For me, there is nothing quite like the warmth of another, especially on winter mornings. But I am just as content with touch in hot summers, sticky rains, in sickness and in health. And then there are those who –
- are hug wolves that crush you in their arms
- are okay with a short occasional hug, but only on special occasions
- prefer a handshake
- are okay with being touched in specific parts — so a hug would be a no-no zone but gently sehlaoing the head is a yes-yes
- don’t want to be touched at all
Maano ya na maano maano, I have known and been them all.
One of the first techniques that was taught to me when I started going for therapy was the 5–4–3–2–1 grounding technique. The purpose was to bring my attention to the present moment by focusing on the number of things I could see, feel, hear, smell, and taste and it worked out quite well for me. It was here that I realized the role ‘touch’ plays in keeping me grounded and whole. This realization led me to modify the technique to exclusively focus on holding something when anxious and on most days, it saves me.
I remember once going to the kind of friend who doesn’t want to be touched at all, telling them that I am like a character on a game and that my energy levels keep getting lower and lower the longer I go without a hug. It didn’t help much because while they sympathized with me, they had boundaries they were not okay crossing.
And then SuperCat entered my life and saved me from drastic breakdowns during touch-starved periods by sitting on my lap, circling on and then sleeping on my stomach or butt, and making me do yoga on the single bed each night as I would change positions on the basis of blanket and bed space this one left for me. The mystery, even today, is how this little person who is one fourth/ fifth my size manages to the hog the bed well enough for me to fall off of it. Yeah, yeah, it’s only cute when you read about it.
Touch, I believe, has the incredible power to heal, to realize the liveliness of another, best realized from the jaadu ki jhappis of Munnabhai MBBS, that quickly bring the recipient to tears. And for the recipient, the realization of their own being through the recognition given by another. I, for one, have always wanted a jhappi from the incredible hulk!
What is it about touch, that a friend told me that once during a class on dance therapy, she closed her eyes during an ‘icecream activity’ where she imagined herself melting that the moment the trainer gently put their hands on her head, she wept and wept and wept?
And then the intensely intimate moment in the movie ‘Frida’ when Rivera gently grazes his hand over a scar on Frida’s body.
To me, there is nothing like a consensual warm gesture of touch, a belief that has also been validated by the online quiz on ‘5 Love Languages’ which concluded physical touch as being my second most important language –
A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, and thoughtful touches on the arm — they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Appropriate and timely touches communicate warmth, safety, and love to you.
But along with this realization is also the growing acceptance that though my preferred ‘love language’ is to offer a hug when the other is in pain, receiving that hug might not be as comforting to them as I imagine. Maybe they would prefer the silence and uninterrupted company with a cup of green tea, maybe they would like to brainstorm solutions, and I have to be able to understand this need rather than impose my hug.
Pondering, I snuggle with SuperCat.