Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
19 May

The Power of Touch

TouchThe largest organ on our body is the skin. Its protective layers guard our muscles, bones, internal organs, and ligaments, while its active function results in the most fundamental of our five senses – that of touch. For all our focus on maintaining optimal organ function through diet, exercise, and lifestyle, could it be that we’re neglecting the organ that figures most prominently in our daily, direct communion with the material world?

I know that it’s awfully easy for me to go several days without real, meaningful physical contact with another human when I’m on the road promoting the book or giving a talk. Oh, sure, there are handshakes and incidental shoulder brushes and maybe even the occasional fist bump, but it’s not the same. I miss my wife and kids. You can’t exactly hug total strangers (nor would you really want to) or even business associates. When I’m away from my family and close friends, I realize just how ubiquitous our self-made, imaginary personal bubbles have become. We all walk around with them. This world is getting more crowded every day, and yet we’re somehow able to maneuver through it without so much as touching a single person unless we’re crammed into a train or city street. And still, even in those situations, people are loathe to make contact with one another, even ocular, and we manage to avoid most of it.

Take the phrase “touchy feely,” for example. What imagery does it conjure? Positive? Its literal definition is “marked by or emphasizing physical closeness and emotional openness,” but the phrase originates as an epithet. Because language is an organic thing, a reflection of its users and their society, and because the phrase is exclusively uttered from a position of discomfort with the idea of touching or being touched, “touchy feely” arises from a society diametrically opposed to physical contact and touch. Men who can’t bring themselves to hug their fathers or male friends without feeling physically ill (or, worse, that they might “catch the gay”); young men and women unable to separate honest affection from sexual attention; kids who spend their formative years touching the cold hard plastic of an XBox controller or remote control without developing nary a scrape, bruise, or welt from physical contact with peers; entire families that text, chat, or email to communicate, even when living under the same roof – this is the legacy of our apparently social revulsion to touch and physical closeness.

It starts with infants, of course. Many babies, upon being born, are instantly whisked away for checkups, tests, and to “let the mother rest.” It seems odd that in that most crucial of windows, where the mother-child post-womb relationship is in its infancy, many kids don’t even get to see their mothers. Instead, they’re in some room with some stranger having weird things done to them.

The first sense infants develop in the womb is touch, and when they’re born, touch is the most pre-attuned sense, whereas stuff like sight and taste take months to fully develop. A just-born infant, I would argue, needs to be with its mother, needs to feel her warmth (and she the baby’s), needs to indulge the only viable sense available at the moment. I imagine that initial (and in the wild, unavoidable and inevitable) physical closeness between mammalian mother and mammalian child is the foundation for the rest of the child’s life. It sets the stage, so to speak. I’m reminded of that old cartoon trope, where a baby bird hatches and latches onto the first creature it sees as its mother, even if that creature is Sylvester the cat licking his chops. There’s probably some truth to that. A child’s born and, if nature has dictated, that child is in immediate intimate contact with mom. Maybe those first few moments are more crucial than we think. Maybe the lack of physical contact between newborn and new mother reverberates through life, setting the stage for an adult with a mild distaste for human touch. You populate half of society with folks who were never really touched as children, who never really learned the essential importance of touch, and maybe you get what we have now. I’m speculating here, of course.

But we do know that animals touch each other all the time. It’s the Primal way. Young monkeys and apes cling to mothers’ backs. Social grooming is a staple of many animals’ lives. It’s utilitarian, because not all animals can completely clean themselves (we’ve all got hard to reach places) alone, but it also reinforces social structure and interpersonal relationships. Older apes groom each other, and this grooming affects endorphin levels. Wolf packs sleep together. Kangaroo kids hang out in that famous pouch. Or how about pets? Dogs will nuzzle and lick their masters and cats will head butt you and curl up in your lap and meow until you relent and offer your hand. It’s almost like touch is a requirement of animals; they crave and need it.

Do we?

Well, we’re animals, too. I’m a firm believer in listening to our bodies and to our instincts. They exist for a reason, our instincts, and though we shouldn’t surrender completely to their rule, we can use them as subtle indications of what might work best. These instincts might be muted in us big brains, but we’re animals. If they – especially the mammals, like us – yearn for touch, maybe there’s something to it. Maybe we need it, too.

