Funerals: Touching is Safe Here
In our culture, touch is too often motivated by
1.) Desire. 2.) Demand.
Many don’t know how to touch outside of those two categories.
There’s a rather new interdisciplinary area of study called haptonomy which explores how to touch outside of the desire and demand categories. Haptonomy is the study of psycho-tactile communication. Psychologist and hospice pioneer Marie de Hennezel writes concerning her training in haptonomy:
One develops and tries to ripen one’s human faculties of contact; one learns to ‘dare’ to encounter another human being by touch. It may seem foolish to undergo formal training in order to develop a basic human faculty. Unfortunately, the world in which we all grew up and continue to develop is one that doesn’t encourage spontaneous emotional contact. Certainly we touch other people, but that’s when the intention is erotic. Other times, the context is impersonalizing, as in the medical sphere, when one is most often manipulating ‘bodily objects.’ What is forgotten is what the whole person may feel. “
There’s touching with desire, touching with demand and — here’s a third option — there’s touching with devotion. Touching with devotion is an ardent recognition of the value of people … it’s not forceful or uncomfortable, rather it’s respectful and produces ease.
There’s one place where the humanizing, respectful and relaxing touch of devotion is seen on a regular basis.
That place is death.
We receive the phone call that so-and-so has died at their home. We put on our dress cloth, drive to the house and there awaiting us is so-and-so’s family. We walk in and instead of shaking their hands, we reach for a hug. And they reach back.
At the funeral of so-and-so, family and friends hug and kiss and embrace all day. It’s those hugs and embraces that somehow make a funeral bearable … they somehow relax the otherwise tumultuous experience of death.
The irony is that a human has to die for true humanity to be found.
Mainstream medicine is catching on to the power of devotional touch.
The University of Miami conducted over 100 studies on the power of devotional touch and this is what they found: Devotional touch can: produce faster growth in premature babies
caused reduced pain in children and adults
decrease autoimmune disease symptoms
lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes
improved immune systems in people with cancer.
Other studies have show that devotional touch can
lower stress levels
boost immune systems
Why do we reserve the life giving power of touch only for death and funerals?
What would happen if we would daily interact with our friends and family like we were at a funeral?