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Showing posts with label touch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label touch. Show all posts

Returning to Touch Love


Mini-Love-Lesson  # 277

Synopsis: The good that loving touch does in our brains; our natural hunger for tactile love; physical and emotional distancing; and mindfully getting ready for when we can do more, safe, love touching after the pandemic are all succinctly and usefully reviewed here.

Touch Love in the Brain

When people with love in their hearts touch each other, skin to skin, almost magical things happen in their brains.  With loving touch, the brain chemical oxytocin starts to flow which greatly facilitates love bonding.  Dopamine and norepinephrine are produced and circulate which significantly helps the loving feel good with one another.  Immunity mechanisms strengthen and dozens of other helpful things begin to happen as our brain continues to process healthful, real love.

Love Touch Hunger

With the pandemic, millions have gone without much touch love and its multitudinous benefits.  In those lands where the pandemic has been well-managed, it is not as bad and it is  getting better.  Elsewhere, not so much yet.  However, there is a worry that in too many places too many people may have become touch shy, avoidant or just habituated to having less loving and friendly touch in their lives.  There are studies that suggest as hunger for affectionate and loving touch goes unmet, people of all ages become more easily agitated, fatigued, anxious, depressed, irritable, uncooperative and more disease susceptible.  As this occurs, love relationships of all types suffer.

Loving Touch in the Soon to Be Future ???

So, after enough people get vaccinated and touch becomes safe again, how well will we return to doing loving and friendly touch with each other?   Also, how much will you and your loved ones lives be benefited or deprived of loving touch’s many contributions?  

Let’s consider hugs.  Are you going to hug more, less or about the same?  How are you going to hug?  Will you be doing full body hugs, A-frame hugs where there is no touch below the waist, country club hugs where there is no touch at all or what?  Will you hug everybody you use to  hug?  How do you want to respond when meeting new people who want to hug you?

What about shaking hands?   Communicable disease experts advise that shaking hands probably would be a habit we could do well without.  Do you want to stick with fist bumps or elbow bumping instead of shaking hands?  How about the old Roman Empire’s mutual, wrist grab and squeeze?

What will you want to do about pats on the back, one arm buddy hugs, snuggling, cuddling, hand holding, back rubs, foot rubbing, spooning, massaging and tap touching?  Then there is how you may come to touch and be touched by children, teens, elders, different genders, workmates, friends and others?  Will you pick up from where you left off before the pandemic or do you want to make some sort of fresh, re-start to friendly and loving touching?

There are indications that all these touch involvements have diminished during the worldwide emphasis on “distancing for safety”.  Along with physical distancing, there is thought to have been an increase in emotional distancing that had best be reversed for the good of everyone’s mental, physical and relational health.  Distancing, regrettably, has contributed to our, research-identified, global problems with loneliness and what some call our wide-spread, love-malnutrition.

Until were safe out in the world, giving and getting lots of loving touch with those you safely live with, probably is a very healthy practice.  That might require an increase in what you and your close-at-hand loved ones are used to.  You might want to talk that over with them.

Touch Love Mindfulness

I suggest it will be advantageous for us all to become a bit more mindful of our post-pandemic touch behaviors and what we want them to be.  Such mindfulness may be especially useful in regard to those we love, those we call friends and those new acquaintances we may want to befriend or we could even come to love.

It is also important to think about getting ourselves love-touched enough.  Additionally, we all may do well to make-up for lost time spent apart or out of touch with our distanced friends, family and other loved ones.  In time, as we reconnect face-to-face, we may want to say things like “How about a big, long hug” or other love-touch initiating remarks.  Until then, we can ready ourselves for when we again can give and get loving touch more freely.  Being a bit more mindful of how we send and receive love via touch, likely will lead to our love relating being improved, enhanced and enriched.

If you want to learn more about love-touch and its wonders, try reading the mini-love-lessons found under Touch in the Subject Index Link of this site.

One More Little Thing.  Are there some people you might like to touch on these subjects with?   You could call, Zoom or Skype with them, if you can not yet get in touch with them face-to-face, and make a joint plan for getting in touch with each other as soon as it safe.  If you do that, please mention this site and its abundance of mini-love-lessons aimed at making the world a bit more love knowledgeable.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question:  Do you ever give yourself a love hug, or otherwise lovingly touch yourself perhaps while saying some healthy, self-love words to yourself or to certain parts of yourself?

Touching With and For Love – A Super Important Love Skill

Mini-Love-Lesson  #229

Synopsis: Ways of uncommonly growing your variety and skills for sending and receiving love by way of touch, starting with the most common ways of doing tactical love is well addressed in this mini-love-lesson.

Different! – Better! – More!

Are you good at love touching?  Is your variety of differing ways to touch, with and for love, rich and varied? (see “50 Varieties of Love Touch”)  Are your ways of showing love by touch getting better, becoming more impactful and more diverse?  How are you doing at getting yourself lovingly touched?  Are you good, and getting better, at receiving, soaking up and savoring the touch from those who love you?  If you want to be touched differently, do you ask for it clearly and with love?  (see “Asking For What You Want -- With Love”)  Do you know how those you love want to be touched by you?  Has it changed?  Finally, how much do you know about the getting and giving of love through touch and what that can achieve in physical, psychological and relational health? (see “Love Hugs for Health and Happiness”)

Five Basic Ways of Doing Touch Love – Maybe Better

Let’s consider five of the most common and popular ways people touch, with and for love, for connecting and the sharing, giving and getting healthy, real love.  Let’s also consider doing these five ways a bit better, even if you do them quite well.

1. Handholding
Think about handholding which is – tender and caring – or solid and reassuring – or comforting and friendly – or playful and happy.  Now think about the differences in hand pressure and the hand motions during handholding which can help make each of those mood states happen.  And let’s think about your two hands lovingly holding one hand of someone you love, then lovingly holding both their hands simultaneously.  What might be the differences in love effects between those two ways of holding hands?  Is the love impact or intensity of emotions different?  How are those two ways different than only one of your hands holding just one hand of a loved one?  What could be the different emotions that might occur, or be conveyed and/or shared with each different way of holding hands?