Besides, despite all the New Age talk of energy fields and the power of touch, we know that people who have loved ones to touch on a regular basis live longer, happier lives. People who have sex on a regular basis also live happier, longer lives. It’s not mystical or magical; it’s practical. You touch people and have sex when you’re comfortable and happy with the person you’re touching. Happy people are, ahem, happier. Happy people live longer, and even if they didn’t, they’re happy, and that’s arguably the whole point of sentient existence. You’ve heard of companion animals, right? They improve the health and longevity of their owners (PDF), especially the widows, supposedly because of the added companionship and touching/petting that goes on. There have been studies where lab rabbits respond positively to touch as well. A colleague recently shared this anecdote with me: lab rabbits with terminal cancer living on the bottom row of the cages live longer than rabbits with cancer who live in higher cages. The only difference between the top and bottom row rabbits being that lab assistants handled the rabbits in the bottom cages more during feeding. When you’re dying of terminal cancer in a metal cage, I’ll bet you begin to really look forward to those few seconds of chin scratches each day.

I will say that things seem to be changing. When you watch old episodes of “The Tonight Show,” it’s all handshakes between Johnny Carson and his guests. It’s very formal, whereas now the male guests typically hug the host. And in sports, ironically the most stereotypically hypermasculine arena, there’s a ton of physical contact between teammates. Butt slapping, high fives, chest bumps, team huddles – it’s all a huge display of men and women incredibly comfortable with the idea of physical touch. There was even a recent study (PDF) mentioned in ESPN Magazine that noted the prevalence of high fives and chest bumps and other physical contact in pro basketball. The Cleveland Cavaliers, holders of the best record in the NBA this season (though now trounced from the playoffs), touch each other more than any other team in the league, while the teams with losing records tend to touch less. Do they touch less because they’re losing, or do they lose because they touch less and lack cohesion? Who knows, but the scientists in the article theorized that the high rate of touch definitely has something to do with it.

Still, though, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We need to integrate touch into our lives, not in some formal, creepy way, like organizing community grooming or hugging sessions, but in a healthy, normal, organic manner. When your kid comes home bleeding and bleating from some mishap, try offering a hug instead of immediately going for the bandages and antiseptic. Hug your friend next time you see him or her. Massage your significant other, just for the heck of it. Ladies, randomly slip your hand under his shirt and scratch his back (trust me, we love it). Pet your dog/cat/rat/rabbit. When you meet someone, maybe try going for the double hand clasp, or even the medieval forearm clasp. Tousle some scruffy street urchin’s mop-head next time he’s hawking newspapers on the corner.

A dog trainer friend of mine taught me a cool trick once: when your dog is anxious, upset, or otherwise freaking out at something, pull on its neck scruff. This immediately soothes the animal, because it’s exactly what mother dogs do to pups – they carry them around by the scruff of their necks, and adult dogs still make that subconscious connection. I’m thinking the same holds true for humans. Why wouldn’t it? How do you console a grieving friend who’s just lost their father? You hug them. It’s your first reaction and theirs, too. They go for the hug to feel better and you open your arms. How do you soothe a crying child? With hugs and caressing. What changes between childhood and adulthood that renders this treatment ineffective? Why do we console a crying adult with nervous, awkward silence and averted eyes (or powerful medicine)? Those same physiological reactions that soothe the child might just play out in the adult, too. It’s not as if our hormones stop working or we stop enjoying the soothing touch of a loved one just because we have the ability to reproduce and legally drink alcohol.

It’s in these powerful, incredibly painful moments of trauma that we reconnect with our animal instincts and the walls of social grace or personal hang-ups come crashing down – and we relent to interpersonal touch. We submit, because its draw is inexorable and the relief it offers is instantaneous. There’s that famous saying, “No atheists in foxholes.” What about “No emotional stoics when personal tragedy strikes”? It doesn’t quite have the same easy grace about it, but I think it works.

