Touch: that’s why we need it

Human beings use the senses of sight and hearing much more than the sense of touch, but at the same time, they may have a real need for its touch. Touch gives us a sense of connection with the people around us and with our environment.

Technological advances have come to give even people who are physically distant the possibility to experience the touch of a loved one on the internet. This is possible through ‘haptic feedback’ connections. The receiver wears a device that mimics the sensations on the skin. When the sender of the message initiates a haptic conversation, the receiver can feel the touch from the sender, with the help of the device being worn.

Here are the reasons that explain our need for touch.

Touch is required to communicate

Human beings are social beings and touch is a natural part of how we communicate with each other. The use of touch communicates a mutual bond above our verbal communication.

Touch is needed to connect with other people

Our sense of physicality is what gives us emotions. That sense of tightness in your gut is translated into anxiety, the feeling of chills down your spine you usually call fear, etc … The sensations we experience inside and on the surface of our body help us connect with the people and the world we surround us.

Scientific studies show that a brief touch from another person is capable of arousing strong emotional experiences; from the comforting experience of being touched by a person, we love. In fact, the human touch brings a very personal capacity for interaction. It can potentially evoke a sense of closeness and establish a human connection, or it can lead to annoyance resulting in estrangement.

We need touch to get what we need

Touch is an effective tool for getting people to do what we want them to do. You are basically saying ‘pay special attention to me right now, such as when you touch someone’s arm to communicate.

Touch is required to give and receive positive energy

Our touch is powerful and can be thought of as a way to transmit and receive energy from one person to another. When your touch conveys affection and happiness, you are giving positive energy to the person who receives it. You can also feel the positive energy from another person touching us when they feel love and happiness for us.

We need touch to heal our wounds

Therapeutic Touch has been used for centuries with acupressure, massage, chiropractic, and so on. This type of touch (therapy) focuses on healing our body and at the same time, therapeutic touch can also be used to heal our mind.

Licensed psychologists can work with individuals to provide a variety of types of Therapeutic Touch. Therapists use touch to help people who have been physically abused, to communicate healing and calm energy to people during a suicide crisis, and more.

The brain needs the touch

It is not surprising that large parts of our brain are dedicated to maintaining social relationships. According to neurobiologists, threats to our social connections are processed in the human brain in the same way as physical pain.

This pain of separation is called “social pain” and, indeed, with a scanner, it has been observed that it activates the same neurological circuit as physical pain. This mechanism is what improves the chances of survival of children because it makes them stay close to their parents, but it is not only about parenting.

This neural connection between social and physical pain means that staying in touch with other people is a lifelong need, like the need for food or protection from the cold. Without the other members of the tribe, we are not able to survive.

As in other primates, this need for social connection is supplied, in large part, by physical contact. The consequences of not touching other people have been studied extensively, and they are not good.

Neglected babies

When parents do not touch their children affectionately enough often, deficiencies in the development of the vagus nerve, the most important nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is in charge of calming us down. When parents don’t hug, pet, or hold their babies, it can lead to children who will have more trouble managing their stress.

In one study, American teenagers were compared while eating at McDonald’s, respectively, and their interactions, specifically physical contact and aggression, were studied. Young people spent much more time leaning on each other, touching or hugging their friends, a very rare behavior in the young. In contrast, young people in the United States touched themselves more and had more aggressive physical and verbal behavior.

The positive physical touch is also essential for the adequate production of oxytocin, the hormone associated with love, and the bond between mothers and their children. Avoiding contact with other people is one of the common symptoms of autism. But studies indicate that this behavior can also be learned in the family. For example, people who had received the most hugs from their parents were more likely to be “those hugging people” when they got older.

Final words

These are bad times to cuddle with strangers. The COVID-19 pandemic is already changing the way humans relate to each other: at a distance, through a screen, without touching, and even with facial expressions hidden by a mask. Taking into account all the above, it is not surprising that political polarization, xenophobia, and distrust of the other have increased in such a way. But there is something we can do: as long as it is safe, we should touch ourselves. We need it more than ever.

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