Power of touch proven essential to healthy lives
- Column by T.J. KIMBLE Sep 15, 2019 Updated Sep 16, 2019
Feelings, nothing more than feelings. But feelings come and feelings go, so many of us attempt to refrain from crying and like the song says try to forget about the feelings of love that have touched our lives.
Sometimes the circumstances allowed to touch our lives are painful beyond the ability of words to describe. Their pain is so powerful and agonizing we withdraw from our feelings and begin to create an inner world or interior existence that’s void of external feelings and often minimizes the value of human touch.
Life has its own way of happening and sometimes its happenings are not very human. If we are fortunate, when life deals us a sucker punch that same life will send us someone whose life touch will help humanize our hurts and heal our wounds.
We think we can make it without it. The truth is we are not as strong as we think we are when it comes to repressing our true feelings and attempting to go without being touched. In fact, archaic documents have revealed a cruel and barbaric 13th-century study by the German emperor Frederick II in which newborns in an orphanage were selected to be fed by nurses, but not to be talked to or touched. Every last one of those babies died.
To be touched or not to be touched, is the same as asking to die or not to die? As ironic as it may sound just as it’s usually the bitter touch of human hands that inflict so much harm, so it’s usually the compassionate touch of human hands that administer great healing and save lives.
In the 1940s, Dr. Fritz Talbot conducted scientific research in direct reference to the effects of touch on babies development. The study was conclusive and found direct connections between human touch and an infant’s appropriate ability to grow and develop respectively. There are of course a plethora of additional studies that prove the common connection between meaningful human touch, compassionate caring and its minimization of the infant mortality rates.
It’s hard wired into our DNA. It seems we are designed for caring connections and loving human touch that compassionately connect us to a sense of community capable of keeping us alive in this crazy chaotic cosmos we call home. Nothing gives another person permission to be human and to be accepted with all their feelings and insecurities more than loving human to human contact.
Sometimes a person may not need you to be strong and tell them how everything is going to be OK, especially when you know everything is not OK.
What if a more honest and human response is to take someone’s hand and gently assure them it’s perfectly normal to feel the way they feel and you are here with them fully present to experience the uncertainty of all their humanity together.
Truth be known it’s not just infants that need human touch. There’s a hurting humanity all around us dying from the lack of compassion contacts and authentic human touch. Deep down we all long for connection and nothing connects us as meaningfully as appropriate human to human contact.
I’m not a touchy feely person myself, but I have come to realize that a life without caring compassionate connections with others is like living life with an incurable kind of leprosy. No one else will ever want to touch you for fear they may contract the disease.
I have become convinced that over time, although the leprosy will cause you much harm, the condition you have is not what will kill you, but the lack of human contact that is created by the condition.
There is no antidote to the inhumane heartbreaks that happen like simple human-to-human contact that provide permission for the broken heart to heal.
Dr. T.J. Kimble of Radcliff is a clincal pastoral counselor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.