Stay in Touch – It’s Deeply Important for Your Relationships
PHIL: Touch is very important in our relationship. One prominent area is when we are working together on something, whether it be the next book, a crossword, or a big decision. We sit touching shoulders or knees, and it is like a secret data channel between our bodies that reminds us of our connection and stops the words spiraling off into attack and defense.
We touch during the day as well. We hug in the morning, touch each other in passing, walk hand in hand.
I am still getting used to touch just being touch. Fifty years ago for me, if I remember correctly, touch and sex were inextricably linked. Any gesture of more than a handshake was both potentially rousing and socially unacceptable, thanks to British formality and a sexually inherited upbringing. Maybe I’m recalling incorrectly, maybe it was just me, but I think it was that way for many men. Now I see touch as a way of connecting with people, but I still have to ignore that little voice that says this is not normal, this is weird, are they okay with this?
The research on touch shows how important it is:
Human babies actually die from lack of touch. In the nineteenth century, most institutionalized infants in the United States died of marasmus (“wasting away”)….
Warm and caring touch lowers stress hormones (e.g., cortisol), and stimulates the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” which enhances security, trust, and secure attachment…
Studies have shown that people have an innate ability to decode emotions with touch alone. Hundreds of participants…were able to communicate 8 distinct emotions via touch—anger, fear, happiness, sadness, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy—with accuracy rates as high as 78%….
Touch seems to be a more nuanced and effective means of communicating emotions than even facial expressions or tone of voice. Touch definitely promotes more positive interactions and a deeper sense of connections with others. Source.
One more thing: touch is the most basic of our senses and is where we find our sense of self. Close your eyes. Do you exist? Now open them and block your ears. You still exist. The same for taste and smell, but suppose our sense of touch vanished; you would feel disembodied.Touch is the most basic of our senses and is where we find our sense of self #quote Click To Tweet
MAUDE: “Stay in touch!” is a common saying that means more than we realize. There are a number of things that support and strengthen our feeling of connection; physical contact – touch – is an important one. It is very powerful, and its power derives from the sensing, feeling, non-verbal level.
Stay alert and notice this kind of communication because it is visceral and doesn’t automatically filter up to our brains with words, just like when we read a person’s body language. Phil has shared some of the scientific studies on the importance and critical nature of touching. You will find links to a number of studies on touch in our Reading Corner.
Phil and I often change up a practice of something we’ve been doing a particular way for a while. We seem to do this intuitively, and I suspect it comes from trying something and then realizing it is working. A good example is the various methods by which we write this weekly blog, For a long time we went out to breakfast on Tuesdays, discussed topics, picked one, broke down the ideas and then came home and wrote it. We have changed that up, and now find and discuss the topic in the evening and record our conversation, and then sit down to write it (sometimes after a review of the salient points) the following morning.
Similarly, somewhere along the line during the pandemic, we started wordless hugging the first time we come together in the mornings. We don’t rise at the same time, so this happens once we are both downstairs. I don’t remember when this started exactly. This hug is very profound and very powerful. It lasts for some time and we connect so deeply that it sets up the whole day.
Similarly, when we sit down to write together, use our process to find mutual solutions, hang out and talk or almost any other time we come together, we sit with our shoulders touching, leaning a bit into each other. It isn’t always something we do consciously, but it is an important part of our relating and brings a sense of warmth and contact far deeper than the tiny area that is touching.
All of us became aware of the importance of touch for connection in our relationships when it was removed, especially in the early part of the pandemic. We developed many other excellent ways to stay in contact and keep our relationships flourishing through the phone, internet, and meetings online. These were lifesavers to many of us and continue to connect us with loved ones far and wide.
We must remember the value of touch, and in some cases explore what ways we can experience this with each other. I notice on the street that people are still fairly distant, keeping a much wider berth than was the case pre-pandemic. We are out of practice with even casual friendly touching, hand shaking and quick hugs.
Touch has always been fraught with many cultural, gender, age taboos and customs; what is appropriate for what kind of a relationship? These are important questions to find answers for. It is also important to realize the positive power of touch and to stay aware of opportunities in our close relationships to use that strength to reassure, communicate love and acceptance and bond on a primal level.
Photo credit: Sam Amato
Photo note: Annie and Violet
Read what some other writers have to say on this topic.
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