing to the next stage. For example, holdings hands: if he takes her hand, and she gives it a little squeeze, it is a signal that he may then advance to intertwining their fingers.

Touch is one of the best ways of communicating your feelings to another. The touch of a hand, or an arm around someone's shoulder , can spell a more vivid and direct message than a barrage of words. A touch must come at the right moment and in the right context. Touchinga person at the wrong moment can turn them off abruptly.

Sometimes you must stay at arm's length or you are considered pushy. The normal stay-apart distances are 2 1/2 to 4 feet. You cannot comfortably touch at this distance, and this lends a privacy to the encounter. Anything closer may be interpreted by some strangers as being pushy. However, closer than this is considered normal at most crowded parties. You must be careful in invading an unknown person's personal sphere. You can come close enough for them to be uneasy, but not close enough for them logically to object.

Some people like to touch others, and some do not. Some like being touched and some do not. A woman can sit uncomfortably closer to a man she is interested in getting acquainted with, than a man can under similar circumstances. A woman can touch the man at this stage and it's permissible, while a man cannot touch the woman at this stage if he is to play the game fairly.

These are just some precautions that have occurred to me.

Every day we all receive communication from others through the five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. We are bombarded by impressions of attractive people. We hear nice things, we taste nice things, and we smell many nice things. We have a basic hunger to reach out and touch others and to be touched. You can fill that need for someone and yourself if you learn to use touch with someone you care about. The impressions others receive of you come through these five senses. Impress them favorably with touch.

Keep in touch.

Published: 7 January 2005

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