The importance of physical touch
A popular book in the field of marriage and relationships is Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages. In his book, Dr. Chapman discusses the five core languages used to give and receive love. Knowing your love language and that of your partner is quite beneficial as you navigate various scenarios and frustrations throughout your relationship. I will link the quiz below.
The 5 Love Languages according to Dr. Chapman are:
Originally written in 2004, the book has now sold over 6 million copies. I read it when it was originally released, and I read it again when I remarried. I knew the importance of speaking the same love language (or at least being aware of my partner's love language) . I think it is helpful to know your close friends' love language and the language of your children or other close family members.
If you are not familiar with the concept, I will use this brief example:
Amy (acts of service, physical touch): " I am so tired. Ugghh I have so much to do. I don't know how I'm going to get it all done."
Husband thinking to himself (words of affirmation, quality time): Amy is so tired. She should go to bed. Maybe if I keep encouraging her to go to bed, she will.
Amy thinking to herself: If he would fold this laundry, then maybe I could go to bed. But instead he's just telling me I should go to bed.
Husband thinking to himself: Why is she folding that laundry when she is so tired? If I offer to fold the laundry, she may lash out at me since she's so tired, and (needing words of affirmation) that would ruin the night, so I will just stay with her (quality time) and gently encourage her to go to bed.
Amy fuming at this point (acts of service, physical touch): If he's not going to fold the laundry, he could at least rub my back. Then maybe I could relax enough to go to bed.
But husband doesn't rub my back because he wants the words of affirmation and reassurance to do so and the spiral continues. Neither spouse did anything WRONG, but remembering each other's love language might have made for a much more pleasant evening. Pleasant evenings bleed into smooth mornings and so forth.
This example is just one of many. It can apply to family, friends, coworkers. You may be trying to show appreciation with a gift or money but they WANT / NEED to hear you say why you appreciate them. They may be doing all the little chores and acts of service to get your attention, but you WANT / NEED them to stop running around and spend the afternoon with you without any distractions. It really is fascinating once you know the love language of your partner or best friends. You can spend an entire afternoon dissecting why one situation went south based on love language miscommunication alone.
But back to PHYSICAL TOUCH, I think this love language is often overlooked and misunderstood. For obvious reasons, it's viewed with caution, and while that is good... it is also robbing us of a basic human need. With the surge of technology and virtual everything, many of us go days or weeks without touching another human, particularly these last 2 years.
Throughout my career, I have used touch as a means to reassure and connect with my patients. Since I received touch as a child and infant in a safe, healthy environment, I have been able to give touch easily. I know that is not true for everyone I encounter, and I acknowledge that.
Here are some ways I have used touch in my practice:
Here are some ways I have used touch in my home with my children:
My challenge to you, wherever you are, however old you are, whatever childhood you had, whatever love language you prefer, however many times you've been hurt, is to THINK about physical touch in the setting of a newborn baby. I have linked an article below touting the science behind touch and neurological growth and development. If you're old enough to find this article, then you have been a child yourself. You may have children or be involved in a child's life. We all know that a crying baby or toddler is often soothed by the touch of a loved one or caregiver. Animals are the same way. I dare say, adults are ALSO the same way.
If you love someone (your child, your partner, your mother, your close friend), touch them. HUG them. Incorporate safe and healthy touch into your daily routine. We have grown generations of adults now who are not used to being touched. Those untouched adults are now having more untouched children. Those untouched children are looking for affection in ways that a simple
"cuddle session" (what we call it at our house) may have averted. It saddens me when I shake a teenager's limp and nervous hand or attempt an appropriate side-hug with someone and am greeted with surfboard-stiff awkwardness. I see the physical and emotional effects of the untouched in my office each week, and it breaks my heart.
Pat Harris was my first grade teacher. She had a Hug-Me-Spot right by the door to her classroom. No student could enter her room in the morning or leave her room in the afternoon without hugging Miss Harris on the Hug-Me-Spot.
This world needs a Hug-Me-Spot. This world needs an army of Miss Harrises.
The rules and restrictions have created a generation of kids that don't know what touch is actually appropriate, and adults that are too glued to their phones to use their hands to rub their child's back or snuggle on the couch. These touch-starved kids marry each other and are LONELY and starving for affection that was never modeled for them. And here we are.
I challenge you to touch someone today. And tomorrow. And the next day.
Hug. Cuddle. Kiss your partner. Squeeze your child. Hold hands.
Make touch a part of your day every day.
We may really change the world. 🌎 Let's try it. ☀️
Leave a Reply.