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The Scary Thing That Happens To Kids Who Aren't Physically Touched

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The Importance of Touch
Love, Self

The need for touch is primal for humans.

I watched the panic in my friend’s eyes when her newborn child first made contact with this world: "Quick! Put the baby on your chest. Make sure she gets skin contact." 

Sure enough, her husband was already cradling the babe on his chest at peace with the miracle of holding life in his arms. In my friend’s urgent voice, I felt the fear of seeing so many people who had suffered from the lack of human touch and so many children deprived of what is normal human affection.

My friend is a child psychologist and has worked with disturbed kids (and adults) for many years. Some of the disturbed children came from families who lacked the basics of bonding that come from human loving touch.

If a child grows up without touch, adult stimulation, and interaction, they don't know how to appropriately connect with others, they lack empathy, the ability to imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s skin, the ability to process feelings.

These traits exist in a lot of us — kids or adults — the inability to understand others is one example. It's very simple to blame someone. It takes more cognitive processes and ability to listen to your own feelings in order to process understanding of others’ actions without blaming them for their actions.

In my friend’s experience the importance of the child having contact with the skin was vital to give the newborn a safe new world order. So the child moves from fluid suspension to the tenderness of skin and nurturing touch.

In the first hours of transition from uterus to "earth", the child becomes reconditioned to a whole new language for their sensory nervous system. We spend the rest of our lives adjusting to and seeking the nurturing touch that re-establishes our world after leaving the womb.


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Research has found direct correlation between nurturing touch on a child’s brain development.

Basically, if the child does not receive touch, the brain cannot develop neural pathways that allow the brain to process new information, learn how to love, how to form functional relationships with other humans and how to manage your environment.

Without the nurturing reassurance of the parent, the newborn will withdraw and shut down emotional pathways which then stops different parts of the brain communicating with each other and that prevents the emotional fluidity required to develop evolving exchange of emotion in relationships.

In my movement practice, I see women and men who have forgotten a childhood freedom in their bodies. I use dance and movement to teach women and men how to love their body and express themselves.

In private sessions, I encounter the beliefs created by the emotional body, where the body and mind have made certain beliefs about how the person should be, behave and feel.

These beliefs are influenced by their cultural experience and their parental patterns. The strongest pattern comes from the contrast between the lineage of family patterns of emotional bonding and expression in reaction to their general family pattern, or, what I call your "innate".

When it comes to the body, there are a lot of emotions around touch, how you receive touch or how you are allowed to receive touch. The programming in the body with receiving touch is synonymous with receiving and giving love.

There is a non-verbal dialogue in the body about the way we receive touch and the way we receive love in our body. Each body, every-body, has their unique dialogue around touch.


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As you discover the world in your body through touch, you will find your own story about how you are in relationships. If you have concerns about touch, you will most likely have concerns about your body or your relationships and you will have disconnected from your innate.

So how does an adult who has been neglected or has a bad story around touch start to rebuild their confidence in their body?

You distrust your body, your body’s natural ability to be loved and to be loving. You lose your natural intuition that allows your body to make positive beliefs about interacting with others and to be positive about giving nurturing to another.

You lose your body’s ability to know what feels good and what does not feel good. You are out of sync with the natural joy that is in your body.

The complex answer starts by finding your innate voice and joy in the body so your sense of your innate is able to navigate around the programming of other influences in your life.

Once you've connected to your innate, you have a stronger ability to determine what feels good and what feels bad for you on many levels, including your body, how you wish to be touched, how you wish to share with others, how close you would like to be with someone, how to express yourself verbally and non-verbally.

Continuing to strengthen your sense of your innate in your body is something that continues throughout life. Your innate will never seek to damage or harm your body and will always seek to find a stronger connection to others that allows them to experience joy and love.

The simple answer is to create healthy pathways in your emotional experience of the body that connect healthy touch with loving your body or giving love. Get a massage, hug someone or simply find ways to give gentle touch that show you care.

This article was originally published at dancewithangela.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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