We should work on touch, folks. We shouldn’t need tragedy to touch each other. We should give in to our Primal urge to touch as a way to connect with others in a meaningful way and to express joy, not just counteract misery.

Let me know what you think in the comment board and thanks for reading.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. This is by far the best article written here.

    Katie wrote on May 19th, 2010
  2. I think that most things that feel good (within reason!) have a tendency to be good or necessary on some level. We all like to be touched, so it doesn’t surprise me that it has health benefits!

    Petting a rat might not be within that “within reason” though…

    Michael Dyer wrote on May 19th, 2010
  3. I’m not a hugger. I wasn’t raised that way. While it’s hard for me to do, I’m trying!

    Debra wrote on May 19th, 2010
  4. Nice article Mark, very interesting about the teams that hugged, the teams that didn’t and their winning/losing ratios.

    Andy wrote on May 19th, 2010
  5. Great article, thank you.

    “Tousle some scruffy street urchin’s mop-head next time he’s hawking newspapers on the corner.”

    Man, that tickles me just right.

    James wrote on May 19th, 2010
    • Getcha pape’ here! Baby born with two heads! ~must be from Brooklyn.

      Mike wrote on May 19th, 2010
  6. Maybe that’s a big reason why many humans like pets so much. We can fulfill primal needs for touching and nurturing without the hassle of dealing with human social graces. For instance, it’s amazing how many ‘macho’ men will lapse into extreme levels of cutsy baby talk when they think they are alone with their pets! ;-P

    Eva wrote on May 19th, 2010
    • *looks around guiltily*

      Kris wrote on May 19th, 2010
  7. I agree with you here. We simply do not touch enough. When you are engaging in a hug with someone are you angry or stressed for that moment? Typically no. You feel a sense of relief and are able to put a smile on your face knowing that someone is there for you.

    All animals touch frequently and we are an animal. So, may we “touch” more through simple stuff like a hug or hand shake!

    Primal Toad wrote on May 19th, 2010
  8. I’m so glad you brought up the newborn/mother touch connection! I’ve been reading about it lately, and learned that infants are very awake for about 40 minutes after they are born, and then sleep for hours and hours after that. When infants are whisked away from their mothers for tests and procedures and whatever else gets done to them, it takes away one of the most important bonding times a mother has for the infant’s first entire day of life.

    I also have 4 dogs, and find it hilarious that if I’m not petting them, but my hand is otherwise unoccupied, they will all slowy shove their head under my hand to force me to pet them. At least I know what they want, dogs don’t give “hints” they just ask for what they need!

    Hannah wrote on May 19th, 2010
    • We also brutally cut off parts of a infants genitals. Surely this has a lasting effect on our ability to bond.

      Brad wrote on May 19th, 2010
    • I totally agree, Brad. Our treatment of infants – from routine birth practices, to circumcision, to ‘crying it out’ is absolutely appalling.

      Katherine wrote on May 20th, 2010
  9. I live in Australia, but my family and I are in Greece on holiday (we have Greek heritage) What always amazes and moves me about Greece (or anywhere in the non-Anglo world) is the constant touching: between strangers, in service relationships, dissolving status/power relations, men embracing, women linking arms as they walk, low-key affection everywhere. My 4 yr old daughter is thriving on the hugs, kisses, hair-tousling and lap-holding. In the Anglo-Saxon world it is definitely something we need to re-learn.

    Katerina wrote on May 19th, 2010
  10. Great article! I am from Latvia, and when I came to US I was surprised that handshaking is not popular here. People greet each other by “What’s up”, and “How are you”, and handshaking is reserved for more formal occasions. In Latvia, and as well in Russia men always shake hands when greet each other. You handshake with your coworkers, your friends every day when you meet them that day first time.

    Sergey wrote on May 19th, 2010
  11. When you’re dying of terminal cancer in a metal cage, I’ll bet you begin to really look forward to those few seconds of chin scratches each day.

    This is quite possibly the saddest sentence I’ve ever read. It makes me want to go cuddle a bunny. :(

    southernsatine wrote on May 19th, 2010
  12. There’s some really interesting research on the physiologically interactions between newborns and their mothers. Premature infants who spend more time in human contact and less in their cots (“kangaroo care”) do much, much better in terms of health and survival.

