Recently, I was discussing the importance of touch- both being touched and touching another. I find touch to be one of our greatest senses. Don't get me wrong, all our senses play an important part in our everyday being, but touch literally and figuratively links us to the world around us. Research has determined that touch is so important that children who have been neglected and have not received enough touching from another develop more slowly and are more likely to have emotional disconnection than children that experience touch on a regular basis.
Moreover, per some studies, societies that have more touching such as France have lower rates of violence. That correlation makes sense to me. If we are touching we are experiencing each other and our world in a more interactive way. I have always found touch to be necessary and healthy in both love and friend relationships. It is a form of grounding, the other person is physically present. The connection created reduces the chance of seeing the person as other, unrelated and easy to discard and harm. It also can reduce the need to be violent because it provides an outlet to anger and aggression by giving emotional support, a shoulder to cry on shall we say.
In our society today, I believe we move further and further away from each other. Between text messaging and e-mailing, phone calling and Skyping, many of us have forgotten the importance and the art of touching. I do not want to down play the importance of those other forms of communication in our daily lives and the opportunities they have given us to be in contact when we are across the world and unable to be in each other's presence, but we need to touch more. Many in the U.S. shy away from placing a hand on another for fear of being seen inappropriate. Appropriate touching can make us feel less alone, can comfort us in times of sorrow, can show love and affection for another, can show concern and relieve stress.
On a personal level, I know I need to be touched and touch. The surprise hug while washing dishes, the hand on the shoulder when passing by, a stroke of one's hair while watching a movie, the resting of hands on the small of one's back or waist- these all remind me that I am here in the present. That I am loved and protected. That I protect and show love to another. They tend to be the thing most missed when someone dies or leaves- the feeling of them being there, in the present. And you know they are there, because you can feel them.