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I stumbled across this beautiful article today, by Dr. Alex Lickerman, a Buddhist physician.  He tells the story of an ER patient who was so terrified of needles that the prospect of having her blood drawn had her shaking, rigid, and in tears.  Not knowing what else to do, the doctor took her hand, which she squeezed to the point of pain.

When it was over, the patient continued to lie there with her eyes shut, my hand still in hers. I watched as she forced her breathing to slow and then opened her eyes. She dabbed at her tears with her free hand and then looked directly at me. ‘Thank you,’ she said in a relieved voice. Then she gave my hand a final squeeze—this one mercifully gentle—and let me go. My hand started throbbing a little, but I hardly noticed.

He goes on to describe how a simple touch – if we are brave enough to offer it – can help at times when nothing else can, when people are “drowning in pain” and feel “utterly defeated or terrified by their circumstances.”

One of the reasons I find that RSM works so powerfully is not just the synergy between talk and touch, but the power of the touch itself. In the simplest of sessions, I have found that what really comes across to clients is the desire for contact: uncomplicated by sexuality or need, offered with openness and generosity. It is truly amazing to many clients how powerful it really is: just to feel the warmth of caring hands, just to feel comforted, just to feel touched. It doesn’t take long to realize that there’s no just about it: it’s an intensely powerful and crucial human need.

Perhaps because, ultimately, we must all face the trials life has in store for us by ourselves—experience pain, fear, doubt, and loss in the confines of our own minds and bodies (that is, no one can do our suffering for us)—we long when obstacles appear for evidence that we’re not alone, that others care about how we feel and what happens to us. There just seems to be something inherently comforting about the physical presence of others when we’re in pain or afraid. And nothing starts that comfort flowing like a touch.

Read the entire piece here.

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