The simple act of touch

Why is it we have become almost fearful of the very word… to touch? Why have we forgotten that the simple act of touch can move mountains, heal a brokenness or even heal the body in extraordinary ways? Soft caresses can soothe a crying baby or help a painful area. A touch can bring one back from a panic attack or a healthy hand shake can make you feel amazing.

Did you know a handshake can tell you a lot about a person’s health? Stanley Rosenberg explains it this way:

“A handshake gives us a good indication of the state of another person’s autonomic nervous system. An overly tight body usually results from a chronic state of activity in the spinal sympathetic chain, where the entire muscular system is continually prepared to fight or flee. Such a person characteristically has an overly forceful handshake, squeezing harder than necessary. The opposite is true for someone lacking muscular tonus— usually a sign or overactivity in the dorsal vagal circuit. This person generally has a limp, damp, and sometimes cold handshake. If our handshake is just right, it is the ventral branch of the vagus nerve that is predominant. We may have some tension in individual muscles, but the tense muscles relax very quickly, and a massage therapist will notice that our body also feels right.”

I have been working on becoming more aware as well as mindful of these conditions in myself as well as in others. I have found that to help heal others; we help heal ourselves.

It is a shame that we as a society are made to fear and most definitely feel like we are sinning if we touch ourselves. You go to a doctor to be examined and what do they do… they touch you; they press on places you have pain in. Why are we not allowed to do the same for ourselves? Why are we not taught the most basic knowledge of what these symptoms could possibly mean? How to heal ourselves?

Lightly stroking the face which activates the cranial nerve V, as well as CN VII, supplies the muscles of the face with nerves. These nerves help to relax or tighten the muscles in the face. “Lightly stroking of the face can often times calm us and help us out of a state of stress.” Stanley Rosenberg quotes.

I have witnessed this firsthand. It does work, but you have to be aware and watch for the signs. If you don’t, it will take longer to get yourself calmed down.

I watch for triggers which cause me flare-ups with my Lyme Disease. So should you! Read up and educate yourself on what you suffer from. Notice how you are feeling, what you are eating, what you are doing in your life.

The lighter the touch, the better. It is almost like you are tickling someone or yourself. I’m not able to stand deep tissue massages, not even regular massages. I feel like my skin is being torn off. The lighter the touch, the better, and I am just getting where I can stand that. There was a time when even being under too many blankets hurt me.

The softer the touch has shown to promote deep relaxation and sensory stimulation for those who enjoy a very soft touch.

With my Lyme Disease I can’t handle the sensory overload from strong contact, it causes a flight or flight response in me. To have someone try to hug me or rub my shoulders like trying to warm you up sends me into panic and anxiety attacks. Lyme causes my nervous system to be over reactive. Flare-ups can cause many difficult symptoms that I have to deal with all at once.

As I look back on my past, I can see a lot of times I suffered greatly with flare-ups and did not know what was happening. Too many times, they punished me for my reactions to the pain and anxiety I was dealing with. This caused me to stay in a fight, flight, or freeze response. I got to where I couldn’t stand to be touched, let alone touch my skin.

How many people suffer from this affliction?

I recently discovered that when I wake up due to pain or a panic attack, I can gently and softly massage my neck, shoulders, face, jaw or even my feet and find instant relief from my pain and anxiety. I also use mindful breathing and vagus stimulating exercises. But, you must first become aware of that is happening to you.

Forewords by Stephen Porges PhD tells his story of how Stanley Rosenberg literally helped him with back problems he had for years. Stanly instructed him to go on his hands and knees and relax and keep the spine relatively level. Then, with the fingers of both hands going in opposing directions, he moved the tissue over the vertebrae that had slipped. As he did this, the vertebrae immediately and effortlessly slipped into position. For fifteen years Stephen Porges PhD has used a modification of this procedure to remain pain free.

“Stephen understood immediately what he was doing. The physical manipulation, which gently moved the upper levels of tissue, signaled the body to relax. The relaxation reorganized the neural muscular regulation that supported the spine, allowing the vertebrae to gently fall into place. Stanley was transmitting signals of safety to the neuromuscular system that enabled the system to immediately shift from the defensive state of contraction, in which it attempted to protect the vulnerability of the lower spine.”

I am sure that we can use this method on many ailments in our society. As Stanely Rosenberg wrote, The heads of Hydra: Common problems related to Cranial-nerve dysfunction things like;

Chronic Physical tensions:

Tense/hard muscles, sore neck and shoulders, migraines, back pain, tightly clenched teeth, grinding teeth at night, eye or facial tensions, cold feet or hands, unwarranted sweating, tenseness after exertion, dizziness, lump in the throat, nervousness, arthritis.

Emotional issues:

Irritability, anger, feeling down, feeling hopelessness, lack of energy, tendency to cry easily. General anxiety, feeling heaviness, extended periods of depression, fearfulness, nightmares…

Heart and lung issues: Visceral-organ dysfunction: Poor Digestion, constipation, irritation of the large intestine, diarrhea, stomach problems, ulcer, heartburn… Immune-System Problems, Behavioral problems, interpersonal relationships, Mental issues, Other problems… the list goes on.

I would highly recommend the book Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve by Stanley Rosenberg. I go back to this book often.

Since, my medical injury and complications from Chronic Lyme Disease which I deal with Lyme Disease for over 37 years now. My body has no way of dealing with life in a general way. Taking care of myself is something I have to be aware of. I have to fight at times to take time to help myself a lot. I stay away from doctors who do not know of my disease.

In fact, most of us in the world right now deal with an extraordinary amount of stress. The lack of organic foods, clean water, and the pharmaceuticals we are exposing ourselves to has made us one of the sickest generations in history. We as a society have fried the autonomic nervous system and our vagus nerve is a mess and until we can heal the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, we will continue to see illness rise.

” The sympathetic division is activated in states of stress, and helps to mobilize the body to fight or flee or freeze, if need be.”

And I could go on but I will stop here. It all comes down to recognize when we need a soft touch to help stop the fight-or-flight responses and help the body become grounded, aware, and mindful. To breathe mindfully, to walk mindful, to be mindful of our suffering and compassionate towards others’ suffering. We do have ways to help correct those ailments we find ourselves suffering from.

As I find my way back to the ‘old ways’, the truth becomes more clear. The medicine of today is not for the sake of healing but for the way to sick care. The folk medicine, herbalism, the organic way is our true salvation. To touch, be kind and gentle is a true miracle everyone has looked for. Our great skilled healers from the past had all the answers and we are being called to go back to the “old ways”. It is not an easy road to go, but it is worth the wonders you find on your way to self-discovery.

The flower is aware of the fact that it contains everything within it, the whole cosmos, and it does not try to become something else. It is the same for you. You have Spirit within you, so you do not have to look for Spirit.” Thich Nhat Hanh

3 thoughts on “The simple act of touch

  1. I love this. I am so with you. This goes back to our parents not being cuddled and even in psychiatry its all about drugging and distance. So often in the care home I would hold my older sisters hand as she cried or screamed all they wanted to do was shut her down with meds.. I wanted to fucking scream but it would have made me seem ‘crazy’ too. Lets hug more and rationalize less. Great post.


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