Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Positive Touch

It's obvious, yet sometimes forgotten: giving positive touch for those who are rehabilitating and healing from physical trauma can be powerful medicine.

This touch can be so simple: holding a hand, giving a shoulder rub, sweeping hair away from a face, brushing hair, placing a hand at the small of a back, scratching feet.

Just over a month ago my dad returned from the hospital (after a horrible 35-day stay). His body had been poked and prodded several times each day. By the time he was well enough to come home, his body had turned inward to protect itself: his shoulders were turned inward, his neck and head bent forward. In addition, he didn't recognize his own body: he was 20-30 pounds lighter and scarred. To a significant degree, I don't think he relates to his own body even still.

So, what can we do for our friends and loved ones who are in this place of healing? It is clear to me that positive touch can help the healing process in tremendous ways. I have given my dad Reiki and massage (and do so regularly), but I also try to just touch him when I am with him. I place my hand on his back or I connect with him by holding his foot while we watch TV.

And sometimes, I get a bit more elaborate. Last night I gave my dad an herbal foot scrub. I mixed Dead Sea salt with dried spearmint and lavender and gave him a little spa treatment in the comfort of his own living room. He had never experienced anything like this and was quite tickled (literally and figuratively) by the treatment.

Offering my dad some kind of positive touch whenever I see him is my goal. It's sometimes mysterious how my touch is contributing to his sense of healing and re-integration, yet other times the effect is clear. Sometimes I notice he smiles more or he becomes more thoughtful or his body doesn't crunch up so much.

Receiving touch enables us to connect to our bodies in profound ways. We realize we have fingers and toes after all! Being conscious of our bodies helps us learn to understand them better and listen to them more keenly. Just last night, my dad spent 10 minutes focusing on how his toes involuntarily curled when the bottom of his feet were touched! What a wonderful way to spend 10 minutes!

And remember to ask for touch when you need to focus on your own healing. You can initiate it yourself or simply ask for a close friend or loved one to help you reconnect to yourself by brushing your hair or holding your hand. Notice how this type of nurturing makes you feel.


Aniri said...

That's really beautiful. I couldn't agree with you more. Physical touch can be a force of tremendous healing.

Jennifer Jhanda - NHI Massage School said...

Love your blog. Like Aniri said, physical touch can tremendously healing. Life-changing, really. We at NHI massage therapist school know firsthand.
Thank you,