    Mothers in skin to skin contact with their newborns will adjust their body temperature to help the infants thermoregulate. Baby’s temp too low? Mom’s will shoot above baseline until the baby is warm enough, then drop back down. Pretty amazing stuff!

    Jenn wrote on May 19th, 2010
  13. *physiological, not physiologically.

    Jenn wrote on May 19th, 2010
  14. I’ve got to say, I disagree: physical contact, especially with ‘gurrllls’ is desperately uncool.

    The first moments of physical contact in a romantic relationship are incredible, ‘electric’ but, as with static electricity, the more physical contact you have, the more that electricity disappears. So, if you are fortunate enough to fall in love again, I’d recommend never touching him/her, see if you can keep that electric feeling and not feel the need to replace true feelings (love!) with physical dependance and habit.

    As for casual hugging, in my experience, it’s always been the least cool people who hug casually; y’know, emo kids, drunk people, girls, aunties…

    But anyway, good post, but, before we start going crazy, hugging friends and relatives, we should ask ourselves, can you imagine Grok doing the same?

    Zhuwawa wrote on May 19th, 2010
    • Joking right? Tribal men and women do not have the modern hang ups about personal space that we do.

      Btw, the ‘electric feeling’ from touch is not true love, that is infatuation with a new thing. It has diminished returns because it’s not new any longer. When that infatuation fades and is replaced with dedication, appreciation, and loyalty… not becuase of meer personal gain, but for the person themselves. That is true love.

      Infatuation says, “I love you becuase you’re so good to me.”

      Love says, “I love you because you are you.” or better yet, simply, “I love you.”

      Mike wrote on May 19th, 2010
      • Yeah, I hear this argument a lot. But I would argue that your ‘infatuation’(my love) says, ‘I love you because I’m feeling exciting new, intense emotions’.

        Your ‘love’ says ‘I love you because you are a fantastic friend to me (I understand the value of dedication appreciation and loyalty too, I just don’t attribute it to love) and (in most situations) because we have sex.’

        I think your idea of love is synoynmous with friendship (sexual attraction is usually the difference), but, of course, this is just my subjective rambling, and its naive to talk about love objectively.

        As for the natural world/ tribal people argument, I confess I haven’t read much on this, but I would imagine that predatory adult mammals, even primates, would rarely have affectionate physical contact (I’ve seen a lot of nature documentaries with shockingly unaffectionate alpha males). If I’m wrong, please enlighten me.

        Zhuwawa wrote on May 19th, 2010
        • Friendship is the basis of love, a foundation. You build upon it, to deeper more intimate levels, the highest of which is the culmination of dedication, appreciation, and loyalty: love.

          There is no way to preserve infatuation, it is fleeting, with touch or without, the sparkle dims.

          However I loved my wife in the glint of newness it is only after that dies and I love her not for the ‘high’ but for herself that I can take any confidence in the trueness of that love. Hers for me or mine for her.

          Mike wrote on May 19th, 2010
    • The operative words in the first sentence of your post: disagree, desperate, uncool.

      The operative words in the first sentence of your second post: argument, argue.

      The “electric” buzz you feel from contact is your nervous system registering a violation of your personal space and comfort zone, and the clash of your negative energy with the other person’s positive energy, closing the circuit and creating a pulse of energy “flow”.

      Buddy, you are SOOOOO repressed! I suggest professional psychotherapy.

      Try being more aware of your negativism, try dropping the negative from your life, and try being a blessing to the people and world around you. You will live a longer, happier life.

      And don’t hug “casually”, hug because you feel it and mean it.

      And don’t hug anyone, especially me, until you fix this. I don’t want to get your negativism all over me.

      conrack wrote on May 20th, 2010
      • Haha, I agree. I’m not kinesthetic at all even though I was loved and cuddled as a child plenty, (smacked an aweful lot as well!) But dude, you have to feel like you want to hug someone out of pure love/friendship/respect/affection not just casually do it because you think its cool. Connect like I’m learning to do, even if it goes against your grain, but only if you feel it, not because you think you have to!!

