Without a sense of touch, it is impossible to make our way in the world – we wouldn’t feel our feet walking on the earth; we wouldn’t sense when something hit, stung or cut us; we wouldn’t feel the sun warming us.
The multitude of tiny nerve endings in the skin give us a constant run-down about everything we connect with physically: slimy, sticky, furry, alive, dead, putrid.
Positive touch is essential for healthy development. Despite the presence of all other life requirements, without positive touch infants do not thrive. Doctors throughout the first half of the twentieth century were puzzled by a phenomenon called ‘failure to thrive syndrome’. In hospitals and orphanages the majority of infants did not develop normally, despite being given proper medical care, good food, and a clean environment. Lack of affectionate touch was the main cause and it has also been has been found to cause depression, violence, memory deficits, and illness.
Today we are so bombarded with stories of abuse that our world has developed a fear of touch and direct contact between human beings. But we are a tactile species, and must be careful not to create a generation of isolated individuals who don’t know how to reach out to each other.