Danielle's Writings

The Awe-Inspiring Power of Touch

Have you ever wanted more than anything for somebody to hold you as tight as they could and not let go?  Have you ever felt like that's the only thing that could help when you're at your lowest point?  Maybe your lowest point was when your first real love decided he or she was not in love with you anymore.  Perhaps your lowest point was when your best friend moved thousands of miles away, and you were no longer able to keep in contact with him or her.  I can tell you exactly when my lowest point was: When my chair broke.  It was this event that led me to have a completely new perspective on its power...

From the moment we enter the world, we have our sense of touch.  In fact, it is one of the first senses to develop when we are growing in the womb.  It has been proven in study after study how important touch is.  Take the nature versus nurture argument for example.  If children are left in orphanages and only fed, diapered, and clothed, but never held, stroked, or touched in any way, it will become detrimental to their health, and may even result in death.  The mortality rate in some orphanages is astronomically higher because the "caregivers" either don't take the time, or don't have the time to give the children the one on one nurturing touch they need.

Some say that as we get older, we no longer need the nurturing touch that we do when we're young.  That statement is completely false.  This too has been proven many times over.  We as adolescents and adults also need to be touched to make us feel that we're okay.  The only difference is that we as adolescents and adults don't, and can't, ask for it as easily as the infants.  When an infant cries, it is usually a parent's natural instinct to pick up, and console the child.  As we get older, approximately the age of 10 or 11, and we start to cry, a parent may come to investigate the situation, but it is less likely that they are going to take the time to give us a hug, or a pat on the arm and let us know that everything will be all right.  Why is this?  Most professionals are in agreement that it's because the parent, or parents are afraid of offending us.  The truth is though, our brains are wired to need touch.  Just because we get older, doesn't mean that wiring goes away.

There are many different types of touch.  It can be something as simple as giving a hug, or holding a hand, or as complicated as kissing, or intimacy.  The reality of it is that all of the examples listed above are a form of touch.  With that said, let's go back to the original point about the wiring.  All of us, unless we've been seriously deprived, need to get, and want to give, that touch.

I recently had an experience that made me stop and think about how powerful touch is and can be.  For the past twelve months, I had been spending at least a couple hours a day with my next-door neighbor, who I adore.  During the time that we would spend together, there was always some point that we would spend having that human contact.  Then in December, everything changed.  All six, yes I said six, of my legs broke.

You see, I am unable to walk, and therefore, I use a power wheelchair that has six wheels to get around.  This is a device that is made up entirely of electronics and batteries, including motors.  Due to the fact that this is my only source of mobility, if something goes wrong with it, I am completely stranded.  Unfortunately, one of the motors did go out, and I had to wait for a replacement.  Needless to say, I was without wheels for almost a month, and everyone had to come to me.  This would have been okay, if there wasn't also the issue of my neighbor being able to position himself correctly to get that touch.  Understand that he WAS able to come over, but that didn't always mean anything.  There were times, depending on how my wheelchair was positioned in my living room, that he could not get close enough for us to be able to reach each other, and I couldn't do anything to help the situation.  All I had was the ability to recline the chair.  By now you're probably wondering what kind of touch, and relationship this was.  Let's just say it was whatever we wanted it to be...making out, hugging, holding hands...we never really labeled it.  Given the fact that this was very difficult, it just didn't happen.  This meant that the only touch I was getting was when my staff would come in to "do my cares" such as showering me, dressing me, and so on.  There was never a pat on the arm, or a reassuring hug because "they're not supposed to." Now, I understand that they're not supposed to because that would be unprofessional, but my point here is for that entire three and a half weeks I felt like I had no human to human contact because I was completely immobile.  To be very honest with you, by the time that three and a half weeks was up, I was desperately craving it, and I don't know what I would've done if I would have had to go even a day longer without it.  Up until that point, I hadn't realized how much I actually depended on the touch we had.  Since that incident, I now make it a point to have, and to get that human to human contact as much as possible!  The reason for this is quite simple.  You never know when that could be taken away from you, and therefore, you can't take any moment for granted because you may not get another opportunity to seize that moment again.

Another thing that I've always found interesting about touch is how many stipulations our society has placed on it.  For example, if two friends of the same sex are seen in a public setting holding hands then by societal standards they are considered to be "gay".  Why?  Why can't we let this jaw dropping, awe-inspiring form of nonverbal communication take place without judging it?  If you're in the workplace, you have to be extremely careful about seeing that someone is down and giving them a friend to friend hug just because you know it would make them feel so much better.  Then again, that could instantly become a sexual-harassment fight if someone who is not involved with the situation takes it the wrong way.  Again, I ask, why?  If the parties involved with the current situation have no problem hugging each other, and asking each other for support, then why is it anybody else's business?  On the other hand, we have become quite dependent on lawsuits in America over the last ten years.

I really, truly, believe in my heart of hearts that the power of touch is grossly underestimated by a large number of people.  So now, I'm going to leave you with a challenge.  Next time you see an acquaintance or a best friend struggling, and no words can be said to make the situation better, try using the power of touch.  You'd be surprised how far it may go and maybe you and I can start the circle of education together.