The Role Of CultureThe United States is generally considered to be a non-touch culture by most researchers. One study documented a very low rate of physical contact between pairs of Americans in a coffee shop setting, as compared to pairs from three other countries. The researchers observed of pairs of people as they engaged in routine conversations within the setting of a coffee shop. During a one-hour period of time, the average number of touch exchanges between the subjects ranged from 180 in San Juan (Puerto Rico) to 110 in Paris (France) to 2 in Gainesville, FL. (United States). Only the English engaged in less touch than the Americans (0 touches). From these results we can safety assume that many Americans will be uncomfortable with touch coming from a non-family member.
The Role Of GenderIt is common knowledge that males and females differ in their views of touch. The process of learning gender roles starts at a very young age. Studies of parents of infants found that touch was offered to female children with greater frequency than to male children of the same age. Mothers more frequently touched their sons than did fathers. Fathers more frequently touched their daughters than they did their sons. As children get older this trend continues. When 3-to-5-year-old children are dropped off at day care centers fewer expressions of physical affection such as hugging, cuddling, holding, or kissing take place between parents and boys than between girls and their parents. In addition to receiving less touch than girls, as boys grow into men they are socialized to become easily aroused sexually by physical contact and, therefore, they have a diminished capacity than women to view comforting touch as a goal in itself rather than the beginning of a sexual encounter. This view of any form of touch being sexual combined with a fear of being labeled homosexual leads to a high likelihood of males responding negatively to being touched by another man.
The Role Of Physical And Sexual AbuseA history of physical and/or sexual abuse is commonly found in those who attend mutual-help groups. Both males and females who have experienced childhood abuse often have negative reactions to touch, particularly if it occurs without warning, such as someone coming from behind them. Those persons who have only experienced touch as violence or as sexual may be suspicious of any form of touch, regardless of the other person's good intentions.
The Role Of AddictionChildren who are born physically addicted to alcohol or other drugs commonly exhibit a decreased desire or an actual aversion for touch. Malfunctions in the addicted infant's nervous system frequently cause excessive sleeping or to crying. Many of these children shun physical contact, are non-responsive to being held, and experience difficulties in bonding with their caregivers. Such children can be extremely frustrating for even the most competent and well-intentioned adult, and it is common for caregivers to feel rejected, irritated, or incompetent when such children fail to respond to efforts to soothe or nurture them. Furthermore, if the adult caregiver is also an addict herself, chances are that she is a person who has diminished self-esteem, a low tolerance for stress, and difficulty forming intimate relationships, all of which increase the risk factor that a child in her care may be physically abused leading to even further problems related to touch as an adult.
Guidelines To Consider When Offering Touch To OthersAlthough even with the best intentions any touch may be misinterpreted, there are several factors to keep in mind when offering touch so that it will likely be viewed by others as both comforting and non-sexual.
Asking FirstIf at all in doubt, ask the person if a hug or other physical contact would be welcome. Do not merely assume because you would find a hug comforting that everyone shares your comfort with touch.
Having Already Formed A Relationship With The PersonThe offer of a hug is more likely to be seen as a helpful gesture if you have already shown compassion for the suffering of another in ways other than the use of touch, for example, saying supportive things or taking time to listen to the person's problems. A hug or other form of physical contact is usually more meaningful from a trusted person than from a stranger. In other words, a hug ought to be the expression of a relationship that already exists rather than an attempt to form a relationship.
An Ability To Keep One's Ego At BayAn ability to keep one's ego uninvolved in the process, which includes giving up any pre-determined agenda in order to be fully available for the needs of the other person is mandatory if the touch is to be for their benefit. In other words, if you take it personally whether another persons wants a hug or not the touch is more for your benefit than the other person's. This is particularly important for members of Al-anon to remember. New members often have a difficult time allowing others to experience the pain that is a part of the recovery process. They have a difficult time standing by and being present while another person expresses pain. They want to make it all better immediately. The hug is sometimes more about their own discomfort of seeing someone in pain than for the benefit of the other person.
Being Thoughtful About TouchFor a hug to be meaningful it has to be given in a thoughtful manner. The hug that is given out of habit rather than out of a sincere desire to be supportive has no effect at best, or is taken as an insult by the recipient.
Touching Both And Men And Women In A Similar FashionA heterosexual person who only offers hugs to persons of the other sex ought not to be surprised to learn that people are suspicious that these hugs are more about sexuality than about support.
A Final ReminderOne of the things meetings can offer is a safe place to experience comforting non-sexual touch. However, one must always keep in mind that other members may have very different views of the meaning of touch and approach any touch with caution. Anything powerful enough to heal also has the power to harm, and touch is no exception. ________________________________________ Dr. Mic Hunter is the author of: The Ethical Use Of Touch In Psychotherapy (with Jim Struve) Back To The Source: The Spiritual Principles Of Jesus, Conscious Contact: The 12 Steps As Prayer Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse In America’s Military, Abused Boys: The Neglects Victims of Sexual Abuse His solo practice is located in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.
Henry van Dyke. American Poet
Thanksgiving really is about traditions...If you think back to Thanksgiving Day in your own family, you might recall such things as the favorite item on the menu, or waiting for your grandparents to arrive, or tossing a football or Frisbee with your cousins...or maybe your Thanksgiving day memories were just a quiet day spent with your immediate family. The truth is we all have our own private memories of this holiday. We see how it is portrayed in movies, television shows, advertisements...you can even read all about the roots of Thanksgiving Day. Chances are you will find it an interesting read. We know one family where the two adult sons take an extended bike ride. They get up early in the morning, go riding and arrive home just in time to celebrate the holiday with the rest of the family. Of course, they are teased about how they are avoiding helping with the dinner preparations, but again it is their tradition.
PACE Recovery Center continues a new traditionYou might remember last year when we shared with you that the PACE men would be volunteering their time on Thanksgiving Day to participate in the local Gobble Gobble Give Thanksgiving Charity Event to feed the homeless. A tradition was born, and this year the tradition will continue. Again this year, we will be volunteering at the Santa Ana, California Gobble Gobble Give event. If you happen to live in the Orange County, California, area and are interested in participating, then you can visit their FACEBOOK page.
Recovery includes starting new traditions...Our motto is Positive Attitude Changes Everything! As we've said before, we know that as the clients at our addiction recovery center help provide hope to others it will help them realize the positive changes they are making in their own lives. We wish you all a beautiful, safe, healthy and peaceful Thanksgiving.
A special poemYears ago we came across a beautiful poem that was written in 1860 by William Whiting. We would like to share it with you today, and while it expresses gratitude to all sailors...it touches all those who gave part of their lifetime to serve our country.
For twenty years, This sailor has stood the watch
While some of us were in our bunks at night, This sailor stood the watch
While some of us were in school learning our trade, This shipmate stood the watch
Yes...even before some of us were born into this world, This shipmate stood the watch
In those years when the storm clouds of war were seen brewing on the horizon of history, This shipmate stood the watch
Many times he would cast an eye ashore and see his family standing there, Needing his guidance and help, Needing that hand to hold during those hard times, But he still stood the watch
He stood the watch for twenty years, He stood the watch so that we, our families, And our fellow countrymen could sleep soundly in safety, Each and every night, Knowing that a sailor stood the watch
Today we are here to say:"Shipmate...the watch stands relieved. Relieved by those YOU have trained, guided, and lead Shipmate you stand relieved...we have the watch!"
"Boatswain...Standby to pipe the side...Shipmate's going Ashore!"
- William Whiting, 1860