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Touch Me, Touch Me Not

The sense of touch involves physical contact. It’s both the act of making contact and the sensation we experience upon contact. Reaching out and physically connecting, whether the contact is with someone, an animal, a plant, or an object, is the act of touching. The sensation – the feeling – we experience on making that contact is touch.

We learn through touch. We see what’s around us and learn to identify and discriminate based on similarities and differences. Walking through woods, we see that trees vary, one species from another. By touching the bark and fingering the leaves, we expand our knowledge.

Through tactile experiences, we categorize sensations, finding ourselves liking some, disliking others. And, as with all our senses, individual responses to tactile stimulation vary widely. Consider therapeutic massage. Some people cannot bear the thought. Others seek its benefits. Within this circle are those seeking relaxation and wanting only gliding strokes and gentle kneading. Others want relief from tension and pain and prefer deeper pressure that reaches the connective tissue surrounding muscles. Our tolerance for touch determines our preference.

Adults and children alike seek out textures we find pleasant and avoid the others. Whether in the clothing we wear, the foods we eat, or the activities we pursue. Ever wonder why manufacturers started printing labels inside shirts? I don’t know the official reasons but I know plenty of people who like the change. Beats having to remove the tag and worry about snipping the garment in the process. What else could one do about such an irritant?

Think of preschoolers. Many delight in messy sensory play while others want no part of finger painting, play dough, “slime,” or anything else they feel is “icky,” “sticky,” or “yucky”.

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