The Healing Touch

touching-1It has been a rough weekend. And such a weekend makes me wonder if there is an end in sight and if that end is not a good one. Over the information line, stories came in about a country singer who took her own life on the heels of her boyfriend doing the same., about a high increase in suicide among the elderly in South Korea as families become more splintered, about sleep deprivation complicating depression in a society that is getting less and less sleep, and about depression being right up there with vision and hearing loss for the elderly. Complicating things even further for me was the fact that a good friend plunged this weekend even deeper into the depths of depression, claiming he was emotionally dead and just wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep.

One shining light that made me stop and think was a report about a decline in post partum depression if parents practiced skin to skin contact with their babies. Touch. I wonder if that is the key to everything. Have we become a touchless society? Is that why depression has climbed to epidemic proportions? We seldom shake hands for fear of spreading germs, we don’t hug one another lest we be thought of as attempting something sexual, we have strict rules about when, where and how a teacher can touch a child.

Touch is the most important, most abused and yet most neglected of our senses. We can survive without sight, without taste, without smell but studies show we cannot survive and live with any degree of comfort and mental health when we are not able to feel, to touch. Not one of us is without a need for contact with a warm being. Poet and composer Rod McKuen once said, “The need to touch someone can be so great at times that it is as close to madness that I ever hope to come.”

And granted, although we were born with strong touch needs, many of us have experienced birth trauma, injury or a physical punishment or unwanted sexual touch that makes us cringe when we are touched. But those incidents do not remove our need to be touched. Being touched is integral to our mental well being. We need to find how we can touch one another in healthy ways. When we do, we can respond like Walt Whitman in his “Song of Myself” when he said, “I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from.”

It has been a rough weekend, but I think I will find a friend I can touch or simply hold the hand of so that I don’t feel all alone, so I don’t despair, so that I know there is hope always and that hope is often in a simple touch.
-Bernadette

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