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The Power of Touch

touch

Textures are everywhere: The rough edges of a stone wall. The smooth innocence of a baby’s cheek. The sense of touch brings back memories for us. What texture is particularly evocative to you?

The skin is the largest organ in the human body and thus the sense of touch plays a big role in our lives.  Touch is regarded as the mother of all senses as it is the first sense to be developed in the embryo. However, how many of us even utter a compliment, let alone, give a hug, a kiss, a congratulatory pat, a high-five or a handshake.

Our touch can be used to convey emotions of caring, friendliness, support, encouragement, suggestion, provocation, offense, dominance or lust. Gentle touch or caress secretes happiness hormone Oxytocin inside the brain. A slap, a hostile touch or an accidental touch can lead to fights, anxiety and vulnerability.

Touching is also a subject to societal, cultural , gender and regional norms.  In some cultures, hugging and kissing is considered acceptable to convey love, affection and support whereas in other cultures it can be considered taboo.  In a study done by Jourard (1966), people from different cultures were observed in casual conversation. He counted the number of times they touched during a one-hour period. Touching occurred 180 times an hour in Puerto Rico, 110 times in Paris, in London, 0; and in the U.S., 2.

Touch has been an essential part of ancient healing practices.  Touch has roots in shamanic and religious practices, and is reported to have been an integral part of health care practices and medicine since their emergence from the realms of religion and magic (Levitan & Johnson, 1986; Smith, Clance & Imes, 1998).

Recent research done by the Touch Research Institute has demonstrated that touch triggers a cascade of chemical responses, including a decrease in urinary stress hormones (cortisol, catecholamines, norepinephrine, epinephrine), and increased serotonin and dopamine levels. The shift in these bio-chemicals has been proven to decrease depression (Field, 1998, 2003).  The immune system’s cytotoxic capacity increases with touch, thus helping the body maintain its defense against pathogens (Field, 1998).

 

Touch, is one of the most basic forms of human relatedness, and has immense importance and positive potential.  It can play a big role in healthy development and healing.

 

References:

  1. To Touch Or Not To Touch: Exploring the Myth of Prohibition On Touch In Psychotherapy And Counseling, Clinical, Ethical & Legal Considerations By Ofer Zur, Ph.D. & Nola Nordmarken, MFT

 

Other interesting posts in this category:
1) https://jansdoodlesv2.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/power-of-touch/
2) https://hotplatekate.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/the-power-of-touch/
3) https://theshadowfoxblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/the-power-of-touch/
4) https://impossiblebebong.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/the-power-of-touch/
5) https://viewsfromaroundthecorner.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/touched/

 

 

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