When I am travelling in the west and giving healing sessions, many people come to me and tell me about their loneliness. They experience a lack of emotional connections to other humans and they wish for the physical contact that I described in the last days. Just someone to sit next to, maybe a hug sometime or a loving touch.
Often however they also tell me that they have never or very rarely experienced this kind of loving touch. I have heard from many people whose parents and even grandparents never were affectionate with them. Even when they were small, they were never taken in the arm, never cuddled, stroked, kissed and loved in this way. Some say that their parents were loving people and just could not express it. Others don’t think that positively about their parents. Whatever was behind that, for some of them it is difficult to ever have physical contact with another person in a natural way. They just never learned it.
If they are lucky, they realize it and, with the same luck, they find a partner who can show them what it means to be close to each other physically as well as emotionally. They are the ones who fear physical contact the most although they also long for it the most. They need to learn from scratch what is so natural to others which is why many people have made bad experiences while searching for this touch of love.
Many times, when I hear this kind of story, I then hear that they have searched for another kind of love, another physical contact. Instead of the physical contact with humans, they choose to be close with animals. They have pets, a dog, a cat or another animal and love them just like their children. For me this is also obvious: your pet is a being, able to have feelings and to develop an emotional relation as the result of physical closeness. On top of it, it is so much easier to start an emotional relation with an animal than with a human person.
So whether it is in the west or in India and whether it is the connection with humans or animals, everybody needs physical contact and emotional connections. Without these, we are not complete.
Today we celebrated Tanya's 25th birthday and wished her all the best for a long life full of joy!
This Post Has 32 Comments
This is very important to interact with babies. Babies’ health develop differently in the first few month of life depending on the amount and type of care they received in that time.
Is that soy sauce? I hope so.
That looks like a wonderful celebration!
Often, the first thing I think about in the morning is touch. But my bed is small and I’m the only one in it. I always thought this made me strange. I guess a lot of people feel that way
I have never met a western psychologist who would prescribe touch to their patient. In my experience it is not often considered. I am really glad you made this connection because I anticipate its usefulness.
Even on the bus or train where there are lots of people, everyone knows one of the most important things is to not touch the person sitting next to you. I do wonder where this comes from.
I have grown up viewing the people who ask for touch as unhealthy. I think I recognize some kind of sickness in neediness, when pain or fear is met with absolute resistance. I trust some part of my reaction to that. But I am just realizing that it is my own sickness that associates this observation with touch. Thanks Swami Ji. This is really something to think about.
I have been traveling for over a year now. My family sent me videos of their Christmas celebration. Watching them, I am shocked by their formality and lack of warmth. And I notice that no one is touching. Indeed and surprisingly, it looks unnatural and suppressed.
Swami Ji, I think about my relationship with my dogs and I can’t believe your insight. What you have said is eye opening for me.
I am curious about where personal space comes from.Thought you might enjoy the picture at the top of this website entry 🙂
I really cross sexual and nonsexual touch in my mind and I think this leaves me, very often not wanting to be touched and even feeling disgusted by and like I need distance from people that want to be touched. I don’t know how to unlearn that.
I do know some strong and healthy families in America who always show their children physical love. It is not everywhere that is like this. Family-centered families still express love, but each culture teaches it’s citizens to behave in a way that will make them thrive within it, and the culture does not demand family. The individual still does though, and that’s where the gap comes in.
I have no problem touching women. I really wish that I could touch my dear friends that are men without them thinking it is sexual or making it about sex. It makes me think less of them and I don’t want that either.
Thank you Swami Ji. This is beautiful.
Well it makes sense that my siblings and I never received touch from our parents and grandparents because my grandparents live on the other side of the country, both my parents had jobs and we were in school all day long.Personally I do feel lonely sometimes but I don’t associate that loneliness with touch at all. I wasn’t taught to need touch, so I do not need it.
Well some people feel that way. I would say it’s not abnormal but it’s not a majority feeling. I think most people think about work and breakfast when they wake up.
Kerry, that is an interesting observation. Actually I have been to a psychologist who prescribed touch but he told me to get a dog. Haha. Is it funny or sad, I have no idea.
That drawing is spot on!
Even if we are in a place where touch is strange or inappropriate we do not have to be made sick by it, as lovely and beautiful as touch is. True solitude is never lonely and true solitude is not effected by what or whom is around us. Loneliness arises from a lack of inner space. That inner space, or stillness is an emptiness that leaves us whole; completely alone and complete, full of compassion and joy.
I am rolling on the floor with laughter…and my dog Bella has joined me…
Maybe you don’t need to unlearn it. If it kept you completely isolated then maybe that would be the case. But if you are comfortable and trusting with those you love…it is enough. Some things sort themselves out with time. And then again some things don’t need to be sorted.
There are lots of kinds of loneliness. When people with big families in India feel lonely, what do they attribute this to? Or is it not a very lonely place?
I agree. I think it is a basic biological need. Even people who don’t like being touched like to be touched by some people, even if it is just a few people in their lifetime.
Seems like some feel they really need to be touched and some feel they really need to not be touched. Both are overly sensitive to it, but in different directions. Just chill. Things happen. That is all.
That seems sad to me! I come from a big family and we are all very loving, we don’t even think about it, the touching or lack of it. We are just comfortable and all getting on with our lives everyday.
This is an interesting point and one that I momentarily considered. Now my attention has returned to it. Even though I feel taught not to need touch,” in so many words, I still desire it; I want to affectionately touch the people that I love. And so I do but I feel not entirely comfortable with it. I notice that the more often I do it the less uncomfortable I become. But also I notice that I learn from the things that I want to do and do not do. My desire for touch has certainly been suppressed but on other days, when the desire comes, it is not suppressed but observed without action (especially when I want to touch but realize that it would disturb someone else to be touched) and that has been a very valuable practice for me. I wonder if you recognize this kind of observation of desire in yourself? For me it is the great good that comes from cultural variability and even more specifically the rigid or conservative elements of any community of people; to observe the desires in myself without rushing to satisfy them. I don’t mean this masochistically. It doesn’t hurt me. It clears me up and cleans me out.
Thanks for the link. This is a great article and the diagram reminds me of a “training” exercise at a Study Abroad conference I attended where each person was made to partner up and stand face to face with this stranger. At one point we were standing two inches from each others’ faces and while nervous laughter erupted in the auditorium the speaker reminded us that we would often feel like this abroad. The speaker certainly picked a soar point for Americans, haha.
Wow M. Burnt. You certainly are a mouthful, but I enjoyed reading your reply and you have made me think. It sounds painful to want to be touched but at the same time to be uncomfortable with things surrounding touch. Maybe I am cold, but when I examine myself I can’t find a desire to be or not to be touched. I love in other ways. And I hate in other ways too.
Would be easier to chill out if people would stop trying to touch me.
What a decorative scene at the Ashram. Tanya must have enjoyed it. Best wishes!
A loving touch and it’s effects are something universal, they are not connected to any culture, religion or age. Some teenagers, for example, think that it’s awkward to cuddle with their parents. But in the end that’s a problem of some societies, because they want their people to be rational instead of emotional.
So many people I have found in Canada have pets to draw close rather then a human being, either because in the business of today’s world they find it easier to relate to an animal and to be honest an animal won’t pick fights with you, won’t tell you things you don’t want to hear either, but they are not adapt at giving opinions and ideas, or giving constructive criticism or tought love…