        Mark Rodgers wrote on May 21st, 2010
  15. As someone who does massage and bodywork for hours each day, I can certainly testify to the profound affects that touch can have. It’s a form of communication that doesn’t need words, and can say much more than words could ever portray.

    I would say, for myself, having spent a lot of time refining the way I massage (or touch) has definitely helped me gain stronger, more stable relationships with others, my environment, and with myself. A blessing in disguise.

    Angelo wrote on May 19th, 2010
  16. Almost made me cry….. been single for a while, and touch is probably what I miss the most. It’s crucial.

    Cajsa wrote on May 19th, 2010
    • Agreed…..now I’m depressed. I have been single for about a year and agree that touch is something you miss when it’s not there.

      Aaron Curl wrote on May 20th, 2010
      • Ditto that. It’s hard being single. My freinds/family aren’t much of the touchging type.

        Now I want to go pet a bunny. I’ve been honestly thinking of getting a cat largely because of this issue.

        Deanna (Diana Renata) wrote on May 20th, 2010
    • I agree. I’ve been single for a bit, and I’m always cuddling up to and petting my two dogs, because I miss the emotional connection that comes with physical contact with another person…

      Kat wrote on August 22nd, 2010
  17. What a beautiful post. I’m not a very huggy person and living in a large city, I understand wanting to avoid the touch of strangers. But, I definitely agree that more friendly touch would be a healthy advantage for everyone. We just need to get over this stigma.

    Primal K@ wrote on May 19th, 2010
  18. Nice. You hit the nail on the head, once again.

    Bert Reed wrote on May 19th, 2010
  19. I am the father of three. A nurse suggested I hold my baby on my belly to raise their temperature rather than the little “oven bed”. I really enjoyed this and my little ones..”slept like a baby” all toasty warm.

    Rdwdawg wrote on May 19th, 2010
  20. Mark,

    Great post..!
    As children we were told by our parents to involve most of our senses while eating. We were trained to always take our time to see our food, smell our food, taste our food and very importantly touch our food. This not only made eating a better experience but also inculcated a habit of good hygiene – we never forgot to wash our hands prior to a meal.
    Several hundred million people in Asia, eat with their fingers, to this date.
    Very often I throw ‘etiquette’ to the wind when encountered with a barbecued femur with good marrow and meat that would defeat a fork or knife.
    I grew up in South Asia, As late as the early seventies, babies were generally delivered at home by a midwife. (I was born that way as well) – As soon as the baby was born, the cord severed, he/she was placed stomach down on the Mothers abdomen for a good ten minutes. only after this ‘ritual’ was the mother allowed to pick up the baby and attempt to feed.
    Today, after reading your post, this is beginning to make sense.

    Resurgent wrote on May 19th, 2010
  21. DAMN MARK!

    (and thats a good “damn”).

    Ryan Denner wrote on May 19th, 2010
  22. I work for a large company with mandatory learning & development courses. I signed up for a life-work balance course which turned out to be really hokey & not what I expected. I thought we’d learn about flex place & time policies but instead they told us to do yoga & make a spot at home to post personal affirmations. We ended the class by having to hug who was for most of us a stranger – whoever was sitting next to us. I walked away thinking the class had been a giant waste of time. That night I was filled with feelings of openness, compassion, patience & loving towards my family that I realized I just don’t usually experience at night, exhausted after a full days work. I think it was just from hugging one of my co-workers that I didn’t even know. It was kind of a revelation to me but admittedly I have not recreated or incorporated this into my daily life. Thanks for reminding us of the importance!

    ci wrote on May 19th, 2010
  23. This is by far the best post I’ve read on here, Mark. GREATNESS. I’ve been through one marriage, another serious long term un-married relationship and in each one, I was unsatisfied emotionally even though the friendship, money, and “things” were all there and satisfactory. I’m now married for the second time, and although I certainly and obviously didn’t marry the guy for money or stuff, after three years of marriage, we still touch, we still have that spark (the electricity that Zhuwawa says disappears). We still get butterflies in our stomachs just THINKING about when we touch each other. No, it doesn’t disappear if you’re with the right person, and it doesn’t change if you’re truly in love. Zhuwawa…maybe you should keep looking till you find the person you really love and who really loves you, then you won’t feel the need to deprive them of physical contact just so it’s more special each time you bless them with your touch.

