Remember the time when you were a child and you had a bellyache or bumped your head, and cried? What did your mom or dad do? They may have taken you in their arms and rubbed your belly or your head where it hurt. Then, the pain eased and you felt better. This is the power of Touch; the most powerful healing tool that is innate to us humans as well as almost every animal on Earth.
One of the first things that a human baby experiences as it comes into the world is to be touched; by the midwife/doctor who is present at the birth as the baby exits the birth canal, as well as by its mother, as the baby is presented to the mother to be fed. What I never really thought about until recently, is how an embryo begins to be touched in-utero by its mother already at the time of conception by the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus, as well as how early this embryonic being starts to feel Touch. Touch is the first sense to develop in a human being; already by week 8 of pregnancy a human embryo has touch receptors on its face, by week 12 on its palms and soles and by week 17 the abdomen. By the third trimester, the fetus can sense and respond to Touch from external sources, like when its mom puts her hand on her belly. We humans like to be Touched as well as like to give Touch. This is our way of connecting and communicating with each other. What is extremely interesting is that we can often sense the intention of the person giving the Touch, without even the person saying anything. If someone had an intention to hurt us, we would feel the discomfort in us build up and we get a sense of distress, as well as a feeling we should get away from this individual. Just as we would be able to distinguish if the person was giving us caring Touch, that is intended to soothe, nourish and bond.
For the longest time Western science doubted the power of Touch. Even till the 1960s babies were separated from their mothers after birth and placed into a sterile crib, because science thought that it was more "hygienic" for the babies to be alone in a crib than to be with its "germ-rich" mother, as well as that it was more convenient to put crying babies in a separate space. Parents of the time were told not to "spoil" their child with Touch and thus, we have a few generations of post-World-War-II humans deprived of healthy Touch. In human children and animals, Touch and the lack of it has shown to affect physical and emotional development. At some point experimentations with premature babies were conducted, where scientists realized that those premature-born babies who received Touch developed better and were healthier than those left in glass incubators without Touch. The effect of Touch in this early stages of a pre-mature-born baby's life has been shown to have an effect on the child up to 10 years after birth. It is important to remember that the lack of healthy Touch in children is a phenomenon of the industrial age. Before our parents were working in factories and offices, babies/children were right there with their parents, sometimes on the body of their mothers on the field in agricultural and hunter-gatherer societies.
Once again in our era of the 2020s, even with the knowledge that we have from previous Touch studies, we have been pushed into the infamous "social distancing," to protect others from our germ-rich presence by not only not Touching but also not being in the physical space of our loved ones. We are already becoming aware how 2 years of the lack of Touch and connection has affected us individually but scientists are also observing these effects on a societal scale. If you are living in a collective environment, i.e. family and friends, chose not to engage in social-distancing measures and continued to Touch one another, then you have been lucky! Studies are showing us that mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, are on a rise as a result of social distancing. I watched a very good documentary on Touch. It explains what we currently know of Touch from the scientific perspective but if we really are truthful, we already know deeply in our own inner selves that Touch is essential to life.
In almost every culture in the world there is some form of Massage or the laying-of-hands that has been practiced since probably human life existed on Earth. It began with our mothers/fathers holding us, nursing us and nourishing us as babies. Later, this Touch sense developed into more complex awareness and technique of the body's mechanism of connecting and healing. One of the first things that I pass on to students who come to study Chinese Medicine with me is to be aware of the intention of their Touch when they lay their hands on a patient. Then after that comes technique, which is secondary. If we, the receiver of Touch, can sense the intention from the Touch, then why not Touch each other with positive intentions. We can send healing to each other by just something as simple as a gentle Touch of the hand on the arm of a colleague or a gentle hand-rub on the back of your partner after a long day or a hug with your teenager after a heated debate on teenage issues. We all have the ability to heal in our hands and in our being, we just have to make the first move to connect with each other.
Image from Pixabay by bingngu93