The cliché of March’s early roar has reared its head, leaving us with quite a bit of snow. Schools are closed, as are my offices, but I’m working anyway (I live within walking distance). Still, I console myself in the knowledge that it's great snuggling weather and that spring is just around the corner...
It’s Friday and that means it’s all about... S-E-X!
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-=[ Sensual Touch ]=-
Affectionate, sensual, and playful touching is a crucial part of body awareness and brain development. Everyone starts out in close, affectionate contact with their mothers and siblings. We are animals that nurse, that lick, and nuzzle one another as a way to reinforce intimate ties and that engage in controlled rough-and-tumble play as a way to hone our body maps, preparing us to deal with whatever life throws at us.
Frequent and early exposure to sensual touch is essential to normal, healthy brain development in humans. In fact, societies with anti-sex, anti-sensual attitudes are the most violent. The same was certainly true of our ancestors millions of years ago, when we were first beginning to develop our close-knit style of survival.
Sensual touch goes way back in our line and that’s why it remains part of our older sensory tract, no the newer one. Sensual touch flows into the brain through the more ancient spinal tract along with pain, itch, tickle, and temperature.
Infants that do not receive frequent sensual touch from their mothers grow up to be more anxious and neurotic than those that do, creating a reinforcing cycle. When emotionally deprived children grow up to be parents they tend to affectionately touch their children less than normal, passing down the emotional baggage down through the generations.
Sensual touch is especially critical for human development. It’s not merely that children deprived of physical affection often suffer from emotional problems later in life -0- though that is indeed extremely important. It goes even deeper, to the level of physical growth, health, and homeostasis. Our neurology evolved as a feedback loop, which is why touch is so important to our health and development. Consider that an infant deprived of physical touch will literally whither (and very likely get sick or even perish). I remember the sad stories of infants born with AIDS during the early history of that pandemic. Due to ignorance, many nurses refused to touch these infants, who would die early and horribly. One woman, horrified, opened a hospice for such infants and the main form of therapy was affectionate, gentle touching. Also consider, for example, the studies of what touch does for premature infants: Frequent, gentle massage causes them to gain weight up to 50 percent faster than if they receive minimal handling. It also makes their breathing and heartbeats healthier, and makes them more alert, less fussy, and better art sleeping. These benefits continue to follow them all through infancy and toddlerhood.
Though you may poke fun at the notion, affectionate touch is as important as nutrition. Ultimately, we are creatures of connection, and we seek touch and affection as we do nurturance, for that is what it is.