man and woman hugging

The Bliss of Touch

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This post is part of a series of personal reflections on sensory input and emotions, more posts to come about smell, sound and vision.

Have you seen that video of Wounda the gorilla giving a goodbye hug to Jane Goodall as they are released back into the wild? From 1’22” into the video. We are so similar!

Dr. Jane Goodall & the Jane Goodall Institute – Youtube video

And I’m sure you know some cat hugging videos, such as this one.

Human babies die if left untouched! Discover the horrific stories of some orphanages where babies are neglected.

We need human touch, kisses and to be in each other’s arms. Compare that to grooming monkeys! It’s in our nature. For most of us.

Our skin is the largest organ in the human body, and touch releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps to reduce anxiety. You know that pleasant sigh that comes after a really long hug? That’s your body releasing stress.

I’m lucky enough to get hugs from my teenage children, they’re just like me and we hug all the time! I had a lot of such moments with them since they were babies: skin to skin time, long breastfeeding (1.5 years each), baby carrier wraps, and a lot of “I love you”. And 16, 15 and 13 years later, they are huggers. I firmly believe it also helped them alleviate some of the “different neurotype” related challenges they face.

But beyond them (and my parents when they were alive), I love human contact and I’m very tactile with my friends! I grab them by the arm, I wrap my arm around their waist! Unless they tell me they don’t like it and I refrain, it’s a question of consent and respect! But it’s so energy-consuming to hold back, in proportion to the affection I have for the person!

And modern society has made it a bit cringy! We also have to be careful about how it’s received, because some (most?) people would see it as sexual attention, whereas most of the time, for me, it is not!

Why are teenage girls allowed to hold hands, but not adults? Why is it common in some Asian countries for male friends to hold hands too, but not here?

I love being in a crowd moving in one direction and stopping to face the other direction! I get elbows, shoulder nudges and smiles! I love the tight crowd at a rock concert, I love long hugs and I admit I also miss cuddles (see why here) and resting my head on someone’s shoulder. Or even massages! But it’s practically impossible to get that from a man when your intentions are not specifically sexual, but only affectionate.

As well as human contact, look at how soothing it is to stroke a dog, cat or other furry animal. Even hugging a stuffed animal gives you a shot of oxytocin, like if you are holding a baby in your arms! Just like the smell of another person on a pillow (upcoming post on smell).

And have you seen the film “Amélie” (Amélie Poulain)? At the market, she dips her hand into bags of lentils to feel them! I felt it when I watched the scene!

I love velvet and smooth linen, rough concrete and handmade paper. Touch cold bare metal in the summer to alleviate the heat or walk in the sand, warm bubbles and the feel of snow in the winter, bare feet in the grass in the spring, strong wind and rain on my face and hair in autumn, and when mixed with other sensory inputs (upcoming posts on sound, smell and vision), I could stay for hours, arms open welcoming the elements, and if those moments are shared, it’s bliss.

What about you? Let me know in the comments!

More about Touch Starvation
https://www.webmd.com/balance/touch-starvation

More about the neuroscience of touch!
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4701942/
https://neurosciencenews.com/tactile-processing-vip-neurons-17729/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92803/

More on touch related to child development
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7873991/

Header photo, modified. Licence with Yayimages


4 responses to “The Bliss of Touch”
  1. Josep Morán avatar

    Speaking about oneself can be a bit daunting for some people. So, well done to you for mastering that emotional skill and even being able to express it in a post. A shining example for many, including myself. Thanks for sharing this post.

    1. Patricia BT avatar
      Patricia BT

      Thank you Josep for your comment!

      Yes I try, and be as much on emotions and empathy as I can… especially to understand others!

      I understand that speaking about oneself is not easy, after all, who cares about it? but I want to be true to myself so I write personal things on my personal blog 🙂

      And as with my very personal post some months ago, I’m happy if it helps even only one person.

  2. Michelle avatar
    Michelle

    I can share much of what you have written… although I could probably not express my deeper feelings as openly as you! Hats off, and I’m very grateful for our friendship! 🫶

    1. Patricia BT avatar
      Patricia BT

      Thank you so much!
      Me too, I’m very grateful for our friendship! ❤️😘

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