Let’s add thinking about holding hands while walking, sitting side-by-side, across a table and laying side-by-side.  Which of those is best for you for being able to show your love through handholding touch?  Imagine holding one hand with one of your hands while your other hand moves one finger slowly across the back of his or her hand, then between their fingers , then touching palm to palm and lastly, the back of your hand touching the back of theirs lightly.  What effect might each of those actions have?

How good are you at return touching when loving hands touch you? (see “Touching Back – A Surprisingly Important Love Skill”)  What would that be like, or has it been like if you already have done hand touching like that?  Is this little handholding and touching variety sequence appealing to you and/or to your beloved?

With whomever you hold hands with, do you talk about it?  Do you explore and experiment for new and more pleasurable ways to add to what might be called your handholding menu or repertoire?

With all these thoughts in mind, are you going to do something that might add to your future handholding with and for love?

2. Face Touching
Fantasize about softly cupping your hands around the cheeks of a loved one as you look lovingly into their eyes, creating a special moment of special love.  Imagine gently stroking their eyebrows with one finger and then running fingers along the outline of their lips and other facial features.  Suppose, ever so tenderly, patting one cheek with the palm of your hand and then, ever so much more gently, running a fingertip over their closed eyelids.  Add soft kissing to their brow, earlobes, cheeks and then finally their lips.  Now, imagine beginning to playfully twirl locks of their hair followed by pulling your loved ones head to your chest with their face being softly snuggled there.  Lastly, in your mind’s, eye see your loved one’s cheek resting peacefully on your inner thigh as you both lay together in bed.

As you imagine these things, what are your feelings and your thoughts about doing more and different face touching love?

3. Back Rubbing.
Rubbing somebody’s back can be done for a variety of reasons.  There is rubbing for only pain and tension relief, obligatory rubbing because you owe them one, therapeutic rubbing for health and, of course, as a seduction lead in.  Then there is a back rub done primarily to show and share love.  Is that back rub different from those other back rubs?  Interestingly, there is research that says, yes it is.  Preliminary and pilot studies revealed that when people who love each other lovingly touch, back rubs included, there are measurable neuroelectric and neurochemical differences occurring in their brains and nervous systems, as compared to mere acquaintances doing similar touching.  These differences are healthful and can result in emotions sometimes described as feeling cherished, special, safer, closer, more serene and more loved.

People vary greatly in how they like their backs rubbed.  Unfortunately people who grew up seldom being lovingly touched tend to be more aware of what they do not like concerning back rubs and also other kinds of touch.  There are those who grew up with only hard and tough touches who, at first, find softer touch strange, irritating or otherwise disagreeable.  Then there are those for whom all touch is interpreted as sexual.  For them, nonsexual back rubs frequently are confusing, annoying and/or frustrating.  Almost everybody who works at it, possibly with the help of a good massage therapist, can come to find back rubs to be a very pleasurable and often a loving experience.  That is because the back has a wide scattering of nerve endings for pleasurable sensations.

What is important is to repeatedly experiment to discover what you naturally like, and then ask for it rather than just staying silent, complaining or dodging the issue.  Also important is working at being a good giver of the gift of love reception responses.  Appreciatively saying things like “that feels so good” and “thank you so much” are examples of good, love reception responses.  Discovering what a loving back caress really feels like, and how receiving it well gives pleasure to the person giving you one, may double your pleasure and be well worth the effort.   

Remember, with healthy self-love you can ask for the way you are being touched to change from what you like less to what you may like more.  This is a loving thing to do because it helps those who love you to know you and to know what you want better.  Lovingly asking for a touch that is harder or softer, faster or slower, moving to the right or left, up or down, or expressing what is just right is usually all you need.  Those nine requests can usually get you touched pretty much just right.

The way you want to have a back rub may be very different from the way someone you love wants one.  This actually goes for all touch.  It also may change from time to time.  The loving thing to do is to stay current by asking, every so often, how does your loved one want their back to be rubbed today.  Adding experiments in back scratching, caresses using different materials like velvet and silk, feathers, warm rounded light weight river rocks, and the like, also can make the back rubbing experience a very special, loving experience.  Sometimes the simple act of relieving tension by rubbing neck, shoulders, etc. also can be a quite nice loving thing to do.

4. Foot rubbing
Some researchers studying what successful couples do, were surprised to find foot rubs were mentioned much more often than they had expected.  Couples stated things like they felt lovingly treated when lying on a couch or bed watching TV when their spouse would begin to rub their feet and both felt closer and more lovingly connected.

Like the hands, the feet have a lot of nerve endings for sensual and other tactile pleasures.  This offers a lot of opportunities for creating positive feelings, both physical and emotional. Gentle toe pulling and squeezing, varying pressure on soles, heels and arches, top of the foot caressing, and so forth, adds to the experience.  Some couples include soft towels, fuzzy cloths and special devices made for foot massage.  The use of scented massage oils, skin creams, pumice stones, honey dust and body powders all can be employed to convey special love during foot rubs.  Then too, just a simple relaxed foot caressing at the end of a hard day’s work also can be quite a love-conveying action.

5. Love Hugging
Is hugging the most wonderful way to do touch love?  Is hugging the way that conveys love most quickly and fully in all kinds of love relationships?  Are love hugs the most accurate way for conveying the widest array of the many emotions that come with love?

Many, when asked to think seriously about the above questions, gave a resounding YES as the right answer to each of those queries and others like them.  There also is a growing body of scientific findings that tend to support those affirmative replies about hugging.  In some studies, the ways people hug, cuddle and snuggle have been found to more effectively and more accurately convey a wide array of emotions having to do with love better than words or facial expressions.  Link “Cuddling for Greater Love and Better Sex -- A Love Skill”   Think of hugs that bring and share acceptance, joy, reassurance, emotional closeness, celebration, sense of being cherished, pride, comfort and safety, playful fun, empathy, sexiness, serene togetherness, healing, belonging, union and reunion.

