The Power of Touch
"It is the magic of a touch, the power of a hug... that make life joyful." This is a portion of my essay in high school. My teacher loved it. She even thought that a professional writer honed the article for me.
Her skepticism was a compliment at the time. Her disbelief was a subtle way of saying that I had some writing ability. You know what? I bragged about it for days.
What is the power of touch anyway?
Science tells us that a touch triggers the release of brain endorphins: an endogenous analgesic more powerful than heroin or morphine. But touch is more than just a scientific confluence of brain chemicals.
My late grandmother used to tell me that the only way to tame a wild cat was to rub the cat's forehead several times. One day, a relative from the mountain village gave my family a wild female cat. She was small but fierce. Nobody in the house dared to touch her.
Grandma's wisdom compelled me to try. I approached the cat. Initially, she would jump and would bend its body and tail in rage. Meanwhile, a loud, ferocious cry would come out from her vicious mouth. Each time I attempted to touch her, she would run away. Eventually I prevailed. She later gave in and allowed me to rub her forehead: initially, for a few seconds, then for a few minutes.
After a few days, she considerably softened that she would allow me to rub her head almost no end. Eventually she became my pet. We became very close that she would run to meet me when I come from school and would convey a lonely cry when I depart. Yes, like real close friends.
A touch can indeed tame a wild animal. But can it tame and soften a disturbed child? A study shows that children who have not been hugged enough have a tendency to be violent and aggressive compared to those who receive hug more often.
Perhaps, there is more to hug and touch than just release of endorphins.
A touch provides comfort in a freezing night. It makes us feel secure because it unites us with an affectionate, loving, and feeling human being. The warmth it brings is better than the warmth a fireplace can provide.
A touch shields us from the worries of today because of the confidence it brings. Like internet, it allows high-speed access to another soul.
When my wife hugs me at night, I can feel that all my aches and concerns of the day disappear instantly. I feel refreshed and transformed. I feel recharged, a dynamo ready to capture dreams and to take risks. When I come home after a full day's work and my kids hug me, I feel an immediate relief. I then celebrate joyfully.
A touch makes the body aversive to stress. Indeed, touch is the best remedy we need to own and claim forever and it's free.
Copyright 2005. Dr. Michael G. Rayel - author (First Aid to Mental Illness "Finalist, Reader's Preference Choice Award 2002) psychiatrist, and inventor of Oikos Game.
This page is updated on May 3, 2013.