I just had a conversation on the phone with my mother that has made me think about various things. My mum (like me) suffers with depression and while my dad is sympathetic, like a lot of men his generation, he finds it hard to show empathy, and what Mum wants more than anything is a lot more hugs, without having to ask for them. Growing up, my family was never touchy feely; I have hugged my brother twice in the last 25 years. He runs if he thinks that’s what’s coming. I have issues regarding unwanted physical contact, but I’m working on them and I do hug people I know and like. I avoid where possible the whole air-kissing routine and stick out a very rigid hand if I’d prefer to be very British and shake hands instead. This doesn’t always work with my overseas students; the Spanish especially are very affectionate(and insistent) and I’ve had some bear hugs from leaving students that have taken my breath away. As I said, I’m working on it.
But it did make me think how much touch is a neccessary part of human wholeness and health. Babies fail to thrive without it; and I do wonder if the world WOULD (as my boss said when I protested about being hugged by him!) be a happier place if we were all a bit more touchy feely. The inner jury is out on that issue, but it did make me think that therapuetic touch like massage could be such a powerful tool for healing emotional hurts as well as physical ones.
I have some expertise in this area as for six years I worked as a reflexologist and I had very loyal clients who would have written me testimonies galore about how I helped them. But the testimony that means most to me was the one my mother gave me today. I suggested(being a know-it-all and wanting to fix things for her) that she perhaps have a regular massage, or maybe reflexology. When I visited I always used to give her a treatment and she told me today how much it used to help her and that she could never previously have imagined that someone simply massaging her feet could have such a profound effect on her, and when I suggested she seek out a practictioner for regular sessions, she told me she didn’t think anyone would ever be as good as I was! I was a bit stunned because I never rated myself very highly at what I did. Obviously I was wrong about this. I live too far from my parents to be able to do this except on our infrequent visits but I hope (I shall talk to my dad about it) that Mum seeks out and tries a few massage therapists.
I am also reminded that one of the forms of healing within the Christian Church is called the Laying on of Hands. Touch is not essential to healing, but I do feel in this context, it empowers the whole process with an extra zing. People who are seldom touched respond more when the laying on of hands happens and touch reminds us of our common humanity and need for love.
So, a virtual hug to everyone, and if I get to meet you in the flesh one day, please redeem that virtual hug with a real one; just don’t break my ribs!!!