On so many levels. I don’t just mean the work of due diligence, or of managing fear. Though that’s certainly part of it right now.
And I also mean more than working hard to save businesses and livelihoods. Even though that’s also a very real thing.
I been thinking a lot lately about the social, emotional and cultural work that will be (and already is) needed. Part of what we do here at Navina is educate about touch – which you probably know, since you’re here reading this.
But wrapped-up in that education is the biology of human contact – and this leads us directly to the anthropology of us being social beings. We’re deeply hardwired for touch, and this brings us together and builds bonds with others (Oxytocin is the hormone that drives human bonding, and this is released significantly with touch), which in-turn creates the emotional and social security of groups. Touch is the glue that binds us as social creatures. ((Yes, even if you’re highly introverted)).
I’m seeing it all over social media right now – the realization of many that this social distancing practice ((though very necessary)) is very difficult. To me, this highlights our relative interdependence on one another.
So, I see that there is the experiential realization of our nature.
There’s also fear layered into this experience. And this fear won’t simply go away when the virus starts to finish its path across the world. This fear drives suspicion. It drives self-preservation. It drives the distance between us (emotionally and culturally). And this is what it will continue to do. This will be one of its legacies. And this is what I mean by we have our work cut out for us.For many of us this is going to be the hardest element of the post-virus fallout to deconstruct and work through.
Reprogramming the fear of social contact – the social anxiety that will be palpably leftover. We already live in a touch-averse culture.
In some ways I feel as though the progress we’ve been making (at least in our own sphere here at Navina) in bringing people together and teaching the tools to bridge you into the language of touch and human connection, will be reversed. In other ways, I see this as exactly the reason we exist here at Navina. To re-educate. But also to frame that education with responsibility – to give tools and language to develop safe touch-spaces (with all this entails), AND to embody what it can mean to do this work in a world that both very much needs touch, and also where touch is a mode of viral transmission.
So where does the work begin?
Feel free to contribute ideas below. I’m putting my own ideas here – as actionable items to begin the challenging process of dismantling our newfound (or newly-amplified) social anxiety and fear. Some of these will be more applicable already, and others may be future items.
The first piece, which is something we should be doing anyway, is talking about touch:
- • Touch is a very intimate experience (note: intimate doesn’t mean sexual) and for many people, it is a deeply layered and complex experience as well.
- • In honouring the complexity of touch, we should be talking about it. These conversations can be uncomfortable, but all the work that is worth its salt is at least a little uncomfortable. So I encourage you to step into that space.
- • Talk specifically about what makes you feel safe in touch-based scenarios. How does that look right now (know that it can/does change)? Is it a hand on the shoulder? A hug? Or is it different for different people? Talking about this helps to clarify things in your own mind and clarity helps agency – it gets you exploring what your comfort with touch feels and looks like and then communicating it. Sharing and hearing these things will also keenly attune you to considerations for others.
- • Talk about consent. Highlight its importance with your close people – get them thinking and talking about this too. Remember that this conversation can be uncomfortable, and at the same time if you stick with it, this discomfort grows into agency and voice.
- • Hygiene practices – talk about this too – when confronting anxious feelings, it can be helpful to really dig into the details of how we not only take care of ourselves but also others. Data for our brains is often helpful.
The next piece, some of which can already take place at home:
- • Self-massage. Receiving massage is about a lot of things – including the release of extra tension, and so self-massage can help to meet those needs AND to get you experiencing some degree of touch, albeit from massage tools. It can’t replace the connection element of a massage from a human, but this is where the next part comes in…
- • Massage with isolation-companions or with close people. These close people should be people who are responsible and have taken all logical measures to reduce their risk and therefore your risk of infection.
- • Making sure that you talk about touch, consent, and hygiene practices first.
- • And then enacting all those practices in the creation of a safe environment in which to build that connection.
Note, if your isolation-companion is a life-partner/sexual partner, I would strongly encourage you to explore the layers of intimacy touch provides beyond sexual experiences. This space is where touch vocabulary expands.
Hopefully this helps.
Drew & the Navina team.