Monday, January 21, 2013

All I Need Is Your Touch

Affectionate Touch
The German emperor Frederick II conducted a horrible experiment to find out what language children would speak if they were raised without hearing anyone talking.

He took several newborns away from their parents and gave them to nurses who were forbidden to touch or talk with them. These babies never learned a language because they all died before they could talk.

In the year 1248, the historian Salimbene wrote of these babies, "They could not live without petting."

A close observation of African culture betrays one thing, we are not very touch centered. Many of us only hug our parents occasionally, maybe after we haven't seen for a long time. And when it comes to other people, it is just totally foreign to us; even some couples who have been married for a while find themselves touching each other less and less. However, in recent times, a new age of parents have cropped up, mothers who are very affectionate, who consistently express their love for their children with hugs and kisses. But really we just don't have that touch culture.

You often observe a guy and a girl who are dating and who one might think should be limiting their physical touch in order to avoid falling into temptation, holding hands, hugging and sharing all sorts of affection. Then they get married and it seems reality sets in and the battle lines seem to be drawn and these people seem to hardly touch each other at all even though they love each other. Some say its because of the children, but surely, frequent hugs are not in anyway endangering their innocence. Perhaps stress and constant demands of parenting make women and men stiff, like the British who are famous for their stiff upper lip.

In intimate personal relationships it is essential for a good sex life and a healthy relationship. Touch is the best way to connect to your mate. Non sexual touch is essential in building trust and intimacy. Often I think men too often turn to sex instead of a warm embrace or a tender caress to connect to their wives.

For a good relationship, touch your partner everyday affectionately. Do it even when you are “not in the mood.”. A relationship does not always have to be about sexual intercourse to have sexual intimacy. Touch will help your partner feel more attractive, more cherished, and more importantly, emotionally connected to you.“Love touches” don’t take much time, but they do require a little thought, especially if this isn't your primary love language or you didn't grow up in a “touching” family. Sitting close to each other as you watch TV requires no additional time, but communicates your love loudly. Touching each other when you leave the house and when you return may involve only a brief kiss, but speaks volumes.

I think at our core humans crave physical touch. Certainly when it comes to our close relationships it is a key to a healthy relationship. Routinely make sure you touch each of your children every day. This could simply be a hug, some kind of warm embrace on rough rub on the head. It conveys warmth and affection and gives reassurance and security. Doctors and researchers have been uncovering this truth in recent years. Tactile sensation, from massage to a pat on the back to hugs, can help premature babies gain weight, accelerate recovery from illness, and calm us when we are afraid. Experts now say a pat on the back or a warm hug can lower your blood pressure. 

Did you ever notice how often gospel writers seem to go out of their way to tell us how Jesus touched people – physically touched them. In today’s gospel from Mark, for example:

A leper comes to Him, falls on his knees, and begs: "If you want to, you can cure me," Feeling sorry for the man, Jesus stretches out His hand and touches him. "Of course I want to," Jesus says, "Be cured," And the leprosy leaves him at once, and he’s cured.

To appreciate fully the impact of this story, we need to imagine what it was like to be a leper in first century Judea when leprosy, or whatever the skin disease might have been, was considered highly contagious. Lepers were so feared and reviled that they were forced to live in total isolation, away from the community. Treated as "outcasts" cursed by God, they had to ring a bell, or call out "Unclean, unclean," as they walked along, to warn others of their approach. No one would go near them because to touch a leper made you ritually unclean, not to mention at risk of infection. Imagine what it must have been like to be suffering from a loathsome disease that was slowly eating away at your body, certain to cause an agonizing death, and completely cut off from community support. What stark loneliness!

But in defiance of social and religious taboo, and at great risk to himself, Jesus, moved with compassion, touches the leper who approaches him. Think what it must have meant to that poor wretched man not only to be touched by another human being, but also to be healed by that touch -- physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Affection, non-sexual touching, is a tremendous resource of both physical and emotional well being and is essential to growth in love. It’s free, you need no special equipment or talent, age is irrelevant, and it’s always available. To love we must let people know we care. The best way is literally to reach out and touch, to demonstrate love, as often as possible. How better to teach our kids how to love than to show them?

Ijeoma Olujekun

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