Language is sometimes not sufficient to convey meaning. Let’s look at “love”. You can love your wife, your children, your job, your cup of coffee in the morning, your new hunting rifle, God, or your country.
Clearly loving God is a very different concept from loving your job. Loving your wife is a totally different emotion from loving your new hunting rifle. We use the same word “love”, but its meaning changes depending on the context. The word by itself does not have meaning.
Now let’s look at “touch”. Your laptop has a touchpad. That’s a very mechanical, non-emotional concept. You can touch someone’s body. That could be anything from friendly to sensual to sexual to painful to lethal depending on the kind of touch.
You can be touched by a massage professional in a clinical way. Truly skilled and gifted therapists can touch you in a way that feels heavenly. Sometimes we are ‘touched’ by a story we read or a movie we watch.
One word, many meanings. Professional touch, casual touch, sensual touch, emotional touch, mechanical touch, sexual touch, inappropriate touch…. Without knowing the context, “touch” does not mean anything. Our intentions give “touch” its meaning. When we touch objects, our intentions are clear. But when we touch people, it is often not so easy and clear.
When you touch a cat or a dog, they just roll over and enjoy it. They don’t care if you are male or female. They just love it. No mind games here. The same goes for babies and young children. They love being touched and cuddled. They also naturally touch each other without any reservation.
There was a study done with new born babies. One test group was touched and held and cuddled, and the other group was not touched at all. The study had to be aborted because the vital symptoms of the group of babies who were not touched started to deteriorate and the researchers were afraid that they would actually die.
So there is no question that babies and children love to be touched and need to be touched. But at some point during their life, suddenly touching is not okay anymore, it becomes embarrassing and inappropriate. When does this happen and why? Clearly the children learn it from the adults, it is part of their ‘education’.
Now let’s enter the world of adults where we have to deal with intentions, fears, cultural and religious issues, judgments and interpretations. If a man hugs another man, it could be a friendly back-slapping affair. But it can also make someone feel uncomfortable if he associates hugs between men with homosexuality.
If a man hugs a woman, it could be an enjoyable connection or it could be seen as an unwanted come-on. So when we hug people, we are entering the world of the mind. Different cultures have their respective touching rules. Arab men kiss each other on the cheeks, whereas for American men this is not acceptable at all. In one country hugging is normal, in another it is totally inappropriate.
So what is the conclusion of all those ‘touch complications”? Most people love to be touched but are prevented from experiencing it due to cultural taboos, mind games, ill-intentioned people, shyness, or in some countries by the law. This is where massage therapy is the one recourse where touching becomes acceptable and enjoyable and where none of the above mentioned limitations apply.