Twelve Senses—Part 3—the sense of touch
Sunday, February 3, 2013
This week, I would like to discuss the sense of touch. One of the things that really struck me when I first studied this sense was the idea that when we touch something, we experience not only the object or person that we touch but we also experience our own boundaries. When we touch something, we have an emotional as well as a physical reaction. This is one of the reasons that we provide our children with objects made from natural materials. Think about what it feels like to touch plastic and what it feels like to touch wood or silk—both physically and emotionally. For the young child, contact with natural things will develop a healthy sense of touch. Plastic and other man-made materials, of course, have their place and are very useful at times, just not as the primary material for our children to touch. “Our living thinking is able to lay hold on sense-transmitted reality only because the phenomenal world, first experienced as outside us, is brought by the sense of touch to profoundly inner participatory experience. Put another way: our skin, insofar as we experience it as both a sheath and a boundary, not only constitutes part of the outer world for our consciousness, but serves as our subtlest perceptive organ for the world.” Working with Anxious, Nervous and Depressed Children by Henning Koehler It is impossible to imagine not having a sense of touch—this sense is what enables us to have meaningful contact with the outside world. Interest is another form of the touch sense; we touch the world outside of us with our attention. The healthy sense of touch brings a “healthy, mobile balance between too great and too little impressionability, between openness and boundedness, between sympathy and antipathy.”
If this sense is damaged, in can show up in two different ways. A child may be overly timid, hypersensitive, have trouble falling asleep, be fearful of change. This child needs to be held and comforted. She needs gentle firmness and care that the environment and clothing are comfortable. She does better with foods that are nourishing and easily digested. A warm foot bath and foot massage before bed can be very helpful, followed by heavy, warm socks. These children tend to be at their best in the morning.
On the other hand, there is the child who is nervous and aggressive, more like the proverbial bull in a china shop. With this child massage can also be helpful, but for them an all over massage with fragrant oil. For these children, the following are especially important: rhythm, continuity, warmth, nutrition, patience and reverence, tolerance from the adult, water play, music and slowing down.
As for the life sense, caring, lingering skin contact will help to develop a healthy life sense. Loving observation of our children and accepting them as they are is key to healthy development of the senses. Caring is the fruit of a well-developed sense of touch.