WHAT WE NEED IS MORE HUGS AND KISSES
There are five senses: sound, sight, taste, smell and touch. Of all these wonderful senses, touch is arguably the most important one for nurturing. We feel through our skin and that feeling is transported through our whole being. The skin is the physical and emotional boundary that both separates and contains us physically and metaphorically from the rest of the world. We need to feel the touch of others to make and keep us happy and healthy. No one should be made to feel divorced from those around them.
Touch deprivation - sometimes called skin hunger - can unquestionably lead to loneliness and isolation. Humans are group animals and we do not fair well if we feel separated from other people. It is easier to feel motivated if we feel wanted by those around us. If we do not receive sufficient loving touch from others, we may start to fall apart both emotionally and physically. Touch deprivation may also cause unhealthy and unwarranted levels of depression and lack of self worth.
Touch in the form of hugs and kisses is being eroded as a social norm and discouraged by contemporary morals. People are increasingly hesitant to touch each other, even in a way that was once thought to be merely showing benign warmth and friendship. There is perceived fear of the legal repercussions that may follow if their kindness is mistaken for assault or sexual molestation. Touch deprivation has become a common feature both socially and between people that we work with. We are becoming increasingly discouraged from touching each other in ways that were not so long ago considered to be the norm.
Professionals such as doctors, teachers and social workers have become frightened about touching those in their care . Even simply hugging crying children is often avoided. We no longer feel easy giving people the simple care and attention that they desperately want and need.
By curtailing our freedom of touching, we are causing mental health issues. It seems that in our society, touch deprivation has become a real social problem. Paradoxically, the less touch that there is between people, the more society seems to see this as normal and encourages this state of affairs to perpetuate and increase.
Touch deprivation can induce a state of pathogenic intractable loneliness. Chronic loneliness in children can see them dropping out of school and other joint activities with their class mates. As we get older, it can lead to conditions such as depression, drug and alcohol abuse and anxiety, increasing the risk of suicide. Other associated problems such as eating disorders and chronic metabolic syndrome can result in obesity. "Skin hunger" may be a contributing factor in Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Also sleep patterns can become severely disrupted, so we do not reap the benefits of good revitalising rest and the cleansing of our extra cellular matrix becomes less efficient. It can disrupt our whole system, holistically the whole body can feel neglected and unwanted. No wonder that people find comfort from their furry pets!
Physical contact between individuals is an important factor in creating a happier society. As the poet WH Auden once pertinently said: “We must love each other or die”. Given this stark but simple choice, I think that I know what most of us will choose.