We have become a non-touching society. During these pandemic times, we have been forbidden to touch anyone outside our bubble. Touch is dangerous; it makes us ill; we are afraid of touching or being touched. For people living alone, or without a bubble, this has been difficult. The first time I had a hug I burst into tears.
But long before the pandemic we had become a non-touching society. The revelations of the sexual abuse of children and women led to this. The #Me Too movement showed how much unwanted touching of women has occurred. Of course, sexual abuse of anyone is terrible and must be stopped. But when a teacher can’t touch a five year old child who is distressed, things have gone too far. Children need to be touched, in the right way of course, and especially when they are frightened or in pain. Being touched in the right way makes us feel safe, at any age.
In psychoanalysis and other talking psychotherapies, touching is prohibited. Some psychiatrists wondered why some of their clients improved so much and others didn’t. They came to the conclusion that those who improved had a physical change in their bodies, not just emotional release or intellectual understanding. Now, there are several types of body psychotherapy where touch is not forbidden.
Touch is far more powerful than it is often thought to be. Being touched is the first sense that babies have. Almost everything they know comes through the quality of touch of their carers. Without touch, babies don’t develop normally. Animal trainers and horse riders use touch constantly.
So much of life has become online, including the Alexander Technique. Some teachers have moved exclusively to zoom. I taught a few lessons on zoom. Some useful work can happen that way, but for me, touch is necessary. We can convey so much information through touch and we can receive so much information through touch. It is an essential part of teaching the Alexander Technique. Once I started teaching face to face, I felt better in myself. Even if I don’t receive touch, touching someone else is better than nothing. This is quite apart from Alexander work. This is just about being a human animal.