    Physical touch is imperative to a happy and fulfilled life, in my opinion. And I agree with Eva – that need is fulfilled by a committed and loyal companion animal too. So many people who lose their partner are completely satisfied only living with their animals for the remainder of their lives! I know I would be perfectly happy just living with my three dogs and two cats if anything ever happens to my hubby!

    Thanks, Mark. Again, outstanding post.

    April wrote on May 19th, 2010
    • I agree. Mark, this is, I believe, the best piece you’ve ever written. It’s beautiful.

      Katherine wrote on May 20th, 2010
  24. Absolutely lovely, Mark. Thank you so much for the reminder. I work away from home for weeks at a time, and I really miss the casual touch – a hug, kiss, pat on the back, or just resting hands on knees. This helps me to appreciate those “little” things all the more! And I try my best to get a massage or two when I’m away, just to get some of that important basic loving touch.

    One thing I’ll say, as an energy healer, is that terming it as energy doesn’t have to be woo-woo; energy is as practical as matter. In fact, it’s the stuff that all matter is made up of – what could be more basic than that? :)

    Maggie wrote on May 19th, 2010
  25. What a great article! this is the first time i read something on this blog and this was an incredible and well written article.

    Giber wrote on May 19th, 2010
  26. I absolutely love dogs, i pet mine daily!! I’ve heard that patients in hospitals that pet dogs for a while feel better while they are petting and holding the dog. Brings their blood pressure down and they feel more calm. Doesn’t this say alot in itself??? YES, It does!!! Dogs are good for emotions, your mind, and your soul, and your health…. I’d say it’s good for the dog too to be petted!!

    Donna wrote on May 19th, 2010
  27. As a massage therapist and practitioner of reiki, I have empirically soon this in action, as well as having studied many of the ‘theories’ behind touch…

    Touch is connection, on the most primal level.

    Few things are this important to realize/

    Aaron Fraser wrote on May 19th, 2010
  28. My husband was deployed to Qatar for six months- four months after we got married. I am not a “touchy-feely” person unless you’re one of my bestest friends. We didn’t have kids, no pets, and I have never felt so alone.

    The lack of contact- not just sex, but just regular, affectionate contact and interaction with someone, was by far the hardest part of it to deal with.

    In retrospect, I probably should have found a decent massage therapist to offset things somewhat! At the time, I just kept accusing myself of “overthinking it.”

    Jenna wrote on May 19th, 2010
  29. I never made the connection before about animals needing to be touched, but it makes sense! That’s why I am a part of your primal movement, it just makes more sense than what we have been doing!

    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting the same result!”

    Kelly wrote on May 19th, 2010
  30. As a clinical massage therapist, I relate, align and couldn’t agree more with this article. Well done, Mark!

    Allen wrote on May 19th, 2010
  31. This was great! Thank you so much for posting this! So true…

    Beth Rasmussen wrote on May 19th, 2010
  32. As a teacher, dog owner, health pursuer and relational person, I AGREE COMPLETELY and have a class of 1st graders, pleasant husband and a happy puppy to prove it. Great post!!

    Ashley wrote on May 19th, 2010
  33. I completely agree with and endorse this post! I am a “touchy-feely” guy, and proud of it. I love hugs, and will hug my friends, male or female, whenever I see them (unless they don’t like hugs, then I leave them alone). I also am in physical contact with my girlfriend (together 5 years now) a lot of the time when we’re together, just sitting on the couch with legs entangled, hugging, cuddling, etc., and I love to pick up my cats and just hold them against my chest whenever I come home–they like it too. My dog (a 50-lb mutt) will crawl into my lap and nuzzle/lick me whenever he has the chance. Touch is wonderful :)

    Uncephalized wrote on May 19th, 2010
  34. Great post Mark! The baby bit reminds me of how imperative sleeping with my babies seemed when they were tiny. I knew on some Grok level that they needed those hours of contact to feel safe and whole in the world. Even now they crawl into bed with us at night when they need it and I feel like it feeds all of our souls. I’m so enjoying your blog, your book and your work. Thanks for making a profound difference in the world.