Does the feeling shape the way the hug is done, or the other way around?  Probably it is a circular system where it is both.  What is important is that two or more people involved in the hug, and who have love for each other, share the feeling as they share the hug.  Family and deeper friendship group hugs, as well as loving couple hugs, seem to share this mutuality of similar emotions but not quite as strongly as do couples.

Love Touch for All Relationships of Love – Save One.

Bio-physically everybody can benefit from touches that convey healthy, real love.  That is because a touch of love naturally and healthfully stimulates a bundle of beneficial brain reactions.  They, in turn, make your immunity mechanisms work better, normalize blood pressure, reduce tension and stress, reduce depression and anxiety, improve circulation and maybe best of all increase the feeling of love connection with others.  Love touching, including hugs of friends, family, young and old, mates, kids and even yourself can be a very good thing.  Opening up to touch, and especially hugs which are tender, sweet, zestful, intimate, lively, bold and all the rest can be incredibly life-enriching for ever so many.

There is one big exception.  Sadly, there are a lot of people who are trained and/or conditioned by their cultures, religions, families or bad experiences to fear and avoid most touch experiences, even though they might be quite love expressive.  A great deal of that avoidance has to do with a fear of something sexual occurring.  Many who have this training and/or conditioning get over it with the intervention of some good psychotherapy and are then very grateful for it.

Going on to Ever Better Tactile Love

Tactile, or touch love, is thought to be our first, most basic and perhaps most important way of giving, getting and sharing love.  More is being discovered about how healthful loving touch is and how it works by university and medical school researchers every year.  You can do your own discovering, as you are doing right now by reading, followed by your own personal experimenting.  You also can learn a lot from getting various kinds of massage, perhaps especially Esalen massage, by taking massage courses and by being much more mindful concerning the getting, giving and sharing of love by way of touch.

One More Little Thing

How would you like to go right now and give somebody a loving touch, caress, pat or some other touch gift, and maybe tell them about this mini-love-lesson and this website about love?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: When love-touched, do you make sure to feel the touch with your mind’s awareness and, therefore, more fully experience the love, or is your mind off somewhere else, a bit out of touch?

Love Hugs for Health and Happiness

Mini-love lesson #182
FREE over 200 mini-love lessons touching thousands of lives in over 190 countries – worldwide!

Synopsis: This mini-love lesson, both seriously and lightly, gets the reader into some the many surprising health and happiness benefits of becoming skilled at love hugs, doing more for your loved ones, yourself and your love relationships.

Love Hugs and Their Surprising Goodies

A good love hug may surprise you with how many broad-ranging benefits it offers.  But first let’s be sure what were talking about.  Not all hugs are love hugs.  A real love hug starts with a person having and then wanting to give a gift of some sincere, heartfelt, real love.  It frequently contains a fair amount of empathy and a bit of evaluation of what the recipient will find beneficial and/or enjoyable.  Then, of course, it takes behavioral action.  It seldom contains elements of being sexual, perfunctory, manipulative or anything other than a behavioral connection gift.

The Many Types of Love Hugs

Love hugs are for everybody – friends, family, young, old, mates, kids, etc.  Hugs can be of a great many different types: tender, sweet, comforting, zestful, bold, intimate, lively, and a lot more.  Most love hugs include a lot of body contact.  Standing and laying down love hugs are often full-bodied and can go from cheek to cheek contact all the way down to the knees or even the feet.  Sitting, they usually in essence are sort of like cuddling and physically encompassing.  Love hugging frequently last a bit longer than other kinds of hugs and, therefore, can be savored better.  Love hugs can be considered a sort of pick me up behavioral vitamin.  Have at least one a day.

Most genuine love hugs benefit both the initiator and the receiver.  This group of benefits is increased when the receiver hugs back. Even without this hug back response, both people benefit.  There also are multiple person or clump love hugs with groups of close friends and family, sometimes even including pets.

The following are a dozen of the many, frequent benefits research has discovered having to do with love hugging.

A love hug:
•    triggers an invigorating, energizing, biological effect
•    sets off natural anti-depressive neurochemistry
•    starts a cascade of automatic, tension reduction responses
•    increases a sense of support and safety
•    improves blood circulation
∙    normalizes blood pressure
•    improves auto-immune functioning
∙    decreases anxiety
•    generates increases in self-confidence
•    improves digestive functioning
•    tends to increase the feeling of love connection with others
•    has a soothing effect on emotional disturbance and disruption

Two Way Benefit

Remember that both the person giving and the one getting an initiated love hug may receive the above listed benefits.  There are quite a few other benefits research has discovered but the ones listed above are some of the main ones.  Love hugs are part of the broader spectrum of tactile love which brain research increasingly shows loving touch to be very healthful and in some cases vitally necessary.

On the Lighter Side

Here is another list of love hug benefits:
Love hugs are:
•    non-fattening
•    non-taxable
•    non-polluting
•    don’t require monthly payments
•    are theft proof
•    don’t have to be insured
•    are inflation proof
•    don’t require batteries
•    don’t require refrigeration but can assist thawing
•    and the supply doesn’t run out no matter how many you give away

Give and Therefore Get More Love Hugs

Right this minute whatever amount of love hugging you already do, consider love hugging a little more often and a bit longer.  Also, when you could use a love hug and you realize it, consider directly, quickly and clearly asking for it, not hinting or silently hoping someone will sense your want and act.  With good, healthy, self love, don’t expect anybody to read your mind, just ask for what you want – you are worth it.  You also can specify whether you want a big bear hug or a sweet soft bunny type love hug or whatever else you might really want.

Anti-hug Issues?

Do you have anti-touch or anti-hug training or fears from previous life experiences?  If so, consider doing some work on that because health research is all very pro-love hug and love touch except in the case of some very rare and deplorable conditions.

