Did you know there are two types of touch?
It is useful to understand the difference between quick touch and slow touch. Quick touch goes along big, thick A fibre nerves. These nerves are like motorways.
Slow touch is different, it goes along slow, thin C fibre nerves. C fibres are more like country roads and cycle paths. It turns out C fibres carry the essential signals that let us know we are alive.
Hi My name is Steve Haines. I have a new book out Touch Is Really Strange. Touch Is Really Strange is a celebration of slow, gentle, meditative touch – ‘relational touch’.
Relational touch conveys powerful emotions. It is focused on the whole person and all their stories. It is a type of touch that helps us connect to feeling of aliveness and joy.
If is is hard to feel it is hard to heal.
Feelings are important. If is is hard to feel it is hard to heal. Slow touch can be levered to connect to feelings states that are often hidden, rarely simple and sometimes scary. This is incredibly useful to help regulate pain, anxiety and trauma.
Here is quote from a researcher that I use in the book:
‘The sense of touch is closely connected to bodily awareness… many aspects of touch… are primarily directed not at the external world, but at the present state of our bodies.’ Fulkerson (2020)
A second big idea is that we do not just have C fibre nerve receptors in our skin. Our body is suffused with C fibre nerves that generate the slow background tone of our body.
This is called interoception. Hunger, warmth, fullness, weight, and flow are all rooted in slow signals from the inside of our bodies. The new science of interoception shows us body awareness is the root of emotions, selfhood and consciousness. It is incredibly exciting.
In Touch Is Really Strange I frame interoception as inward touch. Inward touch and outward touch are deeply bound together and support each other. By touching inward, we can know we are real. By touching outward, we can know that we are not alone.
Slow relational touch is important because it helps connect. This framework is a radical shift for how we understand touch. Touch is much stranger, more complex and more important that many people realise.
The book also explores touch and movement as the foundation of learning and particularly learning safety. There are practical exercises at the end of the book that will help anyone be more skilful when they touch. Touch done well can be a huge gift to support deep shifts in our physiology and our sense of wellbeing.
By touching inward, we can know we are real.
By touching outward, we can know that we are not alone.
I hope you enjoyed this short intro. It has been great to work with Sophie Standing and Jessica Kingsley Publishers again to add to the Really Strange series.
To find out more visit bodycollege.net/touch
Fulkerson M (2020) Touch. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edward N. Zalta (ed.) https://stanford.io/2O5apdf