Confusion and conflict over non-sexual touch

The Daily Mail ran an article about a New York woman who offers a cuddle service to anyone, man or woman, who’s feeling touch-deprived. And she’s being branded as a prostitute by some who don’t understand the difference between touch and sex.

Read the article here.

Jackie Samuel, founder of The Snuggery, has a degree in Brain and Cognitive Science from the University of Rochester, and is doing a Masters degree in social work; she is very clear that her service has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with healing: “My philosophy embraces the idea that we are all aspects of the same self—to be a healer is to be healed. When we cultivate or nurture something outside ourselves, we’re nurturing what’s inside as well. Touch can breach the perceived separation and provide us with a healing connection.”

Two comments: the first is that it’s tragic that such a service should be needed, when kindly, simple touch should be part of everyday life; and that people’s values should be so distorted that they mistake compassionate touch for sex. She apparently has had plenty of mail from outraged citizens accusing her of prostitution and ‘selling love’. What nonsense. She doesn’t “love” her clients, except in the purely spiritual sense of general compassion. And it’s hardly an outrageous fee she charges: $50 for a session is a fraction of what you’d pay for PR advice, let alone dentistry or medicine. I’d guess that most New York therapists charge considerably more for considerably less benefit.

And she’s doing something about the drastic touch deficit we’re facing now, and which our children are facing in far worse proportions as the taboo on touch increases.

The first time I set foot in New York I’ll be booking a session and will report back to you. If any readers in and around Rochester NY fancy giving her cuddling service a try, please send me a report. I love the idea and wish her well.

article-2227708-15D77C8C000005DC-584_634x397

Advertisements

A big hug, a light touch

The best medicine

Hugs are supposed to be great. The best hugs are great. But are we too scared to give each other proper, heartfelt hugs?

How do you like yours?

I like huggers who hug gently but completely. A hug of kindness, from top to toe, long enough for the kindness to sink in. A gift of a hug, that gives energy and kindness and doesn’t take. A hug that doesn’t hurt or strangle. A hug that leaves me tingling with life. A hug I want to repeat…

A hug should be two-way, that gives and receives at the same time.

But a return hug should be received, not taken. Do you get the difference? Receiving the love or kindness from your hugger is allowing them to give; taking  from your hugger is a bit like a vampire sucking the life out of a victim.

‘Give me a hug’ is the cry of a needy person. “Let me give you a hug” is the offer of a generous soul.

Heartfelt hugs are life-affirming, kind and loving

The best hugs feel safe and warm, gentle but firm, kind, giving, open, no-strings, head to toe, wholehearted and heart-felt. The best hugs are  life-affirming, reviving, reassuring, generous, sharing, unconditional kindness.

Who’s your favourite hugger?

Who can you hug right now?

All the lonely children

Loneliness can blight the life of a child

Much of the focus on loneliness is aimed at the elderly. Not before time, but they’re not the only group of people who feel lonely much of the time. Too many people begin their lonely lives when they are still children.

Lots of people hide their emotions, disguise how they feel and pretend that everything’s just fine. Truth is that we never know what’s really going on behind the disguise, let alone behind other people’s front doors. Loneliness can lurk behind the smartest doors and the busiest schedules.

Look again at the children around you. They may not say they feel lonely. You may not guess from their behaviour. But more children than you’d think feel lonely most of the time, and it has nothing to do with being alone. Loneliness feels lonelier if you’re around other people.

Chronic feelings of loneliness and isolation are high within these groups, for example:

Bullied children and their bullies; children who look after a sick parent; children of alcoholics; children with disabilities; children who have been scarred or disfigured; children with a parent in prison; children whose parents are focused on an ill or injured sibling; children who are expats or immigrants; children in a bereaved family…

Know kids who behave badly? Some of them maybe yearning for attention and don’t know any other way to get it; ‘attention-seeking” may be another way of saying “lonely”.

Christmas is coming – how will you make sure the kids you know aren’t feeling excluded, invisible or unloved this year?

 

Laugh on the other side of your face

English: Watching a comedic television show he...

Watching a comedic television show helps provoke laughter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Laughter’s good for you. We know this. It causes all sorts of healthy jiggling about of organs and ions and lively goings on inside you. It puts you in touch with yourself… in fact it does much the same as a vigorous massage. It connects you with yourself, and with the wider world.

