The Healing Energy of Touch

by Pamela Loperena

In today’s world, people are losing contact with their basic sense: touch. Many individuals don’t receive enough physical affection in their lives. Craving tactile touch is the new norm because a lot of people are afraid of asking for another person’s touch in fear of appearing “too needy” or promiscuous.

With an ongoing national discussion about consent in the wake of Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo, some people have been left with mixed feelings about what is considered an acceptable expression of touch. The increased usage of social media in society hasn’t helped either. More people are spending time conversing with others on electronic devices than they are meeting them in person. Emojis are utilized to convey nonverbal communication. People typically send a yellow smiley face with its hands open in text messages, which represents a “hugging face,” to their loved ones. This represents the action of hugging them without actually embracing them. 

The Free Hugs Campaign is looked upon as a public spectacle, in which individuals give out hugs to strangers to demonstrate their selfless natures, but most don’t participate in this daily.   

This has led to the onset of a touch-starvation crisis.

Platonic touch serves as a way for humans to display intimacy and feel like valued members within their social circles. 

Compared to men, women express themselves through touch more often. In their friendships, they show their adoration by wrapping their arms around their friends to demonstrate their commitment to one another or give comfort when they cry. Men, however, are sometimes raised differently. If men do showcase touch in public, they may believe they are viewed by others as weak and incompetent. When men touch women, they may be putting themselves at risk for being seen as overly sexual or attempting to harass them. Homophobia has also contributed to damaging the American male idea of touch. There are men who may have become averse against touching other men because they dread people labeling them as a homosexual.

Platonic touch is fundamental to human development. Why, you might you ask– well, according to a study conducted by James M. Prescott, children who expressed more physical touch were less likely to become aggressive individuals when they grew older. Prescott asserted the significance of the maternal bonding relationship. He stated that infants should have their needs for touch met right away by their mothers in order to increase their levels of belonging. However, Prescott found that if children developed ‘maternal-social’ deprivation (a lack of loving touch from their mothers due to neglect or abuse), their brain’s neural chemistry would alter, making them prone to engaging in dangerous behaviors, such as drug addiction or sexual violence during adulthood. 

Numerous mental and physical benefits can result from touch. Whenever people engage in non-sexual physical contact with another person’s skin, their bodies stimulate the release of Oxytocin—a.k.a. ‘the cuddle hormone.’ This hormone reduces their stress levels, anxiety and blood pressure; they end up feeling more relaxed and optimistic. Their immune system function improves due to the positive effects on their health, so they become less vulnerable to experiencing harmful infections or pain. They also develop feelings of trust for others, making these interactions full of compassion and sincerity.

Touch is even crucial for people’s relationships. The simple act of hugging can strengthen a bond between two individuals, creating a deeper connection. Squeezing a friend or relative’s shoulder by giving them a pat on their back can provide them with reassurance and support in times of joy and sorrow, like birthdays and funerals. When couples hold hands in public, they can communicate just how much they care for each other’s company. Overall, in relationships, platonic touch serves as a way for humans to display intimacy and feel like valued members within their social circles.

So, what are other ways people can incorporate more healing touch into their lives?

One way would be through massage therapy, in which pressure is applied to the skin to soothe and alleviate tension. Hiring a professional therapeutic cuddler has become a popular method to experience platonic touch, encouragement and comfort. Purchasing a weighted blanket is a great option for people to enhance their quality of sleep, relieving their nervous system in the process as well.

The touch deprivation crisis desperately calls for a resolution and hopefully, in the future, people can get back in touch with their hearts once again.

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