Part of my practice of embodiment is to bring more touch into my daily experience.
I used to live so much in my head, which is where anxiety and worry live.
Fear is different from anxiety in that fear protects you when processed in healthy ways. Anxiety is fear of an imagined outcome, whereas fear is the acknowledgment of a real threat.
We walk around our world in these bodies we know so little about, and yet they are the main transistors, the antennae of the seen and unseen world around us.
Understanding our bodies is the key to developing intuition that serves our emotional and physical health and prevention of disease.
Where Does Fear Come From?
The nervous system is one of the earliest systems to begin development and the last to be completed after birth.
You are born with a fully developed amygdala, which is the small bean or almond-shaped structure in the deep center associated with processing fear as well as survival needs.
According to a study conducted on The Biology of Fear, vulnerability to psychopathology appears to be a consequence of predisposing factors resulting from numerous gene-environment interactions during development in the perinatal period and also, of course, from life’s many experiences.
Charles Letourneau, of the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit at Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland, authored a book about the biology of fear and anxiety related emotions. In 1886, when his work was published he had a few main takeaways of how our bodies process fear that are still the texts and studies being conducted today.
“Emotions are “intimately linked with organic life,” he said, and either result in an “abnormal excitation of the nervous network,” which induces changes in heart rate and secretions, or interrupt “the normal relationship between the peripheral nervous system and the brain.”
- Cerebral activity focuses on the source of the emotion; voluntary muscles may become paralyzed and sensory perceptions may be altered, including the feeling of physical pain.
- This first phase of the emotional response is followed by a reactive phase, where muscles come back into action, attention still remains highly focused on the emotional situation.
- The “strong cerebral excitation” that occurs with emotion is likely concerned with “certain groups of conscious cells” in the brain and “necessitate a considerable increase of blood flow in the cell regions involved.”
It’s certainly amazing to see that Letourneau’s theories and studies more than a century ago were predictive of what we know today. The fact that emotions are “intimately linked with organic life,” which is how he explained the sequence of the physiological and behavioral reactions that accompany a strong emotion, such as fear, and the idea that emotions involve specific areas of the brain, and the theory that activation of these areas is associated with an increased blood flow have all been largely confirmed by modern neuroscience.
How Does Touch Combat Fear and Increase Well-Being?
Using my sense of touch to connect with the present moment with the world around me is a way to be sensual and vibrant. It’s a way for me to experience more peace, wonder, and fulfillment.
Sensuality is not just about sexuality. It’s about a broader depth of experiential living.
In a study published by the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientist and lead researcher Sander Koole of VU University Amsterdam said, “Our findings show that people may still find existential security through interpersonal touch, even in the absence of symbolic meaning derived from religious beliefs or life values” (2013). “Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another person may help to instill in people a sense of existential significance.”
Human touch can provide its own kind of language in ways you may not even realize. An unexpected hug can convey, “You are not alone.” And, grabbing a loved one’s hand can say, ” Don’t be afraid” without any words.
Make the Effort To Add More Affection In Your Life
Touch is the first sense to develop in infants and it remains a central need throughout development from infancy into adulthood. From the womb to our last days, our need for touch never goes away.
The more we can learn about touch and the positive impact it has on our cognitive and emotional well-being, the quicker we can implement it in our everyday lives to combat stress, fear, and anxiety. And, we all need more help with that.
Feel more intently your surroundings. The texture. The weight, the brightness, the visceral aspect of you in relation to the environment.
Touch your friend’s hand or shoulder when speaking.
Hold your aging parents hand the way they held you.
Grab your kid for a hug when they walk by.
Fist bump if you must for damn sakes, but please touch more.
Using your senses is key to body intelligence and intuition. Before you speak another’s love language you need to speak your own. Then you can translate what your 5 senses and even your 6th sense is telling you.
We are all human and we all crave love and affection.
Even during the times in our lives that hurt the most.
The heartbreaks. The devastations. The tragedies. The feeling we want nothing more than to be left alone.
Even then, we need touch.
Even then, we need love.
Let yourself be loved because #loveismedicine.
Association for Psychological Science (2013, November 6). Touch may alleviate existential fears.
LeDoux J. Emotion circuits in the brain. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2000;23:155–184. [PubMed]