I miss my support groups, the warm handshakes, and the genuine greeting, “How have you been?” Most of all, I miss hugs from my granddaughters. There is no technology that can replace their healing hugs.
We are social beings, and to thrive rather than just survive, we need healing contact with fellow human beings. As governors in the U.S. consider phasing us back into normal societal interactions, they should also phase in healing embraces in a manner that is safe for society.
Extended social isolation is not only detrimental to our economy, it also can have a negative impact on psychological and physical well-being. Premature babies who are provided with human touch thrive better than those who are not touched. Prisoner of war survivors provided with human contact from a friend during internment fared better than those without such contact. So much of human conversation is nonverbal and experienced face-to-face. The sharing of suffering and movement toward well-being is enhanced through physical contact, even a simple handshake.
For people with Parkinson’s, tactile expression is often the most important means of communication. Some people have the “Parkinson’s facial mask,” which limits emotive expressions. Many people wearing masks now are experiencing a similar problem — they can’t see the smile of greeting on someone’s face behind the mask.
We were already paranoid about touching due to professional groups such as priests, therapists, and counselors touching in ways they shouldn’t have. Business executives were committing sexual advances toward their staff. Hollywood has had more than its share of inappropriate contact. Now there’s COVID-19 and more paranoia.
Yes, precaution is necessary, but we don’t want to throw away what we know is healthy for each of us. Healing, loving hugs from uninfected family members and friends should be given as much national strategic importance as the economy and our medical health system. It may be several months before the routine of daily life begins to resemble the familiar pattern disrupted so quickly and dramatically over the past few months. Our need for healing human contact should not have to wait that long.
Here is my proposal: Everyone is to adopt the dual moniker of “giver of healing hugs” and “receiver of healing hugs.” The special feature: Healing hugs can only be initiated by the receiver, and then the the giver either can accept or refuse.
It starts with a statement from the hug receiver like, “I could use a healing hug right now.” After the healing hug is received, the receiver gives thanks and positive feedback to encourage improved healing contact. Precautions such as gloves and masks are still important, but uninfected hugs can go a long way to helping reconnect families and friends.
Healing contact, when done with a sacred intent to promote well-being, can be a part of the healing relationship. COVID-19 restrictions make it difficult to provide or receive healing contact. Right now, at the end of 30 self-imposed days of social isolation restricted to a small hotel room because we are between homes, and with minimal access to decent food, I really could use a big, healing hug.
Write to your governor asking them to add “healing human contact” to the list of important social and public health concerns during the COVID-19 crisis. Ask them to add “healing human contact” to the list of things that need to be phased back in as part of returning to a healthy society. I know I am looking forward to saying to my granddaughters, “I need a healing hug.”
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.
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