Artwork by Laura Lhuillier. Instagram link @arual.lhuillier
'Attentive, caring, non selfish, consensual human contact is imperative to our physical and mental health. This is why I do what I do.'
I have been thinking about touch recently. Actually that is somewhat of a lie as I am always thinking about touch. If you believe in or know about ‘Love Languages’ then you’ll know that physical touch is mine. I touch to show my love, my care, and my concern. I’m not afraid to ask if you need it and I respect and understand when you have had enough.
So when touch is a huge part of my every day - a part of my whole being - I’m sensitive to noticing how it has become such a distant part of our lives. Touch between strangers no longer exists. Touch doesn't have to be as intimate as your partner tracing the curvature back as you sleep. Touch can be as simple as a gentle and brief sensation from a cashier placing your change into your hand but with card transactions increasing and physical barriers between us when buying goods... this is no longer happening.
and there are still many many people who are tentative or even afraid to go out.
Now as I walk through the tube station I notice people not wanting to touch anything with their hands - and I get it, surfaces have become uncertain and we are in a global pandemic - but people have stopped holding doors open for each other, stopped offering to help with pushchairs and suitcases, people literally back away from me as they walk past. Few people say thank you and even fewer say hello.
I understand that we must distance, wash our hands, stay mindful and stay safe as we are not out of this situation yet but so many of us have turned into 'Touchphobes'. (I say this because Haphephobia is both real and much more serious) .
*Skip to the playgrounds and nurseries where children are licking each other’s faces and playing with their own faeces… (Not to mention what teenagers might be playing with).*
Thousands of people have spent the past year being touched in ways that; they don’t like, haven’t asked for, don’t want and or/that hurt. And there are others who have barely felt the warmth of another person’s presence in a room let alone a hand on the shoulder or a warm embrace.
Let’s just throw a few facts in here for a second…**
Skin-to-skin contact (Kangaroo Care) has been known to reduce mortality, severe illness and infection in low-weight or premature babies.
Psychological wellbeing has been shown to increase in those wearing sensory enabled prosthetics so that they can benefit from the sensation of touch.
Consensual caring touch through massage can encourage blood flow, help aid sleep and reduce stress levels.
Consensual caring touch plays a major role in attachment. Lack of touch and physical contact can lead to aggression, addiction and abuse.
I won’t keep going, I don’t need to. I feel pretty confident that you all know what it feels like to be touched, to hold your parents/guardian’s hand, to be embraced by your lover, to have your child fall asleep in your arms, to have a hug when you shed a tear. You know how it feels when it is received.
So you can understand the impact it has when taken away.
My job is so much more than providing you with pain relief from injury, my job is more than encouraging blood flow so that you can sleep better at night. My job is so much more than reducing your stress levels from a busy day at work.
My job is a reminder to you that not all touch is aggressive.
My job is a reminder to you that your body is beautiful just the way it is.
My job is a reminder to you that you don’t need to hold it all in.
My job is reminding you that you are not alone.
This is not an encouragement to break the guidelines and start hugging strangers. This is not even an an encouragement to start touching people, but this is a gentle reminder that we are all on our own journey right now so I encourage you to stay soft. And when you do get a chance to safely and respectfully give somebody a handshake or a hug do so with meaning because that handshake or that hug may be the only physical contact that person has had in a long time.
Until then, you can come and see me.
**Facts taken from the following sites.
National Library of Medicine
The Urban Child Institute
Kangaroo Care for the Preterm Infant and Family, Ann L Jefferies and Canadian Paediatric Society, Fetus and Newborn Committee