The Magic Of Touching

January 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog

Many years ago when I moved to New York from Brazil the thing I missed the most was human touch.  In Brazil, when you meet someone you give them one kiss on each cheek. You hug and hold hands of family members and friends.  And when Brazilians talk to each other there is a lot of hand on hand and hand on shoulder action. So as a newly arrived Brazilian in the US, I had to resort to going to get manicures just to have my hands held.

As I think about it when we were babies; touching and holding is how we communicated and experienced the world.  As we started to walk – an adult holding our hand – gave us the courage and the safety to take those first steps.

When we were kids we touched, pushed and hugged our friends.  When we started dating holding hands became a whole new experience.

I wonder when in this country we become hesitant to touch each other.

I did a little digging and what I came up with was that the reasons people avoid hand holding are: 1 – fear of commitment 2 – fear of what others will think 3 – fear of intimacy.

I understand these reasons but I am sorry for what we give up in return; a feeling of security, connection and belonging.If you don’t believe me below is an excerpt of a New York Times article supporting my point:

“Based on what we’ve seen, when we get more physical intimacy we get better relationships, whether a mother and an infant or a couple,” said Tiffany Field, the director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Even monkeys understand the importance of a hand squeeze every now and then. In “Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals,” Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University, wrote that some monkeys hold hands in reconciliation after a fight.

James Coan, an assistant professor of psychology and the neuroscience graduate program at the University of Virginia, has studied the impact of human touch, particularly how it affects the neural response to threatening situations, and said the results of a recent study were more dramatic than he expected.

“We found that holding the hand of really anyone, it made your brain work a little less hard in coping,” Dr. Coan said, adding that any sort of hand-holding relaxes the body.

I do love this country but I’m reverting back to my Brazilian habits when it comes to hugging, kissing and holding hands. If anybody says anything I can always say I’m from Brazil.  And if you decide to join in you can always blame me, your Brazilian friend.

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