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Massage Today
May, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 05

Touch

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

I just enjoyed a most wonderful Easter weekend. While the religious significance of the holiday certainly does not escape me, this holiday, like most others to me, highlights the opportunity for overworked and overstressed family to gather together.

Sitting in my living room were four generations of family. I have two new grandchildren - a 4½-month-old grandson and a 1½-month-old granddaughter. I think my grandchildren spent all but 15 minutes in someone's arms the entire day. Great grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles all clamored for the opportunity to hold, cuddle and love those children. The quantity and quality of touch they received on that holiday was delightful to behold - enough so that it caused me to dust off two books in my office library that hadn't seen the light of day in several years.

Please Touch, A Guided Tour of the Human Potential Movement1 by Jane Howard was published in 1970. It is roughly the story of a year of her life spent researching the problem-solving aims of the human potential movement as it applies to our wasting energies building elaborate facades to deceive ourselves and each other, and knowing what we really feel. Ms. Howard indicates that as a result of that wasted energy, we suffer, and so do our social institutions. Her journey finds that schools, churches, marriages, families, governments, police forces, and businesses all could be far more forthright, and consequently far more effective than they are. Certainly the human potential movement had as a major tenet the use of different means toward a common end: changing society by getting people into touch with themselves, and with each other. Massage in America today has strong roots in the human potential movement.

Touching, The Human Significance of the Skin2 by Ashley Montagu has long been the treatise of record on the importance of touch. Dr. Montagu, an anthropologist with a lifelong interest in bridging the gap between the social and biological sciences published Touching in 1971. Before his death, he watched many printing editions and production runs of the book. For those of you who haven't read the book (I think it should be required reading in every massage and bodywork school in the world!), it is an examination of the importance of tactile interaction - touching - on all aspects of human development. The book devotes special attention to the relation of the skin and touching to mental and physical health; the discovery of the immunological functions of the skin; the importance of touching; studies on touch deprivation; the relation between touching and imaging; and the uses of touching in psychotherapeutic situations. Find a copy of this book and add it to your library - you won't be sorry.

Reflecting on these books after observing the touch my grandchildren enjoyed got me feeling pretty lucky about the quality of my own touch experiences. My grown sons are always glad to give their Dad a big hug when we meet, as I was always pleased to hug my Dad before he died. Hugs with my Mother are all the more special now. At home with my wife, I wake up to snuggles and hugs even while the snooze alarm does its thing. I work in an office where we all greet or say goodbye to one another with hugs. I try to be on a massage table at least weekly to get more structured care, nurturing, body rearrangement, comfort and touch.

I guess I find this important because I can't, for the life of me, even begin to understand how anyone with healthy touch in their life could conduct themselves as those who make the news programming today. Is it humanly possible to finish giving or getting a massage and then go blow up yourself and as many people as possible in a public setting? Can suicide bombers be even close to having loving touch in their shortened lives? Dr. Montagu draws ties to touch deprivation and violence in children - isn't it likely that this manifests itself even more greatly in adults? I'm not a social scientist, but I'm not devoid of logic altogether.

As massage therapists and bodyworkers, we likely have an impact on the world that even we cannot fathom. We introduce many who have never had positive touch to the beneficial aspects of touch and acceptance. We probably help ourselves by touching as much as we help our patients and clients by having them receive touch. I cannot help but think that the positive touch my grandchildren receive will be a big factor in their development as healthy, happy, well-adjusted individuals. I cannot help but wish that the world had more positive touch as a factor in its development.

I look forward to going to work every morning - I'm so very pleased that I chose massage therapy as my profession. I'm pleased that you did too!

Thanks for listening!

References

  1. Jane Howard, 1970: Please Touch, A Guided Tour of the Human Potential Movement. McGraw-Hill.
  2. Ashley Montagu, 1971: Touching, The Significance of the Skin. Harper & Row.

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to the address listed below:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605


Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.

 

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