About Touch Is Really Strange
When did you start working on the book?
The idea for a book on touch has been in my head since 2019, but definitely a lockdown project.
The Really Strange series has been huge fun and continues to get heartwarming feedback. There have been suggestions for books on Depression, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Grief or Breath.
Whilst I have some experience with clients with all those topics, I realised I have far more to say about touch. I use touch everyday in normal work life and teach 2 year courses on being skilful with touch.
The goal is to connect to feelings states that are often hidden, rarely simple and sometimes scary.
What inspired the topic?
In my career I have undergone a paradigm shift in how I understand touch.
With massage, shiatsu and chiropractic I often used strong, quick interventions; poking, prodding, stretching, manipulating. The main goal was freeing up structural issues.
It was fun, but did not work so well with trauma, persistent pain and anxiety.
I now use touch as tool primarily to convey feelings of safety, to support emotional expression and to improve a sense of embodied connection.
Touch Is Really Strange is a celebration of slow, gentle, meditative touch - ‘relational touch’. Touch that is focused on the whole person and all their stories. Touch where the goal is to connect to feelings states that are often hidden, rarely simple and sometimes scary.
How did you collaborate with Sophie?
This is my 4th book with Sophie. I still do not quite understand how she can produce such clear representations of complex ideas so quickly.
Typically I write chunks of 3 or 4 pages developing an argument, sometimes, but not often, with suggestion for images. Within a few days she invariably rocks back with a set of wonderful drawings. Its always exciting waiting to see what appears in my inbox.
The art and colours are all Sophie. In this book she has changed the look a little, the colours are simpler and the style has developed. I love what she has done.
Why is it extremely timely?
We need touch as babies and children to thrive, we ache for touch as adults, and, we fare much worse when we are elderly without touch.
Lockdown has been a massive experiment in non-touching. The stories of people isolated in hospital with only a screen to communicate to loved ones or the images of people on either side of plastic barriers, are heartbreaking.
There now are frequent newspaper articles on the power of touch, that is very new. Lockdown had reinforced the value of touch as ‘social glue’. Casual contacts are essential to our health and help us feel real.
There is great science on the benefits of touch. We need touch as babies and children to thrive, we ache for touch as adults, and, we fare much worse when we are elderly without touch.
What do you hope readers can take away from it?
We can usefully classify two types of touch - quick touch and slow touch. I want people to appreciate that slow touch can communicate powerful emotions. The book reviews the science of ‘interoception’, a kind of slow ‘inward touch’.
The book also offers that all early learning is mediated by meeting a world that pushed back as we explored and moved. We touch the world and the world touches back, not always gently. We learn, and can relearn, safety though processes of touch and being touched.
There are four practical exercises at the end of the book that I hope will help people reframe what is possible when we touch. The book is aimed at anybody interested in touch but especially bodyworkers.
Touch done well can be a huge gift to support potent shifts in our physiology and our sense of wellbeing.
Steve Haines 5 Mar 2021
I’m really interested in the science of trauma and how touch can be a game changer here so looking forward to reading this, having already devoured ‘Anxiety…Strange’ and ‘Trauma…Strange’. I’m a scientist so quite head dominated. Meditation, yoga, community based exercise classes and most recently Qui Gong have been a route in for me, a route back to the body. I never even knew I was traumatised or dissociated. The present moment felt alien and scary. No wonder when I was so detached from my body
This is such a great series of books. Looking forward to this one. Funny how touch can be such a ‘touchy subject’. Not funny how it’s been so undervalued, disregarded and misused. What a different world perhaps if we became more educated around touch, valued our need for it and understood the impact of positive touch not just the harm of negative touch. What a different healthcare system!! I feel like only highly skilled touch could undo the freeze that harmful touch put on my body -freeze I didn’t even know was there til it shifted.. I hope this book encourages others that way. My vote for next book? ‘feeling is really strange’ – interroception, neuroception, all the other ceptions. Another mysterious world to illuminate.