What emotions do you recall from the last touch you felt from or gave to another?
Recently I was pondering the relationship between touch and emotion following a meditation. During it I had been prompted to breathe out into my heart space and as I did so I felt myself swaying towards an imagined touch stroking me. I was left with a strong sense of being loved and reassured.
The language we use links touch and emotion through the word feeling. When we touch something we feel, and when we have an emotion, we feel something. Its right there in the middle of them both. Touch and emotion both elicit a physical and mental response to a stimuli; body and mind interconnected.
The last time I touched someone was when I held one of my daughters’ hand today.
How did I feel? There have been so many different emotions that I have felt as I have held their hands over the years I have been their mother. Awe at their presence, love for their being, frustration at their dawdling, anger at disobedience, fear at the possibilities for danger, fierce protection at the threat from others.
How did she feel? I know that they can tell what I am feeling as I hold their hand, so much transmits through that contact between my skin and theirs. The grip, the strength, the tension, the temperature.
For the good times I know that holding their hand makes them feel safe and loved. Let’s acknowledge but not dwell on the bad times. In parenting I can forget the impact of touch or its absence, but it is part of my story and theirs.
My depression was characterised by a difficulty in feeling and expressing emotions though, a long held issue for me. Being touched too, can feel awkward to me; even with family members. Are these inextricably linked?
Counter intuitively, I crave touch. In the way that I often want to talk about how I feel but there is a barrier to the words coming out. And I am drawn to touch my family; to show my love, to soothe a pain either physical or mental. Perhaps in them but perhaps in me too.
My story, their stories are written through touch.
Touch is more powerful than words. How often our words do not match our thoughts and feelings betrays this. It is so much harder to conceal feelings in action. (We do not even have to be touching another person to convey an emotion; I am sure I am not the only person to have banged about in anger and frustration.)
All this makes me think hard about how aware I am of the messages carried in touching another person. Clearly not enough; such a valuable opportunity for showing positive emotions and tempering negative ones. And it is something I want to get better at. That, as always, is the first step towards a better way of being. It’s part of my story now.