You can’t be afraid when you’re laughing, you can’t be angry, you can’t move much, you can’t even talk properly. You can’t feel lonely if you’re laughing. It’s a Very Good Thing. You feel full of life

I mean proper laughter, not nervous laughter or tormentor’s laughter, which come from somewhere different in your psyche. I’m talking about the helpless, spontaneous, happy laughter that surprises and captures us.

Do you know… laughter is universal in humans, and in many mammals (probably all mammals, if we knew how they all laughed). We know how dogs laugh, and how rats laugh, and how chimps laugh.  It’s a social glue, it’s reassuring, and appeasing, and bonding, and is about more than responding to something funny. Laughter is infectious – can you hear someone laughing helplessly without joining in?

Laughter by tickling

Laughter by tickling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We laugh 30 times more often in company than when we’re alone. That’s why so many TV and radio comedy shows use a laughter track, to encourage us all to laugh together. We might find something funny if we’re on our own, and maybe it makes us smile, but it’s relatively rare to laugh out loud.

When was the last time you laughed until your ribs hurt? It’s SO good for us to laugh like that, that if someone hasn’t produced a laughter app, they should do. You should. We should. Anyone know about producing apps?

So if you haven’t laughed for a while, catch the bug from YouTube or Vimeo; go to a free BBC comedy recording; go to a comedy club, or best of all, go to a laughter club or workshop. Lie about with a bunch of people and laugh yourself to a jelly for no reason whatsoever. You feel fantastic afterwards!

Intimacy – we all want it, but can you define it?

“Intimacy is the opposite of loneliness, I get that. But that takes me only halfway to enlightenment. The trouble is, I can’t put my finger on what intimacy is. It’s one of those words that I understand on a cellular level, but struggle to define.”

Close and loving, mother and son, intimate

Mother and child have the most intimate relationship of all – for the first nine months of life, at the least

Sophia Dembling writes in online mag Psych Central about intimacy, trying to find the intangible something in its definition.

Merriam-Webster online defines intimacy as the state of being intimate, and defines the intimate as:

1 a : intrinsic, essential

b : belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature

2 : marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity <intimate knowledge of the law>

3 a : marked by a warm friendship developing through long association <intimate friends>

b : suggesting informal warmth or privacy <intimate clubs>

4 : of a very personal or private nature <intimate secrets>

Sophia concludes with this paragraph:

“Intimacy requires more but I’m not sure what. I’m not even sure exactly what it is, except that I know it when I feel it.

Her feeling is spot on. She has touched on it several times in her article, which Merriam-Webster fails to do.

Go to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, and you find the clue. Intimacy’s derivation is the latin phrase tunica intima, the under-tunic, the garment worn next to the skin. The OED goes on to define intimacy and intimate using words like deep, close, connection.

The intangible extra that you’re missing, Sophia, is actually the tangible element. Touch, contact, connection. If you only put your physical finger on it, you’ll have put your metaphorical finger on it.

The fundamental factor in intimacy is being next to the skin – inside the social barrier we all keep around us for all but our intimate friends and family.

Everyone needs their own space, and everyone unconsciously sets their own rules for distance. Think of meeting someone for the first time – you probably stand at handshaking distance. Once you know them better, begin to trust them, maybe find them attractive, you may be within arm’s length, but only when you really trust them, like them and are attracted to them (not just sexually), do you let them get close – perhaps within hugging distance. That’s intimacy.

Intimacy is feeling comfortable body-to-body, and even skin to skin. It’s not just a sexual thing. It’s a parent holding their baby in their arms; girlfriends sitting next to each other, touching at shoulder, hip and knee. It’s lovers, arms entwined and holding hands; it’s child cuddled by grandparent… It’s an unconscious state of trust and affection – you don’t think about it, you’re just there, in touch and connected.

So, Sophia, I hope this makes sense to you and fills the gap in your definition. Stay in touch.

 

Touched

Such a simple remedy for loneliness

Emma, young woman who trained in massage with me, went to an old people’s home to do some simple massage with the residents. She told us that she was massaging an elderly woman’s hands and suddenly the old lady’s eyes filled with tears. Emma asked her what was wrong, and the reply was: “This is the first time I’ve been touched since my husband died, 20 years ago.”

She discounted the touch of her professional carers because the touch was impersonal and a matter of logistics. Emma’s simple hand massage was intensely personal, with a focused, kind intention behind the touch. The old lady instinctively knew the difference even if she couldn’t explain it.

Two decades without simple, kindly touch. Think about it.

How easy to remedy.