04-10-2009, 06:18 AM
Status: SAS Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Cage #1747
I first read about this a few minutes ago when tigerlilly meantioned in in one of her posts.
From the 2 words, skin and hunger, it describes the desire or craving to be touched, usually from a long period of deprivation.
Skin hunger is a relatively new term that has been applied to the emotional response engendered by the loss of touch in our society. One of the five basic senses, touch is the only one deemed essential to human life. During WW II babies in orphanages developed Failure to thrive or even died when deprived of human contact. In a classic study by Harry Harlow, newborn monkeys were taken from their biological mothers and given surrogates made of either wire or soft terry cloth. The baby monkeys consistently chose the soft mother even when deprived of nourishment. The need for bonding outweighed even the basic necessity of food.
The need for touch extends beyond the early developmental years. It is the first sense to develop in utero and the last to diminish as we die. Babies and children with loving parents are cuddled and kissed and touched. As a child ages he seeks to become more independent and may even resist too much lovin'. How many of us parents have mourned the day our children became too big to sit in our laps anymore? Boys, especially, are discouraged from showing too much affection. To be a man means to be strong and stoic and emotion is deemed a sign of weakness.
Adolescence is a time of self discovery and growing sexual awareness. As kids grow into teens they may seek sexual intimacy even when not emotionally ready because the need for touch is so strong. How many girls have had sex prematurely when all they really wanted was to be held? Compounding the problem, many parents will decrease physical contact with their teens because of fears of inappropriateness.
Maturing into adults we face a world that explodes with sexual images but discourages more than a friendly nod or a handshake in public. Sexuality is OK but intimacy is not.
The elderly, the disabled and the very ill, aka the "Untouchables", are at greatest risk of touch deprivation. Living in isolated homes, the elderly and the disabled often have limited mobility and fears of victimization may prevent their venturing out. People with a terminal illness like HIV may have very little contact with another human being due to inherent fears of the disease. Although not as fulfilling as human contact, a pet may provide the bonding and comfort needed.
Americans, especially, suffer from a lack of intimacy with each other. Following a research project on touch around the world, social scientists rated the United States and Great Britain among the lowest touch countries studied. The "warmer" high-touch countries included Spain, France, Italy, and Greece.
Tiffany Field, Director of Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami, feels touch is essential to how we learn, feel and think. A study conducted by Field compared the interaction of mothers and their children at playgrounds and McDonalds in Miami and Paris. The Parisian mothers touched their children far more often than their American counterparts. In addition, the French children displayed much less aggression than the American children.
The power of touch pervades all areas of our society. Salesmen may use a light touch to influence a potential client into a sale. Waitresses have been found to receive larger tips if they subtly touch a patron.
But the most well known association to touch is healing. The bible often makes reference to the "laying on of hands" to heal the sick. The word surgeon has its roots in the Greek word kheirourgos meaning "hand healer".
The modern healing touch can be found in different types of body work including massage, rolfing or reike, among others. Therapeutic massage is the most well known and accepted method of healing sore and injured muscles, reducing pain as well as imparting a feeling of relaxation and good will to the client. People experiencing skin hunger may often seek out massage just to satisfy their craving for touch.
What has led us to be so touch deprived?
Four trends in our society take most of the blame:
The age of technology has allowed us to interact with others around the world via satellites and microchips but has dehumanized our daily lives. In a recent poll Americans rated the cell phone as the device they hate the most, but can't live without. We interact more with our time-saving devices than we do with each other.
Children of busy mothers may often be "surrounded by plastic". From the day care center to the home environment, infants are "contained" in car seats, strollers and playpens. When mom is too tired or busy to attend to them, children may be plunked in front of the electronic babysitter, the TV. Contrast this to the child who is held all day, snuggled close in a baby carrier, or has the opportunity to interact and play freely with his environment.
Urbanization, two career families and the loss of the extended family have led us to isolation.
Husband and wives, caught up in work and family obligations, are often too exhausted to give each other the affection needed. A recent Newsweek cover story focused on the "so-called epidemic of low-sex or no sex marriages in America."1
We rarely know our neighbors or live close to parents and grandparents. We are suspicious of strangers and carefully guard our personal space when we meet new people. Only in small cities and towns in America do you find the connectedness and community needed to "keep in touch".
A Litigious Society
Touching someone can be a federal offense these days. With the new sexual harassment laws many people are afraid to extend a warm hug or a friendly touch. In addition, with the increase in child molestation, we must guard our children's safety and teach them the difference between good and bad touching. Unfortunately for our children, that means their caregivers must be especially guarded in showing them affection, even when appropriate.
Relaxed morals in mass media portray an unrealistic view of sexuality and relationships which can lead to inappropriate behavior and desires. We want what we see on the silver screen even if it is unattainable, further feeding our skin hunger.
To touch is to be human. It makes us feel valued and cared for. However, everyone is not comfortable with being touched. Some cultures and religions forbid touching someone other than a family member. When first meeting someone, take a clue from how they react to others and you will know if it is OK to approach. Just a pat on the shoulder or a touch on the hand is a caring gesture.
Now that you know how important it is, "reach out and touch someone" today!