Blessing in disguise: How Covid-19 is bringing light to touch and consent

Photo by Dyu — Ha on Unsplash

When social distancing began buzzing as a precaution for preventing the spread of Covid-19, I panicked. “Oh no, this is the end of all discussion and advocacy around nurturing healing touch,” I thought to myself. When the pandemic first hit, there was an understandable catapulting toward fear in every way, especially in the discomfort and unease around the topic of touch and closeness with others.

Now, as the months have passed, I see more articles about touch and how much we miss it. Touch deprivation is now validated and a commonly acknowledged experience and term. People are looking for every possible way to touch and are going to great lengths for a hug, as mentioned in this New York Times article. To make hugging safe, people now ask, “May I hug you?”

That’s a gamechanger for consent and consideration for others. People are tuning in to their own comfort levels, and asking about the comforts of others more than ever before. Things that were generally assumed, like handshakes and hugs, are now discussed. Moreover, we show more creativity when connecting with others, and we’re better understanding our needs. Seemingly and suddenly, we’re having more conversations about comfort and consent. We are listening to each other and honoring these requests in ways that were not commonplace in our prior reality.

Covid-19 is the impetus for unmasking our issues with touch deprivation, consent, and fostering discussions on healthy compassionate touch. We realize that we miss touch and that it is essential in our lives. Yet we want safety, understanding, comfort, and connection. We are listening and honoring one another more. This development is a grand awareness and a basis for change.

As we know, the connection between touch and emotional health is profound. Touch is foundational for emotional connection, and it teaches us a lot about ourselves and those with whom we interact. This study suggests that people can accurately read eight emotions through touch alone. Touch also regulates the nervous system. Since we’re living through an extra stressful period, we need as much of that as possible.

While we may think that touch is still off-limits, talking about it and developing our awareness about consent are not. Continually learning and growing, children need us to address this new normal. They, too, are witnessing the effects of touch deprivation and sensing a change in our cultural environment.

How can we address this while imparting the skills to promote healthy compassionate touch even amidst a global pandemic?

Here are some suggestions.

The goal is to pick up on the nuance of the touch, whether it’s a hug or a gentle touch on the arm. We give credence to sensations, desires, and hurts while validating and shedding light on our reality. Once we start to read one another, we also grow in our ability to give and receive touch. It takes practice!



Author 📚 speaker 🔈 peer support 🤗 🙏🏻PT specializing in Craniosacral Therapy 🙌🏽 co-founder @touchadvocates

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Kate Mackinnon

Author 📚 speaker 🔈 peer support 🤗 🙏🏻PT specializing in Craniosacral Therapy 🙌🏽 co-founder @touchadvocates