Develop Your Love Hugging Skills

You can become very artful in delivering love through hugs of various types and sorts.  Think about custom tailoring your love hugs to the intended hug recipient and their current needs, wishes and wants.  Then give them what they likely want.  Don’t forget they may just want to see you greatly enjoying having a love hug, so as you give or get one show your joy.

It is okay to be a little selfish in lots of love hugs.  You also may improve the hugs you get by thinking and asking for little experiments in changing what you are getting in the way of a hug.  Maybe you want the arms a little tighter, or held differently or some other change but have you asked for it?  That can be part of healthy self-love.  You can learn more about how loving touch is important and how you can develop those skills of loving touch by going to the index at this site and looking up mini-love lessons on loving touch.  You also can get this mini-love lesson deeper inside yourself by talking about it to someone else.  So, who are you going to do that with?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Concerning the people you love, do you know for sure just exactly how they want to be hugged– more tenderly, more strongly, more softly, with or without caressing, differing hand placement, open or closed eyes, etc.?

Touch Love Benefits To Love Relationships

Mini-Love-Lesson #290

Synopsis: The vital value and importance of communicating love via touch is increasingly understood by science.  Love connecting touch, love bonding touch, love nurturing touch and love healing touch are all introduced; along with some information about our brain’s processing of tactile communications of real love; plus focus on learning about and practicing each of four physical ways of relating with love that can strengthen and enrich every kind of love relationship.

Connecting Touch

Most of us are born with a strong, natural hunger for touch-love.  It is really good for us!  Loving touch can make a world of difference to our physical, psychological, and relational health.  The positive impact of touch-love on friendships, families, couples and even communities can be enormous; that is because touch is a major aid to human connecting.  Connecting is one of the five, major functions of love (see “A Functional Definition of Love” ).

1Let’s get a little more clinically technical here.  If a real love starts to grow via touch, a constructive, healthy, bio-psycho-social, affiliative connecting begins to be processed in our brain.  This facilitates human connection.  False forms of love can bring on a sense of connection, but the neurochemistry is thought to be different and the behavioral outcomes often are destructiveness rather than constructiveness.

Inherently, we are meant to be love connecting, social animals.  There is plenty of evidence that suggests when we do not make love connections, we malfunction; when we do, we thrive.  Through loving touch, we make some of our most important and profound connections.

Bonding Touch

When we join together with love, we can become more than connected; we can become bonded.  A major effect of loving touch is the sense of being deeply and long lastingly united.  This bonding process is facilitated by neuro-chemistry often initiated by loving touch.  

Loving touch can help the brain release at least two hormones which facilitate bonding.  Oxytocin and vasopressin play a big role in creating a sense of love-based allegiance.  Integrating lots of variety-filled, touch-love into our significant relationships can greatly help strengthen love connecting and bonding.

Nurturing and Caring Touch

Nurturing, another one of the major functions of love, can be both soothing and invigorating.  Loving touch, especially, is neuro-physiologically nurturing.  When we receive a loving touch it often can help us feel more emotionally up and able.  Loving touch nurturing acts like a psychological food.  It can feed a person’s spirit and have a strong, regenerative effect.

When a loving touch communicates care, at first it may seem simple but, in fact, it may be life changing.  

Arnold sat sad and alone in a candle lit church.  Unexpectedly he felt a soft touch on his shoulder as a friend pasted by.  He felt cared about and no longer alone.  From that simple, loving touch he was able to go on and face a difficulty that had seemed so insurmountable. 

Encouraging touch is a manifestation of loving touch; it helps people do and be more.  The pat on the back, the buddy hug, the fist bump all send messages like “I believe in you”, “You can do it”, “Keep going” and other reassurances.  When people are encouraged, they often bring out their strengths, draw on their inner reservoirs and actualize their potentials.

Healing Touch

Examples of healing touch are numerous and sometimes nothing short of miraculous.  To be lovingly touched when ill or injured, distressed or in agony can be surprisingly healing.  A number of studies showed wounds healed faster and better when patients were caressed by a loving family member or friend.  Rehabilitation research shows the rehab process is considerably enhanced and accelerated in patients who receive loving touch from their loved ones.  Physicians who touch patients with kindness get better outcomes, are considered more caring and are seen to be superior physicians by their patients.  To know more about healing touch research, you might want to consult the work of The International Loving Touch Foundation, the publications of Healing Beyond Borders and the healing touch research sponsored by The American Holistic Nurses Association.

The value of loving touch cannot be over-stated.  In your own love relationships (mate, parents, children, friends and everyone you really care about) put a lot of touch into their lives.  It will benefit them and you too!

One More Little Thing

How would you like to go right now and give somebody a loving touch, caress, pat or some other touch gift, and maybe tell them about this mini-love-lesson and this website about love?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: When love-touched, do you make sure to feel the touch with your mind’s awareness and, therefore, more fully experience the love, or is your mind off somewhere else, a bit out of touch?

Cuddling for Greater Love and Better Sex - a Love Skill

Mini-Love-Lesson #189

Synopsis: How cuddling leads to more and better sex as well as to love itself; the fine and healthy benefits of cuddling; overcoming cuddling resistance and reluctance; plus how to give, get, start and restart better and longer cuddling are all covered in this mini-love-lesson.

Cuddling around the World

They studied over 70,000 people in 24 different countries.  It was the same everywhere.  Those who cuddled often tended to have better sex lives and better love fulfilled relationships.  Those who did not engage in cuddling much didn’t.  Not only that but those who expressed affection more often and more freely including doing so in public and those who frequently kissed passionately along with affectionate touch in a variety of ways had the best sex and all over the best loving relationships.  The easiest place to read about all this is in a book called the Normal Bar which gives an easy, fun to read overview of this amazing study from the world of social psychology.

