Michelangelo is quoted as saying “to touch is to give life”.
And he couldn’t be more right! Out of our 5 senses, our ability to sense touch (also called “haptic” sense) is the first one to develop as we’re a growing foetus. Biologically this speaks to its primary importance of touch in life, over and above the other senses.
In fact, it is the one sense that you cannot live without. When you think about it, that’s the one thing every person on this planet has in common: some degree of tactile sensation.
No sight, no smell, no hearing, no taste – they’re all things that can be, and commonly are, lived with by many people around the world. This happens to varying degrees but even those with total loss of each of these senses can survive and thrive, creating a full life for themselves.
Exemplifying this, an unbelievably unique woman named Laura Bridgman, who was born in 1829 lost her sight, her hearing, her sense of smell and her sense of taste by the age of 2 years old. Four out of her five senses were gone or had never been there to begin with. She became fully educated by the age of 20 using only her sense of touch (thanks to some wonderful teachers!). She lived on touch alone without any of the other senses. More on Laura’s incredible story can be found here.
(As an extra note, a biography written on Laura Bridgman towards the end of her life was how Helen Keller’s parents discovered that deaf-blind children could be fully educated).
Yet, to the contrary, nowhere in the world is there any documented cases of people who do not have any ability to sense tactile stimuli.
Yes, there are conditions that cause temporary (and permanent) loss of or reduction in haptic sense throughout a portion of the body. Sometimes the loss of sensation even covers the majority of the body! Yet, there is not a single person alive today (or documented in any history that I can find) who has entirely lost the ability to sense touch over their whole body.
Take a moment to think about that.
The ONE thing that links us all regardless of culture, language, geography, sex, etc. and the ONE thing that we cannot live without – is TOUCH.
Understanding this at its most foundational level is a huge key to health, happiness, creating a sense of connectedness with others, and forming lasting relationships.
So for goodness sake, go and give someone a hug.
For more reading in that same vein, check out my post “Touch: the most ancient language”.
Last updated: August 28, 2018.