Article by guest blogger A.F. Brat
Touch: Powerful Medicine, Powerful Toxin, or It Depends?
Have you heard of Love Languages? Dr. Gary Chapman has degrees in Anthropology and Theology and is a Senior Associate Pastor at a Baptist Church in North Carolina. He wrote several books and created a theory of communicating love that makes sense to a lot of people. (The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, etc.) He also publishes a free quiz that you can take to discover your own love language.
Chapman believes there are five ways that we can express love to our loved ones. The interesting thing to understand is that most of us grew up learning some version of the Golden Rule, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or treat people the way you want to be treated. It would make sense that when we get into love relationships that we take that rule and magnify it. Our love relationships are pretty significant relationships with a lot of emotion and our most vulnerable self laid out there to be rejected or revered. So we treat them the way WE want to be treated and expect that should work really well. However, just because we believe that if someone loves us they will express it a certain way doesn’t mean that our partner shares that belief. It could be that they are just as certain that there is another way to best show love, and they are just as positive as WE are that THEY know how a person will act if they are expressing true love. So knowing our own love language and that of our partner can really help us to understand what’s being communicated in a relationship. The five love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. The key is to express our love to our partner using their language, while they express love to us using our language. (I’m not sure what that’s called – but it’s not the Golden Rule.)
Much can be said about all of the languages, but today we are going to give a little thought to touch. Obviously, as we just said, not everyone is going to think that physical touch is the best way to feel loved. For some people that’s fifth out of the five, and is NOT their choice for receiving affection. There are definite cultural differences and norms related to touch. And for some people, especially people with chronic health problems, including Fibromyalgia, touch can be painful and unwelcome – even when offered by loved ones. Allodynia is a heightened sensitivity to touch, which results in pain from things that normally would not cause discomfort. “This increased skin sensitivity and pain from touch is hypothesized to occur for a number of reasons,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of Fibromyalgia & Fatigue Centers. May 21, 2012. And sometimes touch can be downright creepy if someone’s intentions are not loving or pure. It’s okay to clearly and emphatically decline touch when it’s not welcome or respectful! And some cultures and genders have specific rules about who can touch and where they can touch! Men seem to have the least comfort and Finns are surprisingly the MOST open to touch.
Development and Growth
But if we assume that touch is not aversive to someone – what do we know about how touch might be a source of healing and growth? Reports from orphanages in the early 1900’s taught us about a condition called Failure to Thrive (FTT). Babies who were not held or touched failed to grow and develop and as many as 1/3 died. Bodies are complicated and there are many hormones that are triggered by touch, and the lack of touch and lack of hormone stimulation is thought to be the cause of this early failure to grow and even death. Failure to thrive in human infants has been shown to result from lack of individualized, nurturing, physically affectionate parental care, whether in an orphanage or due to extreme parental neglect.
On the other hand, touch of other humans can create improved health and well-being.
This little video describes the health benefits of hugging trusted people, pets, and even a particular plant! Our hormones thank us when we open up to healing touch and hugs.
If you have been a little resistant to hugging and maybe wondered a bit about those who seem to like it, do yourself a favor and watch this Free Hugs video:
What do you notice? What resonates with you? How does this affect your mood? And then another brief video made after the Dallas Police shootings a year ago.
Is a hug potentially powerful medicine after a traumatic event? I believe it can be. You?
A word about music: We include songs for a reason. Music helps us deal with the world, helps to soothe the soul, and gives us something else we can focus on when everything is too much. Listen to the songs we post. Even if you already know them. Listen to them like you don’t. Pay attention to the lyrics. Pay attention to what the instruments are telling you. They all have a message, they all have a purpose, they’re all chosen for a reason. If you like the song, please support the artist by purchasing the MP3 or Album that features it.
Today’s music can be found on Amazon.com:
MP3: Touch Me
Album: The Very Best Of The Doors (2CD)
A huge thanks to today’s guest blogger for helping to keep the page going while I recover from surgery!