the Language of Touch.
There are languages for each of our senses. Some languages address more than one sense. Touch is a sense which few think of in terms of having a language, but touch - the giving of feeling - like smell, is deeply meaningful and therefore is a language which reaches beyond the superficiality of other languages into the core of our being. Your responses to touch are completely intuitive, in both meanings of the word - knowledge from outside your immediate experience and knowledge which can be applied reflexively.
Intuition in both these meanings is all about feeling, just as Clairvoyance is about inner vision. Our history as individuals and as a culture (particularly in the English speaking world) prioritizes the senses with vision at the top and smell and taste at the bottom and very often with touch and feeling as the enemy. This has been changing as English speaking countries have become more multicultural, learning from other European countries, Asia and Africa.
So what is a language? Symbols do not stand alone, they follow patterns of relationships which together
affect us at different levels. It is a threshold between the inner and the outer worlds, a pathway by which the outer reaches into our inner world shaping our responses and actions, creating meaning. The opposite is equally
true, it how we reach out from within and affect and effect the world around us.
Meaning is a network of effects and affects. In a way language can be said to be a network of causes. The complexity of reality is such that we could say
the opposite with equal veracity. The meaning of an action is its effects on its environment. The meaning of a symbol is it effects on the inner environment, the self. Some of these effects are clearly measurable, others are beyond or below measuring. At the same time it is meaning
that gives birth to action and symbol.
The ongoing struggle for all humans is to find ways to communicate the meanings
that fall between and around languages, including translating from the language of one sense to another. Are there things which can be experienced outside meaning? This is a very controversial and complex question. It could be said that the measurable effects
that are the obvious aspects of meaning are those that fit into one of the languages available to us, whilst those effects which are beyond or below measuring maybe outside language.
Possibly the most difficult thing for language to cope with is uniqueness, or
individuality because meaning exists between us, in the negotiation that is
It could also be said we are meaning creation machines. It was always been thus but has become especially noticeable in the newly awakening information age. Anything that happens around us or within us is immediately captured in a net of meaning. When our capacity for making and communicating meaning breaks down we feel dislocated from our cultural and language context and is one definition for insanity. Equally it might be said to be a definition for enlightenment/freedom. It depends on the responses of ourselves and our community, mostly on the intensity of anxiety created.
All senses have ways of making meaning for the Self. Perfumery for smell; Cookery for taste and smell; Written words and painting for sight; Spoken words, poetry, singing and music for hearing; Advertising, TV and movies for hearing and sight; Massage, sex, gestures which act to emphasize other communications for touch; ritual - all the senses.
Touch has special characteristics that make it different from other senses. It is the opposable thumb
of the fingers of the senses, the sense that touches all the others. Touch unifies and integrates the Self, it is the foundation of identity. It gives position to all the other senses. It is the marker of the boundary of the Self, let's us know when we are being physically invaded. While feelings let us know about other kinds of
invasions and tell usabout the state of our inner environment.
Even if you are raised in a family which does not feel comfortable with it your relationship with your body and emotions are deeply
affected. Touch is central to our growth and development as children. Research in Texas and other places has shown that premature babies put on weight 50% faster, are calmer (cry less) and brighter on more most measurement scales by the time they are nine months old with only fifteen minutes massage twice a day.
Most communications can be divided into those which are about the exchange of thoughts and those which are about the exchange of feelings. The fact that the word
'feelings' is synonymous with emotions in our language shows the importance of touch.
It's a central avenue of feedback between mind and the body. Some uses of language (for example ritual, the movies, poetry,
song and storytelling) very directly address the emotions, by using the imagination to shape the self (body and mind) to evoke a landscape of touch. This landscape is a map of where the chemical meets the psychic/spiritual. Its a direct line to what some like to call the unconscious.
The elements of the language of touch are:
Along with these ingredients specific to touch are those common to all languages:
- Grammar - Structure of Interconnectedness
The grammar of touch is situation and meaning based (it is different for sex
than for therapeutic massage or for greeting a friend) and is negotiated within
the relationship as a feedback process. That feedback is based on using the
other senses like watching the way your partner moves in response to it, by
listening to the sounds they make while experiencing it but more importantly
touch itself is both the action of reaching to do it and the process of feeling
Location, movement and rhythm are the elements of touch that might be
considered the basis for the Grammar of touch. Location, pain and pleasure are
overpoweringly important to meaning and therefore emotion, being defined by (personal) history and culture.
While the other elements of the language of touch are significant to its
Ticklishness is an example of a form of touching whose meaning is difficult to translate into languages for the other senses. Its meaning is relative, demonstrating the subjectivity of the language of touch. For people on some occasions it is a source of pleasure, for others it is a source of pain, anger, helplessness, fear and/or nausea. It demonstrates that Touch at the boundary between pain and pleasure can get confusing and often intense. Ticklishness can result from too much or too little pressure or even from imagining being touched. Location is absolutely central. So is self/other, you are rarely
be ticklish to yourself and it often depends on who is touching you and what mood you are in.
In the second part of this article I will talk about what this approach means to intuition, and in the third part a natural approach to learning and giving a massage and healing.