Scallywag

There is a place that you are to fill that no one else can fill - something you are to do that no one else can do.

~ Plato (428/427 BC ~

Less Talk More Touch

January 22nd, 2014 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 43 secs

Everybody needs a hug.

Everybody needs a hug.

Contact is cultural. In some parts of the world, many words are offered to express simple ideas. Whilst in others, using a few quiet words means a lot. But there is one type of communication that speaks more powerfully than words and that’s touch.

Americans, Canadians, Brits, and other English speakers have a cultural uneasiness about physical contact. Too often, it is regarded as suggesting something sexual. Then, in a hop, step, jump, thinking leaps to power, control, and sadly, abuse.

Tragically, it’s true. Like words, touch is used by some as a means to exploit others (and I understand even talking about this will trigger deep personal pain). Yet, it is also a silent tragedy to dismiss the healing power of physical contact between people overall, simply because it is too hard to “regulate”.

Pats on someone’s shoulder or a reassuring hug are the casualties of a culture paranoid that contact could mean other things. I find that truly sad and while I can’t change common perceptions, I’d like to raise the conversation.

That predatory types have used touch to abuse power and position gets wide press. That people have silently grown lonelier, insecure, and more isolated for lack of human contact doesn’t even get a mention.

While we all know the stories of babies in orphanages failing to thrive and ultimately dying for lack of nurturing touch, the community is mute about the bonding effect of touch for the rest of us. Nobody is highlighting this vital human need. Yet everybody shakes his or her head over the impact of estrangement (as if loneliness popped up suddenly as some mysterious force).

Being surrounded by Thai society these past few weeks, one of the things that stands out is how comfortable they are with touch. They cuddle, pat, and rub shoulders in a relaxed, matter of fact way that’s not at all self-conscious and quite wonderful to see.

Meanwhile, in nations like Australia, America, and others, the paranoia factor is lowering our quality of life. As we fear being misunderstood, we keep feeding a self-consciousness that would mystify and shock people in other cultures.

Yes, there will always be predatory people who use any means to use and abuse. But to distrust touch so much that we wholly overdramatize physical contact is hurting us to core of our being, and that’s something we also need to talk about.

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