Skin Hunger: How Important Is The Human Touch?


A thought came to me this morning when I was on the train to work. Almost as if someone hit me right on the head, which wouldn’t have been surprising seeing as we were squashed in the carriage like sardines. With everyone fighting and pushing past each other to get on the train to work, you’re lucky if you can move your hand to scratch your nose if you had an itch.

It was that thought precisely that came to me. When you brush your hair, wipe your face, or hold your arm up, you don’t think anything of it. You don’t think of anything when you need to touch your own skin. But what about touching someone else? Or someone touching you? How does that make you feel? How often do we actually make contact with someone else?

I can tell you it’s not as often as you think.

When you look around you, on the streets, tube or even in a coffee shop, you notice that we live in such a busy, crowded world, yet it’s so easy for many of us to go days, even weeks or months without touching or being touched by others.

We get huffy when someone’s standing too close for our liking on the underground, and we flinch when someone hands us our change and accidentally comes into contact with our skin.

Think about when you’re at your job if you’re in an office, how often do you come into contact with your colleagues? Apart from shaking hands with a new client, do you actually touch anyone or does anyone touch you the rest of that day?

It’s different if you’ve got kids and a significant other because contact with people is unique to each person. More often than not, what touch I get is from my boyfriend when he’s in town, and my dog, and that’s more than enough for me.

Sometimes it feels like my space is invaded and I can’t stand being physically near people. We all do that; we feel encroached upon by a stranger, when things get too close for comfort. Or even if they’re someone you know, sometimes you’re in a bad mood and feel like nothing can shake it off. Sometimes the last thing you need is someone’s sympathetic hand to pat you on the arm.

But sometimes that’s exactly what you need. Sometimes, the body needs somebody’s sympathetic touch, and though we fear that it will open the floodgates, sometimes the floodgates opening is exactly what we need to express ourselves, to vent, to grieve. To heal.

Humans need to be socialized; mentally, emotionally, and physically from birth, but our needs seem to lessen as we mature. How much that lessens would depend on each person’s experiences, but I think needing it less is a myth. We all need it. We just learn to compartmentalize that need. We ignore it. We think of it as an inconvenience. But it’s not wrong to want a hug when you’re sad, to need to be consoled when you’re upset.

We need human touch to thrive.

When was the last time you had someone give you a big, innocent hug? How did that simple hug feel? What emotions did it evoke in you? Did you feel warm inside? Did you feel complete for those couple of seconds?

We all need human affection. Can we live without it? Yes, of course we can. Should we? No, I don’t think we should.