Now, I will brag a bit.  Kathleen McClaren RN and I discovered and published in a major sex therapy Journal something very similar way back in 1982.  In our research we added training in eight types of love behaviors to standard sex therapy behavior training and got a 50% plus improvement over just standard sex therapy with couples in sex therapy.  In our second study the sex therapists we trained got similar results.  Sad to say, the field of sex therapy then didn’t seem to be much interested in love or love conveying behaviors and so nothing much came of our findings at that time.

What’s Special about Cuddling?

When we cuddle especially in spoon cuddling, or when nude, a lot of our skin gets involved.  Furthermore, our skin tends to be stimulated in a longer way than in hugs and other forms of loving touch.  This means several, larger, good things are likely to be happening in our brain and nervous system.  Neurochemically oxytocin, the chemical compound that helps us with feeling love-connected, tends to be produced more abundantly, along with other feel-good brain chemistry.

There also is some evidence suggesting we become more neuroelectrically in harmony with each other but we are not quite sure what that does for us.  The evidence suggests that with cuddling you are likely to feel more love-bonded, happier, safer, more comfortable, more relaxed and have lowered stress.
If your cuddling becomes mutually sexual, then a lot of added pleasures are possible. However, it is important that sex not occur in at least about half of the cuddling experiences or the love feelings may diminish even if the sexuality continues to be good.

Will My Sex Live & My Love Life Improve with More & Better Cuddling?

The answer to this question is probably a strong yes!  Our research found most couples could learn and maintain better love behavior, both in and out of sex, with some love and sex behavior skills’ training added together and practiced for a while.  Also behaviors which interactively expressed and demonstrated the emotions being felt, particularly feeling loving and loved, were especially important both in and outside of sexual interaction.

What About Cuddling Reluctance And Resistance?

A sizable minority of people have trouble with cuddling even though they hear how much most other people greatly enjoy it.  The reasons vary greatly and are often unknown consciously.  There are a small number of people whose epidermis is hypersensitive and for whom touch can be unpleasant or even painful.  There is a far larger group who had negative or even traumatic experiences associated with cuddling or cuddling-like touch.

So, they tend to avoid it because of the conscious or subconscious feeling-memories it brings up.  For another group it is too pleasurable and/or to easily sexual, and they tend to cut short time spent cuddling, not wanting to get sexual at that time.  Also if people grew up in a non-cuddling family, or in a family that did only very short cuddling, their habit may be to do the same.

Some couples let cuddling fade out of their regular ways of showing love to each other.  That can occur due to lengthy recovery time from illness or injury, work schedule conflicts, childcare demands and a variety of other reasons.

Starting and Re-starting More and Better Cuddling

Most people who have a problem with cuddling or cuddling longer can get over their reluctance if they go about it as follows.  First talk it over with your cuddling partner, and if you can jointly agree, follow these procedures.  Start with whatever amount of cuddling seems tolerable, side-by-side on a couch or in a bed.  Then go just a bit longer.  Then in an hour do the same thing even a bit longer than before.  Repeat going a bit longer each time, an hour apart twice more.

Usually these first cuddling experiences are to be done with only a little, soft, gentle movement and nothing sexual.  Repeat the next day at least three times with a little more soft gentle movement of hands and arms and body movement.  And again, do nothing sexual, just caressing in slow comforting ways.  If anything seems displeasurable, ask for a change into whatever would be a little more pleasurable, or at least tolerable instead of sending a stop message.

Part of the cuddling usually is best done by being still and mentally focusing on what you are feeling, both physically and emotionally, plus noting that nothing harmful or painful is occurring.  You also silently might reassure yourself that you are ok and you are on your way to very positive feelings and experiences.  If you can do this exercise 3 to 5 times a day for a week, you likely are going to go through a period where you find your feelings about cuddling to be either mixed or just neutral, but not really negative.  Then usually you go through a period where you are starting to increasingly enjoy cuddling.  After each practice cuddle it is good for you and your partner to go do something simple and pleasurable for just a little while.

Only after both people are fairly comfortable and enjoying cuddling as a way to lovingly be with each other does it become desirable for small amounts of sexiness to be added.  This can be increased in the same way as above, every third or fourth time a cuddling exercises is conducted.  Most of the couples we worked with reported having really wonderful and enriching cuddling experiences happening after about two weeks of following these procedures.

It is important to remember that  to cuddle is for most people primarily an act of joint and mutual love interchange, and it is important that it be done with a strong love-focus most of the time.  It can be especially comforting in times of emotional pain.  Furthermore, it can be playful, serene, even spiritual, provide a sense of safety and be very important in love-bonding.  It also can be sexual so long as the love elements predominate over time.  It also is important that there be no negative talk of any kind during a cuddling experience because that can defeat all of it’s many positive effects.

If there are continued problems getting comfortable cuddling, consulting a good love-oriented and touch knowledgeable couples’ therapist is recommended.  Some massage therapists also are good with helping couples gain the benefits of loving touch including cuddling, as are some sex therapists.

Cuddling with Others

It is especially is important as a love practice to cuddle infants, children and teens except when they are in their natural periods of individuation and tend to pull away.  With other family members and dear close friends, along with anyone who needs support and reassurance it is usually a very good thing.

Getting Yourself Cuddled More and Better

The simplest way often is the best and most efficient way to get yourself more and better cuddling.  That way is to clearly but lovingly ask for it.  This can be a part of lovingly and jointly talking over how you both want to be touched which is a good thing for every couple to do.  Do not forget that asking for what you want, clearly and lovingly, is a powerful part of healthy self-love.  To learn more at this site go to the Subject Index and check out the mini-love-lessons titled “Love Hugs for Health and Happiness”, “Touching Back – A Surprisingly Important Love Skill” and “50 Varieties of Love Touch”.

As Always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Do You Think You are Good at Giving and Getting Various Types of Loving Touch?

Touching Back - A Surprisingly Important Love Skill

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson starts with touching back as a predictor of love success; and goes on to what not touching back does; sex love and touching back; some guidelines for touching back with love; more.

