CAN TOUCH THIS
For those of us who seldom feel someone else’s skin on ours, simple brushes can leave impressions that outlive literature.
"For most people, being touched is something they take for granted. It just happens. A hug from a friend, a hand being held, a pat on the shoulder for reassurance. They’re actions that are just done – like drinking a glass of water, doing up buttons and putting one foot in front of the other,” says Carly Findlay.
Born with ichthyosis – a skin condition that requires her to apply emollient oils such as Vaseline to her whole body twice a day – the 30-year-old writer and student has an experience of touch that’s seven shades different from the norm.
“Small moments of affection are shelved away in my memory like wines in a cellar. And for the big moments of physical affection, I want to hold a press conference, telling the world I’ve been touched.”
People often fear touching her, she says, thinking it’ll hurt. “It generally won’t. Casual touches can feel miraculous to me, despite the person’s innocent intent. A pat on the arm that means it’s good to see me can make me smile all day. And so intimate touching is literally etched into my memory forever.”
According to French psychologist and author of Seize the Day ($24.95; Scribe), Marie de Hennezel, the skin itself possesses a memory.
Simple touch – as long as it feels good and reaffirming – can trigger a re-experiencing of the most deep-rooted emotion, and sometimes feelings of deprivation. It’s as if the act of being touched reveals how much we want and need touch. It opens the floodgates; touch softens us.
“After years spent immersed in the science of touch, I can tell you it’s far more profound than we usually realise,” says Dr Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the US’s University of California, Berkeley. “Touch is truly fundamental to human connection, bonding and health. It’s our primary language of compassion and a primary means of spreading compassion.”
The skin experiences touch ‘hunger’, too, Carly believes. “I think about touch a lot. I think about how long it’s been since I was last touched. I don’t get touched very often, and when I do, it feels amazing, and sometimes heightened – even just a tap on the shoulder. It’s just the feeling of skin on skin that I want. A hand held, a hug. I’ve got skin hunger.”
Read Carly Findlay’s blog here.
MADE YOU LOOK, 2012