Monday, August 9, 2010

The magic touch

Since the 13th century, we have known that humans not only enjoy body contact, but it is necessary for their very survival. At that time, the German Emperor Fredrick II was noted for his intensive research into issues of natural science- not a common pastime for a medieval monarch! In order to expand his knowledge, he designed a number of experiments. One of these, which would be considered  cruel and debasing today, focused on the human need for body contact and involved a group of orphans who were separated from the other residents of an orphanage. Their only human contact was with the foster mothers and wet nurses who bathed or nursed them. The women were neither allowed to speak nor show affection to the little ones. The outcome of this method was horrific: according to the records of the time, none of the children survived.

  The fact is that humans cannot do without touch, just as we cannot survive without food or water. Hugs give feelings of security and safety, and kisses seal a friendship of express deep intimacy. Touches are considered ‘social glue’ – the vital element in creating relationships. These extent from the official handshake of the school principal, to a jovial pat on the back from a colleague at work. In many cultures, touching is a complex ritual, with its own rules and meanings. The Maori people of New Zealand, for example, rub their noses when greeting one another and the Ipo of New Guinea tickle one another under the chin. Psychologists agree that embarrasses and body contact fulfill a vital role in promoting health and well being; in effect, touch is a kind of ‘vitamins for body and soul.’ The human skin reacts with great sensitivity to touch.  This is because there are approximately 700 touch and pressure receptors on a single fingertip. Today, scientist can prove how skin contact, massage or stroking affects the body and mind.


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