Have you heard of touch deprivation? The term is fairly self-explanatory. It happens when we are deprived of human touch for a period of time. Generally, it is in the context of platonic touch. To varying degrees, human beings need touch. In some Western cultures, particularly here in the States, we can be very weird about touch. As in we are one of the more touch-averse cultures in the world. In many cultures, for example, holding hands is not seen as an inherently romantic gesture.
On top of that, we each have our own history with touch. And for many, touch has been abused and weaponized. For others, we have gotten used to living without it. This can make it complicated to have a healthy relationship with touch.
As we’re peeking our heads out of this pan-demi-lovato like the proverbial groundhog, many are recognizing their need for physical proximity while also reconciling that with the risks involved with touch. We are entering a new normal. In other words, it’s a prescient time to be examining our personal and cultural relationship with touch.
In the before times, I counted myself among those who do not need a lot of touch. That changed when I went ten weeks without a hug. It has been a weird adjustment, trying to work touch into my relationships. Mayhaps, for whatever reason, it’s been weird for you as well. That’s why I had a conversation on Instagram Live with my pal and yours, Kerrah Fabacher, on this very topic. It was a good one, and you can watch it here.
Kerrah is a counselor, boundaries coach, writer, and podcaster, as well as my real-life friend. She and I have had a few conversations on IG about boundaries in friendship. She shared as a mental health professional and a human person why we need touch, how to examine our relationship with touch, and how to talk to our friends about touch. Here’s one of my favorite things she said.
“Start with the safe people and practice speaking your need very clearly and simply. It doesn’t need to be a monologue, it can just be, ‘You know, I think I need a hug.’”
It’s a vulnerable thing. Another bit of advice from Kerrah is to be kind to ourselves. You might encounter someone who is not ok with being hugged or touched. You might find touch to be overstimulating, or even painful if you’re living with certain chronic illnesses. If you’re wondering how to figure out who is safe, check out this podcast episode Kerrah just put out.
How are you feeling about the amount of platonic touch in your life? If the answer is any variation of “not amazing,” how might you like to address that? Leave a comment and let me know!