A lot of men are touch deprived. Much of the culture of the United States is still influenced by 17th century New England Puritanism and 19th century English Victorianism, when mutual touch between men was highly suspect. Even today, practically the only circumstances we witness men giving and receiving healthy physical affection from one another on a regular basis are between soldiers in the field, sports team members, gay men, and fathers and their small sons.
By physical affection I am not implying sexual intent (though I suspect many men are afraid of prolonged close contact with men for fear of experiencing arousal, which possibility they may not realize is perfectly normal, and does not infer that either man is “coming on” to the other). I also am not speaking about those quick A-line hugs, back patting, fist-butting, and chest bouncing that pass for hugs among many men. I’m talking about warm, prolonged holding, with arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders for at least a count of ten seconds!
Hugging lowers blood pressure, promotes healthy immune systems and is essential for mental, emotional, and physical health. It also conveys a sense of safety, of being valued, and of mutual empathy. This kind of touch is normally experienced between men who already know each other, but given certain circumstances such as offering comfort to a stranger who has just been traumatized, such hugging and holding is entirely appropriate and necessary and can begin the healing process.
I’ll never forget having brain surgery to remove a benign tumor that left me totally deaf in one ear and an annoying tinnitus. The medical care was great at Massachusetts General Hospital, but I spent five days there in recovery without one healing touch, totally isolated in my bed. Looking back, I needed to grieve my loss with someone who cared enough to counteract the invasion and partial destruction of my body with a knife, with a humane touch of kindness.
Of course to be effective, mutual affectionate touch must be offered and received willingly. It can’t be forced or manipulated. All the more reason why more men in our culture may need to seek it out from those who are able to give good touch, even in the context of massage or supervised support groups.
Kevin Smith from Boston has a marvelous touch practice that more men ought to discover. His website and blog can be found at http://touchpractice.com and on Facebook. In the meantime, find someone you trust and begin to experience a little more warm and healing touch in your life. It may be just what you need to get you through today….and through life.
Contact the Man’s Coach at firstname.lastname@example.org