Touch ~By Naomi Chuah, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist~
Touch. Is it just a brief experience, nerves/skin touching another body, brains registering the proximity of another? Or is it layers on layers of subtlety?
When is our first encounter with touch? Our first encounter with another?
Experienced firmly, touch can help the body feel itself in its environment. Squeezing the arms and legs of a person feeling “spacey” can help with a feeling of solidity and groundedness. Light touch informs the emotional part of our brains.
Early in development, skin and nervous system originate from the same type of cells. Our skin is one giant organ of feeling. And even earlier, before nervous system, is fascia, which reacts to its environment.
Fascia is that filmy stuff that houses absolutely everything in the body, enfolding and connecting it all, right down to our cells. Fascia can retract like elastic, and will pull back in defense of external situations, if needed. Inside of fascia is a plethora of nerve receptors. This means the brain constantly receives information from fascia in how we are holding ourselves in relation to our environment. Fascia is constantly informing and providing context for our nervous system.
Fascia may also be electrically conductive. When we are touched, the fascial pressure triggers our cells to release chemical messages. These messengers travel to other cells and some may reach the whole body. Remember, some chemical messaging is related to our felt sense emotions. So we have electrical impulses conducted between bodies, fascia reacting in shape and posture to touch, nerves taking up information, and cellular and chemical messaging being tripped off.
These reactions in our bodies are also happening in context to how we perceive the “other”. All of our senses are involved, including our life experiences that we store in our bodies and use to filter the present. The complexity is astounding. Try with a trusted friend or partner, touching out of different motive. From a scared feeling, from a grounded feeling. How does this feel, for both of you?
Attachment theory tells us that we are hardwired to need safe touch, even before food. At birth, safe loving touch is nature’s way of assuring that we get food and are protected.
One of my favorite childhood memories is trading back rubs with my siblings. What are your memories of touch?
Bodywork is often about nerve and tissue, bone and muscle. A skilled practitioner with an attuned touch can help the body move toward greater health. Letting oneself sink into being cared for is a gift.
We come into being in relation to others, to live well our lives depend on connection. These days we mourn as we cannot always connect in the ways we wish, but being creative with safe ways of connecting, even through distance, still helps these connection circuits in our bodies. After all, even connection through distance brings about body memories which will trip off our internal messaging of safety.