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TOUCH

For the human species to thrive it needs touch.

We experience the richness of the world through our senses and our tactile sense is the first to develop. Numerous receptors in our skin communicate with our brain.

Having touch is critical to our mental and emotional well-being. 

From the moment you are born and held to your mother’s chest, the feeling of knowing where you are in space, anchored, the smell of the milk, the softness of her skin helps you to organise your nervous system. The lack of this touch, this support, will lead to a failure to thrive or even death.

Touch engenders a sense of safety and security in newborns. One only needs to look at the result of the Romanian orphans in 1989 who were so deprived of touch their brain development had been severely affected, to know how devastating the lack of touch can be.[1]

In recent times, the surge of social media means we can see each other, words can be exchanged (a little less fluently) over time and space. Where our parents’ generation had to wait weeks writing letters to families across the world, and wait to hear back, we have the luxury of being able to see and speak instantaneously no matter where on the globe they are. However, this type of contact leaves us hungry.

Communication is so much more than words, all the non verbal subtleties that convey a multitude of meanings that words cannot possibly express, actual eye contact, a touch on the hand or the arm to say “you are ok.” A caress on the neck from a partner, an empathic squeeze.

Touch can be reassuring when you pat your son on the back for missing a goal, or congratulatory when he wins, kind, when someone rubs your back to soothe your distress, sensual, sexual and at the other end of the spectrum harsh or violating.

A drop of rain on the neck can cause goose bumps down the body. The cool rush of air against a runner’s skin is invigorating. Numerous nerve receptors in the skin are stimulated providing the brain with information not just about temperature or humidity but also pleasurable sensations which are of course needed for procreation.

From upper respiratory disease to Alzheimer’s, studies have shown that “touch” has a beneficial effect in preventing or lessening disease symptoms.[2] Primates need touch. Many studies and experiments have shown that appropriate touch leads to mind body and spiritual health. Even stroking a pet can lower blood pressure.[3]

A 2015 study by Cohen et al exposed a group of volunteers to the common cold and monitored their symptoms in quarantine. The study found that those who had more social interactions with more frequent hugs showed less severe signs of illness.[4]

Safeguarding of the vulnerable population during times of COVID-19 has sadly led to a denial of touch – our innate need and sense, which risks compromising the immune system and is counter intuitive. Touch from a trusted source is associated as a buffer from pain. Romantic touch from a partner has been shown to reduce subjective pain ratings.[5] Yet those isolating without a partner and those who become ill have been left unable to have this critical need addressed. There are wide reaching mental emotional ramifications of this. And once society has resumed some sense of normality, many will be needing therapeutic help.

Therapeutic touch has much to offer those who have been traumatised, suffer from ill health or disease of any kind, or have lack of touch in their lives.

Skin hunger is a very real phenomenon. When we don’t have touch we crave it.

Both forcing touch and refusing touch are a violation and abuse of our human rights. A marriage can be annulled if not consummated and divorce has been granted where sex has been refused by a partner. The denial of a basic human right being seen as abusive and cruel.[6]

Therapeutic touch has many valuable benefits.

For those bodies who began life without knowing the intimacy of a mother’s touch, perhaps they were whisked away to NICU incubated due to ill health, maybe their mother was depressed and unable to hold and connect to her child, or those who have suffered from abuse treated roughly, who are hardwired to only know rough touch, Craniosacral therapy has much to offer.

Craniosacral therapy forms the bridge between the past and the present. The memories retained in our cells, and tissues can be accessed, brought to the surface and safely released. The hands on the body listen attentively but without judgement to the story the energy body tells. By providing, sometimes for the first time, a sense of safety for the recipient, the body can begin to unwind and release and speak out. Most importantly, in time, re-integrating towards the original blueprint of health that it entered the world with.

To book a Craniosacral Therapy session once lockdown has eased please contact:

raj@rajlehl.com BA BSc LCHE, RSHom, RCST

Bibliography:

Allen, K., Shykoff, B., & Izzo Jr., J. L. (2001). Pet Ownership, but Not ACE Inhibitor Therapy, Blunts Home Blood Pressure Responses to Mental Stress. Hypertension, 38, 815-820.

Attlee, T., Face to Face with the Face. (2016). Singing Dragon.

Berscheid E. (2003). The human’s greatest strength: other humans. In L. G. Aspinwall & U. M. Staudinger (Eds.)A Psychology of Human Strengths: Fundamental Questions and Future Directions for a Positive Psychology, pp. (37–47). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association; 10.1037/10566-003.

Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Turner, R., & Doyle, W. (2014). Does Hugging Provide Stress-Buffering Social Support? A Study of Susceptibility to Upper Respiratory Infection and Illness. Psychological Science, doi: 10.1177/0956797614559284

Harlow H. F., Dodsworth R. O., & Harlow M. K. (1965). Total social isolation in monkeys. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC285801/pdf/pnas00159-0105.pdf

Mohr V M. Krahé C., Beck B., Fotopoulou A. (2018). The social buffering of pain by affective touch: a laser-evoked potential study in romantic couples. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 13:11, 1121-1130. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6234321/#idm140458270981392title

Singh, C., & Leder, D. (2012). Touch in the consultation. The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 62(596), 147–148. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp12X630133

Upledger, J.E., (1997). Your Inner Physician and You. Craniosacral therapy and Somatoemotional Release. North Atlantic Books. Florida.

Woods DL, Craven RF, Whitney J. The effect of therapeutic touch on behavioral symptoms of persons with dementia. Altern Ther Health Med. 2005;11(1):66‐74.

Vardags 2020. Denying Sex is grounds for divorce says Delhi High Court. Available online: https://vardags.com/family-law/denying-sex-divorce-grounds


[1] Juffer F., ‘The effects of early social-emotional and relationship experience on the development of young orphanage children.’ Mongraphs of the society for Research in Child Development 2008.

[2] Woods DL., Craven RF, Whitney J. The effect of therapeutic touch on behavioral symptoms of persons with dementia. Altern Ther Health Med. 2005;11(1):66‐74.

[3] Allen K., Shykoff, B., & Izzo Jr., J. L. (2001). Pet Ownership, but Not ACE Inhibitor Therapy, Blunts Home Blood Pressure Responses to Mental Stress. Hypertension, 38, 815-820.

[4] Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Turner, R., & Doyle, W. (2014). Does Hugging Provide Stress-Buffering Social Support? A Study of Susceptibility to Upper Respiratory Infection and Illness. Psychological Science, doi: 10.1177/0956797614559284

[5] Mohr V M. Krahé C., Beck B., Fotopoulou A. (2018). The social buffering of pain by affective touch: a laser-evoked potential study in romantic couples. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 13:11, 1121-1130. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6234321/#idm140458270981392title

[6] Vardags 2020. Denying Sex is grounds for divorce says Delhi High Court. Available online: https://vardags.com/family-law/denying-sex-divorce-grounds