Touching Back As a Predictor of Love Success

Did you know that in a love relationship touching back is one of the best, single factors indicating a love relationship is satisfying and successful?

By ‘touching back’ we mean first receiving a loving touch then making a return action of loving touch.  This is important in all forms of love: friendship love, parent to child love, romantic love, etc.  It does not surprise most people to find out that more successful, satisfied, loving couples touch each other with love more than other not so successful and satisfied couples.

But a much better indicator of love success is reciprocal, return, touching actions.  At least that is what is reported in a recent edition of the magazine, Psychology Today, in a fairly comprehensive article on various aspects of the importance of touch.  However, there are some particulars concerning touching back after being touched which make touching back with love a little more involved than you might think.
Think of a person who loves you, softly caressing your cheek or of a person encircling their arms around you and giving you, what for you would be, the perfect hug.  Now think of a person who loves you reaching out to hold your hand or gently rubbing their fingers across your arm.
At this site, under the Subject Index heading “Touch”, consult the “50 Varieties of Love Touch” mini-love-lesson.

What Not Touching Back Does

Think of what you feel when you say hello to someone and they do not say hello back.  Think of what you feel if you stick your hand out to shake hands with someone and they don’t put their hand out to meet yours.  Many people feel a sense of rejection, or non-acceptance or having been judged very negatively.  In more subtle, subconscious ways it’s pretty much the same for many situations in which touching back could occur but it does not.

Not touching back when you have been touched lovingly can have a corrosive effect on your love relationships.  The indications are that the more you touch back and give reciprocal contact the more your love bonding together will occur.  And it appears the more you don’t touch back with love when physically touched with love the more likely it is that your love relationship may erode and come to an end.

One of the more powerful ways to send ‘a rejection message’ to someone who is trying to heal a wounded relationship is to angrily say to them “don’t touch me!”  And then of course there is ‘turning a cold shoulder’ which powerfully tells someone that you are not about to lovingly reconnect with them yet, if ever.

What Touching Back with Love Accomplishes

One understanding of love relationships goes like this: ‘for there to be a growing, real, healthy, love relationship love must be cycled’.  To do this you send out love messages that are taken in by another.  This by itself does not create an ongoing, love relationship.  For a ongoing and possibly lasting, love relationship, the person who takes in love must then send love back by love actions and messages which forms a first loop of a love cycle.  Then that process must continue and that cycling is what grows relationships stronger, bigger and better.

Tactile or touch love is one of the most essential ways for that to happen.  We now know that the neurochemical, oxytocin, which helps the process of living beings to feel emotionally bonded with each other, is created in the brain when tactile love is experienced, especially in the cyclically way just described.  Other healthy, positive brain chemistry changes, stimulated by loving touch, are also suspected to be occurring.  Being lovingly touched back is especially good for helping people not feel isolated but rather supported, safe and included.

One simple, but often surprisingly effective things I do in couples, parent/child and family therapy, is request people to experiment with loving touch and giving loving touch back.  I once had a couple do this little experiment of touching each other’s hands and touching back, focusing on doing it with love.  For over 10 years they had not touched each other in any friendly or positive way.  They hesitantly experimented with the ‘touching and touching back’ of each other’s hands.  They ended up weeping in each other’s arms, vowing to make up for all the time they had lost.

I have seen long estranged family members, parents and their adult children, and people in broken friendships get very similar results.  I’ve also seen people hold their arms wide open to receive another and that other refuse the offer, so the touching back experience did not occur and the relationship continued to dysfunction until we found other ways to improve it.

Touching Back and Loving Children

See this picture.  Two parents are talking with each other and each parent has their child standing next to them.  A very loud, big, powerful and angry sounding dog begins to bark in the background.  Both children grab their parents legs and squeeze up close.  One parent reaches down and pets their child’s head and caresses their shoulder reassuringly.  The other parent makes no reciprocal touch action in response to their child’s touch.  Which child is going to start crying?  Which child is more likely to soon be easily agitated, and then if not reassuringly touched, withdraw and possibly that night have a nightmare about big, mean, scary dogs?  The research on parent/child attachment pretty much shows the lovingly touched child will be more strong and secure, self-confident and more okay later in life.

There is an older school of thought that says ‘if you want to make your child independent and tough you don’t touch them, so they learn how to handle it on their own’.  Most of the results on this approach, that I am aware of, do not point to that being a healthful strategy. This school of thought was once so popular that the US government sent out pamphlets to new parents advising that they avoid giving touch to their children, which supposedly, was pampering and weakening their character.  They stopped this when real research showed opposite results to be occurring.

Touching Back Friends And Family

If a friend gives you a hug, or pats you on the back or makes some other form of physical contact with you which perhaps expresses friendship love, what do you do?  If other friends express their affection for one another physically do you feel embarrassed?  If a male and a female hug, or two females hug, or two males hug do you interpret it as sexual?  If people in public touch and touch back romantically, have you been programmed to identify it as ‘inappropriate’ or worse.  There is a suspicion that the people who lovingly touch each other and touch each other back cause the least trouble in the world.  There is some evidence to suggest that friends who do not touch each other with friendship love are less likely to form deep, lasting friendships.

Lots of people do not touch back their same-sex friends because they have a certain amount of homophobic fear.  This also occurs in some families.  A family-reconciliation counselor who works mostly with families that are having difficulties because one of the family members is homosexual gives this test.  She says, “Can you get to where you hug your homosexual family member just as easily and vigorously as you do any other family member?”  She then gets them to practice.  One thing to examine is this question, “What is the difference you make happen when a male and a female friend or family member touches you and you have a ‘touch them back’ opportunity?

