Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Touch Me, Please

An article in yesterday's USA Today, states:

A new study from researchers in Utah finds that a warm touch — the non-sexual, supportive kind — tempers stress and blood pressure, adding to a growing body of research on how emotions affect health.
To which, all I could think of to say was, "Well, duh."

I have seen people holding everything inside let it go like a dam bursting because someone finally took their hand and looked into their eyes and said, "It's okay. I understand. I'm here for you." And it wouldn't have been the same without the touch. Touching--gently, firmly, calmly, reassuringly--says to a person, "I am willing to connect with you. I am not afraid of you. You needn't be afraid of me. It will be okay."

Of course, there can be too much touching, and there can be unwelcome touching, and I would never encourage anyone uncomfortable with touching to do so. There was more to Spock's Vulcan mind-meld than Roddenberry likely knew-- touch someone and they will know things about you, and you will know things about them. And for that reason, I'd never encourage anyone uncomfortable with human contact to go on a touching spree anytime soon. Anxiety is just as transmissible as calm through touch.

But calm is transmissible. Our souls can resonate with another like a guitar string next to a tuning fork. And to those whose natural pitch is calm, I would say, you are welcome to touch me anytime. The luckiest of us know someone like that and can't get enough of being near them. They touch us and the jangled dissonance of our stressed out psyches falls into sympathetic tune.

This is a case, I would say, of research merely quantifying what most of us already knew. Modernity and science "discovering" what many have known all along. Those many are called "touchy-feely" for a reason you know.

Or, as my favorite tuning fork remarked when I pointed out the study, "We're all really just mammals at heart."

So go ahead. Scratch my head and just see if I don't wag my tail.