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This is something close to my heart. I am convinced that there are different levels of communication, and some don’t require words (before we continue, I am not talking about hanky-panky here. Please be serious, dear reader!). For example, when I was pregnant, I was very frustrated because I couldn’t have a conversation with my baby. My husband felt the same way (and was actually putting on weight at the same pace than me to show his solidarity).
To give you another example: my grandmother suffers from Alzheimer and even if, technically, she can speak, most of the time what she says doesn’t mean anything. So, how do you communicate?
Well, you need to try something called “
haptonomy” (haptonomie in French). This is about touching someone (or, when you are pregnant, touching your tummy) and trying to convey what you want to say with your touch, and concentrating on how the other person is reacting. It is actually amazing: my daughter was feeling my husband’s hand and she was tucking herself in it. She was reacting differently depending in the way we “touched” her. We felt like we knew her before she was actually born.
I am not talking about gently patting someone, just touching to say you accept and you care, or whatever you want to say, in an accepting and non-judgemental way. Words can hurt. Words categorise people : an unborn baby, a 90-year old lady who is losing her mind, …but some things never change: we have a body and we can feel how the other person is reacting to our touch: a slight hesitation, a sadness or an eagerness to be touched.
Touching is an important part of our life. That doesn’t mean that we are doing haptonomy in our daily life. Haptonomy is to touching what poems are to literature. Do not be put off by the way it is described, it doesn’t need to be complicated.
Haptonomy doesn’t seem to exist in the UK. What a shame! In France, it can be used to prepare women for the birth of their baby. I am normally a very rational person, and some people actually found it incredibly funny that I could even mention it. Well, my response is: if it helps me, if it makes me more accepting, it can’t be that bad!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
  • Love that second to last paragraph! And I agree, anything that makes us more accepting cannot be that bad!
    xoxo
    stacey

  • Another great post! This would make a terrific article in a magazine or newspaper. I am known to touch people when I speak to them. I know it creeps some people out because they may see it as an invasion of space but personally if I am explaining something to someone instinctually I reach out and touch there arm especially if I get the feeling they are hurt or don’t understand what I am saying. Anyway another great post!

  • Qu’est-ce que c’est Le Hanky Panky? Do we have it en Angleterre or do we have to import it? Is it anything to do with Widow Twankey? We should be told!

  • Hi! (I’m back from my trip) I couldn’t agree with you more. Touch is a very powerful and natural thing. A single touch can convey so much more than an entire page of words. Lovely post! 🙂

  • First post I read and the only thing I can say is thank you for such a great and interesting one.
    I didn’t know about “haptonomy” before. I definitely think it’s a must when you are pregnant.
    When in front of people who experience pain or are grieving, I tend to touch them instead of speaking, feeling the words have no power.

  • Does this mean you’ll be feeling up strangers from now on, Muriel? 😉 We definitely communicate through more than words. I’d never heard of haptonomy. But, whatever makes you happy/more connected is a good thing — and might be healing for those who can’t say how they feel.

  • @ Stacey -I still have some way to go to be more accepting, but, as they say, every little helps…
    @ Jennifer – Should we call you tactile Jennifer then? Glad you can relate to haptonomy!

  • @ Sam – I think that an exception to this would be your words…I look forward to reading you…
    @ MarieHarmony – Thanks for sharing your experience…
    @ David – As you know, the Europeans have a sex life, but the Brits have tea.

  • @ Kenya I am not touching strangers…yet! **hugs from London**

  • Although I’ve made my living with words, touch has been a huge part of my communication process for the last decade. It started with my getting regular therapeutic massage, and expanded when I took on a second career as a ballroom dance instructor. Both situations would not be possible without touch. There’s so much more that can be conveyed if we close our mouths and use our palms regularly.

  • I would love to bring haptonomy to the Uk. As far as I know there is no one here doing it. Do you have any contacts in France who could run a training course in the UK? I would help organise it. I would love to deliver haptonomy sessions.

  • Fiona Campbell

    You might enjoy this article that I wrote for Junior Pregnancy and Baby about experiencing haptonomy in Paris. It amazes me that no one has tried to bring haptonomy to England – there must be a bilingual midwife out there that would be able to set up a training centre! http://fionaalcampbell.blogspot.co.uk/2006/12/communicating-with-unborn-child.html

  • MuMuGB

    Thanks for visiting, Fiona! I loved haptonomy. My daughter is now 13 but I still remember the whole process. It was great. You are right, someone needs to set it up in London! Haptonomy was also helpful with my 91-year old grandmother. She didn’t recognise me, but I am sure that she could ‘feel’ my touch. Thanks to haptonomy, I felt that I could communicate with her!

  • Hi ! I am now offering haptonomy sessions in Birmingham (in French or English). Interested to find out more about ? Feel free to contact me @ http://www.haptonomy.co.uk