    Sally wrote on May 19th, 2010
  35. Great post – I witnessed the power of touch first-hand when my daughter was born 11 weeks premature – one of the most recommended therapies at the highest-care level hospitals is “kangaroo care.” This involves mother/father of the preemie holding their child skin-to-skin against their chest. I can’t speak for all cases, but in ours, it meant that our daughter got to come home a full month earlier than expected, and though I can’t prove it empirically, I am certain it helped her avoid a gamut of typical preemie-specific illnesses that most other babies in her NICU nursery fell victim to. Although my wife didn’t get that first touch directly out of the womb (again, emergency birth and then whisked to the NICU for respiration support – quite different from our plans for a natural childbirth) our kangaroo time was the best therapy available.

    Mark, perhaps a future article on the benefits of a natural childbirth for mother and child?

    Casey wrote on May 19th, 2010
  36. I’m not much of a hugger, but Mark, if all the information I’m soaking in and applying here turns out to be true; and should our paths ever cross while your on the road and missing the family; I promise you a great big primal hug.

    Now if all this information doesn’t bring fitness and health; I will hunt you down and punch you in the nose for making me give up my beloved pizza and beer. Does that still count as touching? :)

    Grol wrote on May 19th, 2010
  37. When I work with students, I always end each session with a strong handshake and a “good work today.” Whether at GPA or working with an individual one-on-one, I’ve found that organic expression through touch carries tremendous weight: I feel that I am able to make a more meaningful, lasting impression as a mentor that way. In the book, Primal Leadership, there is an entire section on how touch synchs our physiologies–invoking the energy concept–and I’ve learned through my leadership studies repeatedly that the threads in this essay are critically to working on any team effectively by building cohesion, trust, and empathy.

    epistemocrat wrote on May 19th, 2010
  38. This post really made me think. My husband had brain surgery a couple months ago and since that time I have rarely touched him other than to help him clean up. He just doesn’t like touching right now. I tried to kiss him, but he turned away. I really miss just sitting on the couch snuggled up with him and watching the telly. Now it’s like we’re just roommates sharing the same space. . . very sad indeed.

    IBRobynb wrote on May 19th, 2010
  39. I was chatting with a massage therapist in a town that is known for an older “retired” population. I asked her if she had a been able to develop a strong clientele with these demographics and she said “Absolutely.” Apparently, most of her clients were older adults, many of them widows or widowers. She said she knew that in many cases, getting a massage from her was the only time they were touched all week. I really took a lesson from that, and I always try to touch an older person when I speak with them. I’ll just put a hand on their shoulder or arm, or if I know them well, give them a little hug. Have you ever noticed when you take an elderly person’s hand, they don’t let go? They’ll hold you’re hand for an entire conversation if you let them. I’ve never had negative backlash or a misinterpretation of my action from a friendly touch…. at least not from an elderly person. Who knows what my co-workers would think if I started hugging them….. I guess a certain degree of judgement is required!

    Jenni Whitley wrote on May 19th, 2010
  40. This was very interesting to me. I am married to a Chinese national where a public show of affection is strongly discouraged toward the opposite sex. No hugging, kissing, etc.. What you see are many young men with arms around shoulders; ladies arm-in-arm and teen-agers the same. This union gave me a Chinese step-daughter. Very awkward for her as here this may indicate “gay”. My wife, too, refrains from touching her friends here although the same ethnicity. My wife has never hugged her father. As a result, I seldom hug my daughter. In my previous marriage and all my previous life there was much hugging. My first children and I may hug several times when saying good-bye even though we may see each other often. After 4 years of marriage my wife is now very affectionate with me even in public. Interestingly, she has an uncle more than 100 years old. He and his wife never touch. They don’t even like each other. My step-daughter now hugs all her friends and gets great grades in school.

    Jim

    Jim wrote on May 19th, 2010

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