Sense Of Touch

A Hug a Day keeps the Doctor Away** #

Laura Barton – The Guardian

Humans crave physical contact and it does much more than just create a warm, fuzzy feeling.

“EVERYONE Needs Touch, especially the elderly” says Beata Aleksandrowicz, a massage therapist.

Bertrand Russell once wrote:

Not only our geometry and our physics, but our whole conception of what exists outside us is based upon the sense of touch.”

But our experience of touch is dwindling. Increasingly we live alone, have virtual friends, shy away from any kind of physical contact with strangers for fear it might be unhygienic or inappropriate or could become exploitive or violent.

The effects of not touching can prove detrimental to our wellbeing, both as individuals and as a society. Any sensory impairment can be debilitatiing - sensory deprivation leads to alienation, which can lead to a perverted anxiety disorder or anti-social behaviour.

With the birth of a premature grandchild, the paediatric nurse encouraged us to reach into the humidicrib to establish reassuring physical contact.

When you or are touched, you get the feeling of being connected with yourself and with others,”

“When I touch you, you feel my touch - so by my touch you feel that you exist and you can connect with me. It is a feeling of being important, of being taken care of.”

Research suggests an absence of touching and physical interaction during adolescence may result in violent behaviour in later life.

Touch deprivation appears to lead to a depletion in norepinephrine and serotonin, which, with dopamine, are neurotransmitters affecting mood.

When levels of norepinephrine and serotonin fall, levels of dopamine are left uninhibited, leading to the impulsive, often aggressive, behaviour associated with high levels of dopamine. (Research also suggests that levels of norepinephrine and serotonin may be increased through touch.)

Leonard Cohen in his Hallelujah sings,

I couldn’t feel so I learned to touch. ………

Even though we’re isolating ourselves from it, - humans crave physical touch. It is one of the reasons people keep pets, Aleksandrowicz believes. “Because they can touch them, they can exchange warmth with them.”

And what does Aleksandrowicz get from a career that involves touching people all day? “It’s amazing,” she says. “It is a communication on the most basic, fundamental level, where there are no words or judgement or ego. It’s just the purest possible interaction between two people.” The Guardian

Comment - evaluation

This is a significant article that has a lot of merit; however, the flip side of it is that there are many predators out there who touch people inappropriately for titillation. Unwelcome frottage, casual touching and groping can be an invasion of personal space and therefore a mild form of physical assault.

Frottage is the slight grazing or brushing of someone in crowded spaces. To some it can be tittilating. It is often intiated by females.

As in all spectrums, there are degrees of touching, from a slight brush to forced imposed groping to actual physical assault causing bodily harm.

We also need to discriminate between supportive, inclusive touching and exploitive, sexual self gratification.

Words to describe the sense of touch #

tactile, palpable, tangible, prehensile.


Smooth, soft, fluffy, spongy, and slippery, hot, cold, hard, rough, abrasive, prickly,


palpitation, tingle, creeps, goosebumps, itchiness, rash, pinch, graze, scrape, scratch, shave, brush, nip, rub, pat, caress, tickle, massage, stroke, nozzle, pat, frottage, fondle…


knock, Hit, clobber, squeeze, poke, jab, bruise, grope, assault, bludgeon.