Sex, Love and Touching Back

Some people seem to identify all touch with sex.  Some do not know how to differentiate love and sex, and when to show one and not the other.  If you get a loving touch that has no sexuality in it and then interpret it as having sexuality or being primarily sexual, the way you give a touch back may be relationally destructive and quite unwelcome.  If someone touches your shoulder, or elbow or perhaps your knee (all hard parts of your body) that touch is probably not sexual.  If they stroke your inner thigh it probably is sexual.  A kiss on your forehead usually is not at all the same thing as having someone else’s tongue in your mouth.  It is quite possible for loving touch to drift into including some sexuality.  What is important here is mutuality.  If both people who are lovingly touching each other mutually become sexually reciprocal, it may be pretty much okay.

Misreading the signs of reciprocity is where many people make mistakes.  It is important to remember, love is far more important than sex.  When sexual touching back occurs in response to what is primarily a love touch the love relationship can be harmed.  Therefore, usually it is very useful to go rather slowly into that which might become sexual.  Making sexuality overwhelm the expressions of love or push it aside can be problematic to a ‘just beginning’ or to an ‘ongoing’ love relationship.  Here’s a good thing to examine in yourself.  Study which of your actions are more likely to convey love as primary and which may convey sex to be of primary importance to you.  Also examine the question ‘do you interpret other’s touch actions as sexual when primarily they may be trying to convey love?

If two people are lovingly holding and caressing each other and it becomes more sexual, that can be a very good thing.  Here too, mutuality is important.  If one person is laying quite still while being lovingly and sexually touched, their actions may be interpreted as being too much like “a cold fish”.  Mutual touching back action is the cure for that.  As one client said, “One of the most wonderful things my husband and I do is curl up in each other’s arms and mutually hold and fondle each other’s genitals after having had sex.  Sometimes we go to sleep that way and it is incredibly intimate and special.”

There are people who just want to be touched and do not think about touching back sexually or with love.  There also are other people who are uncomfortable receiving touchback experiences.  They make it very hard for the cycle we’ve previously talked about to occur.  Generally the more two people are simultaneously lovingly and/or sexually touching, caressing, petting, stroking, etc. each other the better.  However, taking turns, where the giving and receiving and then giving of the touch back cycle can be fully concentrated upon and absorbed, also is a good option for many couples.

Some Guidelines For Touching Back with Love

∙    At first ‘Touchback’ in ways similar to how you were touched.  The same amount of pressure, energy, speed, the amount of area and the type of area touched on you will provide a guide for the first touching back.  Then if you receive additional touchback, in turn, you may wish to expand your own touching back.  If someone puts a hand on your leg while you’re riding in the car you might want to place your hand on their leg (as long as it doesn’t interfere with driving).  If someone reaches to hold your hand, give a similar hold back with a little squeeze, about like they squeezed your hand, as your hands came together.  Your touchback does not have to be a copy of theirs but if at first it is similar, the experience is more likely to go well.

∙    Talk over ways you like to be touched and ask about ways the other person likes to be touched back.  The more people who love each other ‘get really clear’ about how they want to be touched and how they like to give touch the better their touching relationship is likely to go.  The only way to get truly clear is with clear message sending and receiving.  Some people go for years getting hugs too tight or too soft, or too low or too high, or in some other way not just right for them just because they never clearly ask for what they truly want.

∙    Always be willing to experiment with new and different ways of touching back.  For instance, have you tried the ‘two hands on one’ return handshake, or the ‘love nudge’ at the movies, the ‘playing footsy’ under the table, the ‘pick them up and twirled around’ when they hug you response, or the ‘hold their face gently in your hands and kiss their eyelids’ return love action?

∙    Notice every time you are touched.  Some people do not, and without awareness there is little chance that they will, give a loving touch in return.  While you practice noticing, be careful about misinterpreting the touch you are receiving.  Is it conveying friendship love, sexuality, is it somehow controlling or otherwise negative, is it sympathetic, empathetic, sweet, saccharine, possessive, etc.?  There are many possibilities.  Your interpretation gives guidance to how you will give a return touch and whether or not it will be one of love.

Well, dear reader, at least for a while, are you going to give some thought to your love expressional, touching back actions?  Are you going to develop your touching back love skill more?

As always, Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
In regard to loving touch back actions, growing up what was modeled for you in your family and are you currently guided by that?

Touch Only with Love: an Anti-Violence Tool

Some people grow up learning to physically hit, shake, punch, shove and do other acts of physical violence to others when upset.

Many do these things when they feel attacked physically, verbally or any other way.  Others become physically violence-prone when they get frustrated and others when they are mad.
Still others strikeout physically when they feel threatened and some others when just about any negative feeling occurs.  Many males, especially, have been well trained to physically ‘hit back’ when they feel ‘hit’, even though what hit them was only words.  No small number of females do the same thing.  Then there are those who ‘hit’ others in playfulness but they may do it too hard, too often, too much, in the wrong way, or in a wrong place or wrong time for others to ‘playfully’ accept it.  All of this can have very anti-love effects and, therefore, can have quite a destructive effect on a love relationship.

One common reaction is to tell the person who is acting physically rough or violent to “stop that”.  Be aware that quite frequently it does not work to tell someone what not to do.  It may only work to tell them what to do.  Saying things like “don’t hit, stop hitting, don’t ever hit him, or her, or me again”, etc. for long-range results often is almost useless.  It works far better to tell a person what to do instead of what they’ve been doing.  Until someone knows ‘what new behavior to replace an old behavior with’ there is a high likelihood that they will, by practiced tendency and habit, return to responding with the old behavior.  Until you know a replacement behavior you likely will keep doing what you’re used to doing until you learn what to do instead of what you have been doing.  It sort of is like being told what not to do creates a vacuum into which something will rush to fill that vacuum, just like in the physical world.  The easiest thing that fills that vacuum is the behavior you are used to doing.

So, what’s going to replace hitting or a physically violent activity that we want to stop? The answer can be becoming trained, practiced and committed to a ‘Touch Only with Love’ way of acting toward your loved ones and perhaps others.  This is not the only thing but it is a tool which can help a lot.  This tool can be made to work quite well with both children and adults.  Couples, family members and friends who get into physical fights with each other can commit to a ‘Touch Only with Love’ strategy to replace their physically violent reactions to one another.  Making a commitment to such a strategy often is a tipping point for creating a very important improvement.

