You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
On the basis of public health and safety how much touch are we willing to give up?
When was the last time you were touched lovingly? Held caringly? Caressed attentively? Welcome to 2020, the era of Corona virus. We are told when we can and cannot leave our homes, visit our loved ones in hospitals, travel abroad, what distance we should stand from one another and when to cover our faces with masks. Those fortunate enough to have someone near them to lovingly embrace and whose lips they are gifted the grace to kiss, are indeed lucky at this time. But for others who don't share such privilege at this time, this may be quite a lonesome and indeed challenging time. What will be the cost of such a touch deprivation experiment we will only know in a few years time, but what we can know for sure is that these new ways of regulating ourselves are shaping how we relate to our fellow humans and to our own needs. For how long shall we compromise our need for loving human touch by prioritizing health safety measures in place? As a somatic therapist, I am sincerely becoming worried about the physical and psychological implications of abiding to the current restrictions for such an extended amount of time. Maham Hasan, Independant, writes:
Even for the non-epidemiologists among us, everyday touch has become a source of stress – and a negotiation of personal boundaries – in a way that it never was before the coronavirus pandemic.
What is touch deprivation and what impact does it have on us?
Some twenty years ago the topic of touch deficit began receiving more scientific significance when researchers visited Romanian orphanages to observe children. The researchers walked through full nurseries that were silent because the babies had learned that no one would pick them up when they cried. We are not those babies, but the question stands: what are the natural instinctive survival strategies that may be transforming at this time of abiding to the restriction measures in place, in other words, what is the price we are paying for refraining from physical human contact? The researchers found that the lack of touch contributed to delays in the children's motor development and language acquisition. The children suffered more behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders, and their brains showed changes to electrical activity patterns. The potency of this study made in Romania initiated further research on the importance of touch. More than 100 studies on the benefits of massage therapy have been made, from diminished pain to improved immune system. A nerve ending has been found called C-tactile afferent, which responds best to slow, gentle touch, like a caress.
Am I touch deprived?
Touch deprivation occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living beings. If you may have gone without being touched by another human being for an extended amount of time, take a moment to take some deep breaths and feel into your body and ask yourself this: how much do I miss and need touch right now? Ask your body these questions, spend some time allowing your subconscious mind to answer this rather than your rational, logical mind, and, spend the following days exploring what kind of physical contact, touch you may need/desire; begin an enquiry, a dialogue with your body about the kind of touch your body yearns for. The answer most probably will come in an unexpected moment of time when you least expect it, the body speaks through emotion and sensations rather than clear words. Listen carefully to the signs, messages and sensations over the course of the following days.
If you struggle to initiate a dialogue with your body and it feels too foreign as a concept for you, note that if you are suffering from any of the following this may be a sign that you are suffering from touch deprivation:
- high levels of stress
- mental health issues such as depression
- emotionally high strung, hyper-sensitivity or opposite - numbness, lack of emotion
- aggressive behaviour
- sexual dysfunction
- fear of attachment and unsatisfying relationships
Alleviating touch deprivation through Tantric bodywork
As research has shown, massage therapy can be a very legitimate way to quench our need for the absence of touch in our life. The beauty of Tantric healing therapy is that it incorporates this caressing aspect, that soothes the C-tactile afferent nerve, a Tantric treatment incorporates a variety of touch. Tantric massage is a form of massage that most often than not incorporates the massage of the genitelia and breasts, which are usually left out by other massage modalities. A holistic approach is important to Tantra. Nothing is left out. My personal treatments are designed in such a way that not only does the whole of your body receive a thorough massage, but I also make sure to take my time and go slow, average session time lasting three hours. The body deserves precise, careful attention; there is no way I can attend to the whole body in a one hour session, that would not be appropriate, for a nervous system to relax deeply in the presence of a stranger, time has to pass and trust needs to be built. These sessions are often created to be bespoke to suit different clients' needs. Like with any massage treatment, different problems and agendas are handled in different ways. The beauty of a Tantric approach is that the work can aid in very specific issues such as sexual trauma, fear of intimacy, touch deficit, very physical issues that seem to be causing problems such as erectile dysfunctions, but, the true essence of the Tantric work is the process of strengthening your relationship to spirit, a big part of which is the practice of understanding your energy, heightening your sensitivity, entering the unknown and learning to dance with it, to breathe deeply.
Just like those children in the Romanian nursery, most of us did not receive the kind of touch and the amount of touch that would be considered a healthy dose. We don't know how our minds would be functioning now and who we would be if we had had that. But not all is lost, not at all. The good news is that what we did not receive during our childhood we can still receive now. The time is not up. The needs that we had that were not met when we were too little to take care of ourselves we can meet now in a variety of ways. The possibilities are endless. The touch that you yearn for, the kind of attention your body needs, the connection you seek can be found in working with the right therapist that suits your needs. If a massage treatment is something you cannot give yourself right now, there are many other forms of being touched that I offer through online counselling sessions.
I hope you find the kind of touch that you seek! Happy living to you.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Lauren Sharkey, 23 Sep 2019, Healthline, What does it mean to be touch starved?, Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/touch-starved
Lawrence Josephs, 13 Sep 2020, Psychology Today, A loving touch, Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-the-sheets/202009/loving-touch
Maham Hasan, 12 October 2020, Independent, 'The mother of all senses': The impact of touch deprivation on the mind, Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/health_and_wellbeing/touch-deprivation-coronavirus-covid-senses-b885743.html
Niharikaa Mehta, 10 May 2020, Psychreg, How Touch Deprivation Impacts Our Mental Health, Retrieved from: https://www.psychreg.org/touch-deprivation-mental-health/
Touch Research Institute, 2010, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.