The Gift of Touch

There is something many people have forgotten about or are afraid of giving or receiving: the gift of touch. I know there are times when touching someone is inappropriate but I have learned it can be very healing in the right circumstances and with the right people.

My mother and father were both affectionate with each other and with us kids. When we became older they never hesitated to give us a hug, a pat on the shoulder, or a touch on the head, arm or hand. They just seemed to know the right amount and the right time. Needless to say each of us kids are now loving and affectionate adults.

When I was still a teenager I met a young man and we fell in love and later married. We did all of the things most teenagers do. We were physically separated for four years off and on while he went to college in another state. Of course the reunions were wonderfully affectionate.

As we grew older, the affection waned. He was busy working on his Masters degree and then researching, writing and getting Doctorate degree. I was busy being a nurse. Then we had our son; life became difficult for my husband because of health problems, church problems and thirty years later he died in 2010.

About a year after his death I went to a free “Healing Touch” demonstration. Healing Touch is a therapeutic treatment using the hands to convey or improve the flow of energy to promote healing. Even though some consider it an alternative medicine or therapy, it can be ordered by doctors in some hospitals and some insurance companies cover the treatments.

I lay on a massage table with blanket and pillows positioned for comfort. A very kind woman introduced herself and began the therapy. Warm hands touched my feet with so much gentleness and kindness and lingered several minutes; then moved to my legs, my arms, hands, shoulders and my head.

I was genuinely moved by the warmth, compassion and gentleness of her touch. I felt so peaceful and relaxed. When she touched my arm, I began to weep. No one had touched me more than brushing by or a quick hug for years.

Quick hugs are nice, but there is something healing and special about being touched by another human being with the intent of conveying love and compassion. I then realized how much I had missed and needed the unhurried touch of another human being.

As a nurse I had always touched my patients gently while taking their pulse. While listening to their hearts, if I felt led to, I would put a hand on their arm or shoulder.

F and I

Patients often need a kind and gentle touch while in the hospital. A place where one’s life, health, care and future may depend on perfect strangers. How comforting to have someone touch your arm in reassurance and concern.

I realized then that I had been missing the human touch for myself. I had retired from nursing the previous year so I had not shared much skin contact. I had two or three girlfriends with whom I went to lunch or saw a movie, or even took trips with. We always hugged each other when we parted. That was warm, loving and sisterly and helped a lot.

My sons and their wives and now my grandchildren give me warm, loving hugs. Those hugs make my day. Nothing like the strong, loving hugs of your adult children or grandchildren to warm your heart.

When my grandsons were born I loved to touch their warm, pink cheeks, and later hold their hands when we walked together. They still get excited when they come see me with their parents. This is a kind of heart “touching” knowing, that my grandsons, two and four years old, are so excited to see me that they hug me. Each hug makes me so happy.

Did you know that there is such a thing as skin hunger? The importance of touch has been studied and found to be a vitally important factor in the mental health of babies. At birth touching a baby helps him to bond with the parents, provides infants with stimulation to breathe and move. For a parent to not touch their baby is now considered neglectful.

A revealing article in Psychology Today discusses the importance of the affectionate touch of one or two adults on a child’s ability to learn pleasure and have good mental health.

But touch is also vital for adults too. quoted below.

Researchers have shown that touch can communicate a range of emotions, serving as an important social tool, and even the act of hugging can reduce your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. A study from the Touch Research Institute, part of the University of Miami, found that Parisian teenagers hanging out in McDonald’s restaurants (France is deemed a “high contact” culture) overwhelmingly touched each other more than their American peers, and were less likely to exhibit symptoms of aggression.
“Touching each other keeps the peace,” explains Dr Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute. …”Touch facilitates intimacy, and most people you touch won’t respond with aggression.”

The touch of a loving pet can produce the “love” or pleasure hormone, Oxytocin in the pet and the owner. We all need to be touched in some affectionate, reassuring ways by people or pets that we enjoy being with. Hugs, kisses, hand shakes, shoulder to shoulder, any familiar touch from a friend can help cement a bond and help regain some of their sense of value, self esteem, or humanity.

Diana Ross sang it so eloquently in “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand”

Reach out and touch
Somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place
If you can

Take a little time out of your busy day
To give encouragement
To someone who’s lost the way
(Just try)
Or would I be talking to a stone

If I asked you
To share a problem that’s not your own
We can change things if we start giving

If you see an old friend on the street
And he’s down
Remember his shoes could fit your feet
(Just try)
Try a little kindness you’ll see
It’s something that comes very naturally
We can change things if we start giving

Reach out and touch
Somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place
If you can
Reach out and touch
Somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place
If you can
Songwriters: Nickolas Ashford / Valerie Simpson

We do need to reach out to others when led to do so. Offer a hand for a hand hold for a few seconds or minutes, or a relaxed handshake with eye contact that is kind. Especially when we sense someone is hurting or we want to help.

14 thoughts on “The Gift of Touch

  1. I like this post and agree completely that touch is a necessary thing for humans and for animals too. I can calm my horse by just giving him a rub on his withers when I am riding. And I LOVE the hugs from our grandson. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome and profound post on hugs and loving the other beings. I completely agree with you. Hugging and caring and loving everyone is so necessary it gives a feeling of happiness and joyousness in ourselves and in the other person too. I have a golden retriever and she is always cuddling up to us it feels so lovely and nice. Thanks so much for your wonderful share.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I should have added that! Pets know when we need a hug and freely give them. Those hugs make us feel loved and good. A human hug when appropriately given is just as wonderful and healing. Thank you!


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