Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Contact and connection

What is it about the touch of another that can bring satisfaction?
What is the difference between a skilled touch, and that of a friend or loved one?
Why does modern medicine ignore our need for touch?

We are a social species, and touch is an integral part of our basic needs. Babies know when they are being held, and when they are deprived of touch - actually grow up with brain damage. Touch is a universal language. We shake hands to greet, hug good friends, request back rubs (well some of us do ;-)), and pet animals to befriend them. Though the language of caring is conveyed through touch, I believe there is more to it. We become more connected to ourselves (and the other person) when physical contact happens. Touch brings a sense of relief and happiness, and also a sense of being known that cannot be captured by simple conversation. What would you rather have when you come home from a hard days work? An empathetic conversation or a shoulder and hand massage?

Though pills can do wondrous things for our physiology, I know of no pill that can bring the relief and connectedness found in a simple backrub. Why does modern medicine ignore this, and why is the insurance industry lax to cover any skilled touch? I'm not sure, but it has to do with our culture's desire to lead with our heads rather than our whole organic understanding.

Through my work as a nurse in several hospitals, I have seen that medicine is delivered primarily through pharmaceutical and surgical solutions. Cutting it off, open, or direct control of the bodies fluids and chemicals is the mainstay of Western medicine. You'll be lucky to get any other touch in the hospital besides a needle stick, IV line, bandage change, or repositioning in bed. Obviously our culture needs some help accepting the value, and fundamental NEED for this other part of health called skilled touch.

And why must touch be skilled? Well would you like to have a trained surgeon or layperson digging around for your inflamed appendix? Skill brings satisfying results. And if the primary goal is connection, integration, and relaxation you better call the best in the industry. Of course, once you are sold on an alternative route deciphering which alternative to take can be another ball of wax. I'll save that for another entry. Thanks for reading, now go touch somebody!

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