Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Need for Physical Touch

We live in a society starved by physical touch.  We are taught to avoid it from all sides for many different reasons.  Some of the reasons are based on fear of rejection, fear of being too familiar, or fear of being inappropriate. Whatever the reason many live starved for touch. 
Touch is one of the most basic of human needs. It starts out while we are in the womb and greatly defines us in childhood. Indeed, there have been many studies on the effects of touch in infants and always the end result is that when there is touch, the infant grows better and happier and is even physically healthier.  
As children our need for touch grows and as we receive it we grow emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. When we receive the right kind of touch we are confident in the things we do. Healthy touch is so vital in our growth that without it we suffer deeply and the wounds often take years to heal if they heal at all.
From the basic holding hands to hugging and holding, touch can be healthy on every level.  When we take it out of our lives we suffer emotional damage and its effects can be felt deeply in all areas of our lives. 
Each of us has different emotional, mental, physical, and touch needs. One of the most important things I have learned recently is that "core needs" are non-negotiable, meaning that some needs cannot be negotiated out of our lives. When we push a core need out, there are always consequences. Touch is a huge core need for most of us and we live in a society where we are seeing the results of cutting out the core need of touch. 
Many are confused about gender, how to have healthy relationships, strong marriages, even friendships are put on the line as a result of lack of touch. Touch is so vital to healthy relationships, but even more so for personal health and well-being.  When we deny ourselves of core needs we suffer. 
It has been discovered that when we deprive ourselves of core needs we act out in other ways to fill the need. Often, struggles with pornography, addictions, depression, social discomfort, and many other problems can be traced to the lack of touch.  
Personally, I get so frustrated in a society that tells me that touch is not appropriate. That we do not need touch and that we are ok without it.  I get frustrated when we are denied "core needs" on the basis of what is politically correct or what is based on our Christian standards. We fear what we don't understand and touch is so misunderstood in our day. We think it strange when men hug, hold hands, or have the need to be held by a man. Those that express those needs are shamed and felt ostracized from society. 
Out of fear of being judged, many are left hurting and in great need of something this is so needed and I might add natural. Many are left confused when the heart tells them they have a core need, but society tells them that they are not normal when they express the need. 
Touch is good.  Healthy touch is a great gift and can change lives.  The need for physical touch is not going to go away. We need to address it openly and honestly. We need to come to the understanding that there are many that have core needs that need to be met and faced. We have to get away from judging and shaming those things we don't understand completely. Perhaps I might not have the need for touch that someone else has, but I need to understand that they might have needs that I don't get or understand. That does not make it bad or even wrong, it only means I don't understand. 
Many are hurting deeply, craving the deep need for touch in their lives. As a society we need to come to understand what we as individuals can do to help those that are starving for something as basic and easy to give as touch. 
Hooray to the man that will hold his friend, even if he feels weird and out of place, but understands his friend needs to be hugged. Hat's off to the man who can sit and hold hands as he comforts his friend who needs more than just words. I applaud the man who looks beyond modern convention and rules to really learn the power of touch and how effective it can be in creating intimate healthy wonderful meaningful relationships with other men. We have to get away from the idea that touch is sex.  Once we pass that obstacle, touch can become a meaningful healthy part of our relationships and in the process can heal deep wounds that often can hold us back.
Personally, I confess. I love touch. I realized for me, having grown up in basically a touch free home, that I had a great need to feel that connection with men. I discovered it is a core need for me. For years I pushed it under a rug from fear and shame. Feeling confused and frustrated by a need that society does not address or understand. It is not about sex, it's about having a deeper more meaningful relationship with my friends. I love to hug them and I enjoy when we are talking deeply to hold hands with them. When life is really dark, a good hold is amazing. It heals me like nothing else. I discovered that for me it's a deeper connection and my friendships are more meaningful. I state again that it is not about sex, it's about connection and affirmation that makes touch an important part of my life.  
Touch is vital. I encourage you to take a look at your life and the lives of those around you. Be sensitive to the touch needs of family members, friends, and others that we come in contact with. Touch can heal, lift, strengthen, affirm, comfort, sooth, and make life just plain down right better.  
And please be cautious to judge someone when you see them doing something that you just might not understand. They could just be having a core need filled that just might be the difference between life or death for them. Something like a simple hug or even holding a hand can change a life.  I clearly remember a time in my life where the difference between me making it or not, changed by the actions of one young man that was not afraid to hold me when my life depended on it.  I am forever grateful for this man who stepped outside of his comfort zone when it was hard for him to do so to save my life. 
 Touch has been a powerful influence in my life. I understand and see the power it can have when it is done safe and with respect to boundaries and each person’s personal convictions.  
So go out and hug someone today. Hold someone and change a life forever.

If this blog resonates with you, please share with others.  There are many struggling with topics I cover on this blog.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.  

Feel Free to comment below.  Your comments are appreciated and enjoyed. 


  1. Exactly my feelings too, Brad. There are times when I feel like a dried up riverbed, and then a nice long embrace from someone sends cool, clear water rushing through me, reviving me.

  2. Michael, I love how you worded that. Cool, clear water, rushing through me, and riviving me. Very poetic. Perfect picture of what clean appropriate touch can do.

  3. It's hard when your love language is touch. I am like you the odd duck in the family. I even get made fun of from my siblings because I want to hug them when I see them.
    Studies have shown to stay healthier they need like 15 hugs a day.
    I like how you put "touch is not about sex"!
    Maybe that's way so many people suffr from anxiety and depression, they don't get enough hugs??
    I know whenon days where friendly or affectionate touch has not happened those are very depressing days.
    Great article!!
    Love ya Brad.

  4. Great article, Brad. I see the effects of healthy touch in my family, and how it helps bring us closer. I know things are good when I see my married children holding onto their spouses, or sharing a playful slap on the rear, or a pinch, or whatever. When I see that type of healthy, affeccionate behavior, it makes me happy because I know things are good in their relationship. I love to see it among my grandchildren as well. I try to be sure to hug all my grandchildren, boys as well as girls, even as they get older. So far, they still hug me back. In other countries you see much more healthy touch among people. About the only physical touch I remember in my family growing up was when we were beating the crap out of each other or getting a well-deserved spanking.
    I hope I can be a little more sensitive of others and not worry too much what the rest of the world thinks.
    Thanks,'re the coolest!

    1. Thank you Steve. Your words mean a lot to me.

  5. Well said, Brad. One of the things I miss most after losing Gerry is physical touch. I appreciate hugs from family and friends, but I am circumspect. I don't initiate or ask for them, for fear of appearing inappropriate with someone else's husband. An off the cuff, light hearted comment from a woman from church once cut me to the core.

    1. It's funny how unthinking people can say things that cut to the core, and in reality she probably didn't mean a thing. My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and ache for touch. Just grab someone and hug them. No matter what anyone esle thinks. LOL.

  6. It's hard to get the touch that you need, especially in Western culture. I don't know how to ask for it without it coming across as inappropriate or flirtatious.

  7. This is such a great post Brad!!! I grew up in a home where the only touch we ever received from parents and siblings was either violent or sexual. No wonder there are so many confused, frightened people out there! I love the fresh, wonderful, healthy, fulfilling touch you speak of!!! I wish we were reminded of that more often!!! God bless you for the help and understanding you always share!

  8. Incredibly insightful, Brad. You have a way of speaking with bold gentleness to undercurrents of pain others experience, but have no words for. To have such pain and longing acknowledged by the words of one who is simultaneously faithful and who truly understands, is like receiving a warm embrace that is real and sustaining.