Mental Health Week – A contemporary reflection on touch

 

The live stream A contemporary reflection on touch took place on the fourth day of the Mental Health Week, 22nd of April. It counted with the presence of our Spanish guest Alba Raventos and it was hosted by Paula Nuțaș, one of our colleagues. It was one of the international events during the Mental Health Week, being held in English.

 

Alba brought her experience and knowledge as a somatic educator and body work therapist to talk about the importance of touch in human development and life, and the lack of touch that most of us have been facing at this particular moment, with the pandemic. 

In the first part of the live, she introduced us to the wonderful world of the skin. Some of us might have discovered or remembered about the skin layers and functions. For example, the amazing regeneration process of the skin, happening in cycles of more or less 30 days, resulting in the compacted dead cells’ outside layer which is the one we can actually see. Or, that the skin is mainly protecting us from outside invaders, giving contention for the liquids of our body, regulating our temperature, absorbing chocks. And this being possible through sensing the outside, feeling pain, pressure, temperature, and pleasure. 

 

But certainly one of the most fascinating ideas discussed was the common embryological origin of the skin and the nervous system. The nervous system grows with the tactile experience of the fetus, as an answer to the sensing of the outside. This makes each person have its own nervous system built on the basis of one’s own experiences and environment. 

 

On this, Alba brought forward research made in orphanages where babies were deprived from caring in the form of touch. Almost all these babies died, and the ones who did not die, survived in a poor and underdeveloped condition. This highlights how touch really is part of human development. 

 

After this understanding of the importance of touch in human development, Alba opened the discussion for adult life. Explaining that adults are not anymore as sensitive as babies are, but we still need tactile stimulation in our daily life to be able to feel ourselves. This ability, related to the proprioception, gives us the sense of our movements and spatial location. Basically, it makes us feel where we are and where the limits between us and the outside are. To talk about this, Alba invited us to dance with the sound of music, which quite changed the mood of what we usually expect from a live stream.

 

The deprivation that most of us are facing in recent times would be finally the lack of bonding. Without a good amount of contact with nature and without the touch on our skin, we let our bonds be established only through a screen. With this, symptoms such as confusion, stress, anxiety, tiredness and somatizations, arrive to us. 

 

Despite the sobriety with which Alba considered the individual and social consequences of this deprivation, she left us with hope. The resources are there to be used, and we need to make an effort to give us the touch and the caring we need now, even if it is only by ourselves. She highly recommends dancing to make us feel our body and feel part of where we are.

One comment from the audience especially caught our eye, as it was a message of hope:

 

“Perhaps the Covid crisis will favour a new awareness of the beauty and importance of TOUCH… so that we will see it flourishing in incredible intensity, beauty, prevalence and importance in the coming years? A message of hope”

 

Let’s hope they are right!

 

Article written by Gabriela D’Angelis, member of Minte Forte

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