Why does a person, who supposedly loves another, sometimes try to physically hurt or harm that person?  Here are some background factors about that.  Siblings who physically fought a lot when young are in danger of suddenly striking their spouses when feeling attacked.  Parents who were struck a lot as children are in danger of reactively striking their children, especially when they get tired, stressed or angry.  Those who grew up around adults who physically abused those around them unfortunately may have been subconsciously programmed to do the same. Those who grew up in neighborhoods or other environments where there was a lot of physical violence are more likely to be physically violent.

Growing up in any environment in which physical violence is praised, honored or seen as the right thing to do later may endanger subsequent loved ones to physical abuse because rewarded behavior tends to continue or re-emerge. Children who are not corrected for being physically violent in their youth might have been accidentally reinforced for being violent and often are more prone to become physically abusive in their adulthood.  The chronically immature can sometimes have similar permission giving, subconscious programming for violence.  As you can see, many people are programmed subconsciously to have a tendency toward being violent.  However, reprogramming is very possible and committing to the ‘touch your loved ones only with love’ approach can help accomplish that reprogramming.

With commitment, and training, and sufficient practice you can make a new habit dominant over an old one, therefore, replacing it.  ‘Touch only with love’ can be your new habit.  Adolescents who get into physical fights can be helped to form a ‘touch only with love’ habit by judicious use of rewarding them for the desired behavior.  Children can be shown and taught that soft, more gentle touches, hugs, etc. are the desired and rewarded way to touch each other.  Fighting families can draw up and agree to help each other abide by ‘touch only with love’ contracts.  Individuals who want to get past physical violence tendencies can commit to and then through role-playing practice a “I will only touch others with love” behavioral strategy.

I’m not saying reprogramming yourself is easy, I’m saying it is very worth the effort.  When you feel angry, frustrated, impatient, stressed or any time you might feel like lashing out physically toward a loved one say to yourself something like, “I’m not going to let my old violence training control me.  I’ve committed to ‘touch only with love’ so I’m going for a walk around the block to cool down” or “I’m going to take a couple calming breaths to relax some of this inner tension” or “I’m going outside to throw ice cubes at a wall to let off some steam” or “I’m going to the bedroom to beat on a pillow until I simmer down.

And when I return I’ll be more able to handle this and touch only with love” – or say something that works for you.  Amazingly this usually changes the whole dynamic of the interaction and makes room for positives.  You and your loved one both can benefit from your work to replace the old habit with one dominated by ‘touch only with love’.  

A commitment to or a contract between people to touch only with love has helped warring couples break their violence cycles.  Role-playing new behaviors in scenarios where you have previously struck someone, starting with reminding yourself that you’re committed to ‘touch only with love’, has helped a lot of people.  Adding a ‘re-direction of your actions’ strategy to the ‘touch only with love’ approach often is wise.  However, you really must work at remembering to tell yourself “I’m committed to touching loved ones, (others, etc.) only with love”.  Families and couples who contract with each other for a “touch only with love” agreement can plot out rewards for living up to their pledge, and also penalties for relapses.

A lot can go very wrong when people get physically aggressive, especially to a loved one.  Reminding oneself that in the modern world relationships involving physical abuse and violence usually end poorly and sometimes end tragically.  There is a lot of evidence pointing to repeated physical violence in a relationship almost inevitably leads to the relationship being either severely harmed or destroyed.  Violence in couple’s relationships is extremely prone to escalate causing real physical damage and sometimes even death.  Also with escalation there is the likelihood of lengthy, complicated, costly, judicial system involvement and possible imprisonment.

Increasingly parents who physical punish their children, much like they themselves were punished, are being found guilty of physical abuse and often have their children taken from them as well as facing possible imprisonment.  In lesser cases having to attend parenting classes or parent guidance counseling also may be involved.  So you can see there are lots of good reasons to develop a ‘touch only with love’ approach to those you love.

The very best reason to ‘touch those you love only with love’ is because that is the loving thing to do.  There are some other important concepts to understand which provide a foundation for understanding the importance of this tool.  Some people mistakenly think love causes or even justifies physical violence.  “If I killed her doesn’t that mean I really loved her?” is the infamous quote exemplifying an enormous, wrong understanding of love.  ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ is another one which has been used to justify physical abuse of children for ages.  The truth, according to the scholars in ancient times, is that the rod referred to was used to gently guide and never hit sheep, goats or cattle.

We now understand that physical violence toward our loved ones does not come from love.  That’s because healthy, real love fundamentally works to motivate us toward being protective not harmful to our loved ones.  Only false forms of love involve people being seriously hurtful or harmful to a loved one.  (See blog entries concerning “False Forms of Love”).  Thus, ‘touch only with love’ works as a tool for enacting and ensuring healthy, real love.

This tool can be used in a number of ways.  An individual can just dedicate his or herself to ‘touching only with love’ and that usually means touching softly, gently and with a love-centered ‘heart’ attitude (see blog entry “Love Centering Yourself”).  Any group of people (family, couple, friends, etc.) can contract with each other that their way of relating physically to one another will be governed by the rule of ‘touch only with love’.  Any group of people can agree to encourage, praise, compliment and thank each other every time there is a difficulty in which they adhere to their pledge to abide by this rule.  If penalties for violation of the rule are involved they need to be rendered via self-denial or deprivation of something, and not anything involving physical pain.

In rare situations some loving touch could conceivably require restraining someone from self harm or from harming another.  In some cases other strong touch actions might be loving but probably not the purposeful, selfish harming of another.  People who more or less automatically turn to violent physical action when they feel frustrated, unfairly treated, betrayed, jealous, misused, maligned or otherwise demeaned often find this tool especially useful.  ‘Touch only with love’ can be coupled with other anti-physical violence tools and strategies for a more comprehensive approach.

As always – Grow and Go with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Is there always love in the ways you touch your loved ones?