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Healing Trauma with Touch

written by Dr. Margaret Paul May 7, 2020
Healing Trauma with Touch

We are living in challenging times, and it’s more important than ever to be able to help each other in loving and healing ways, including the power of touch. Loving mothers know instinctively that when their children experience trauma or are hurting physically or emotionally, what they need is to be gently held with loving arms and soothed with loving words. Those of us who have raised young children know the magic of “kissing it and making it better.”

If you are living with friends or family, this article can be helpful to you during this time. If you are living alone, then this can be helpful to you once you can be around other caring people. It can also be helpful to hold each other virtually and imagine being held by spirit.

The Healing Power of Loving Holding

Years ago, Erika and I discovered the healing power of mothering, and we wrote about it in “Healing Your Aloneness.” What we discovered has now been verified over and over. In his excellent book, In An Unspoken Voice, author Peter Levine tells a heartwarming story. When National Guard soldiers were ordered to remove Elian Gonzalez – the young boy who became a pawn in a political battle in Florida – from the hands of his Cuban exile cousins living in Miami, they trained a female federal agent to caringly take the boy from the cousins and angry onlookers. Knowing he would be extremely frightened, and not wanting to further traumatize him…

The agent held him firmly enough to not be ripped away by the angry mob, yet gently enough for her embrace to match the words she calmly recited in Spanish: ‘Elian, this may seem scary right now, but it soon will be better. We’re taking you to your papa… You will not be taken back to Cuba [which was true for the time being]… You will not be put on a boat again [he had been brought to Miami on a treacherous boat ride]… You are with people who care for you and are going to take care of you.’ p.265

As she rocked him gently and spoke soothingly to him, he relaxed.

Levine goes on to describe another dramatic mothering scene that occurred during the East Timor conflict. As dazed and disoriented refugees wandered into a refugee camp, a group of Portuguese nuns greeted and gently held and rocked the children and the most shocked adults, whispering soothing words to them, thawing them out of shock with their love.

The Power of Mothering

This is the power of mothering, of loving touch – of bringing the unconditional love that is Spirit through to the scared or traumatized person.

I have seen the same thing over and over again at Inner Bonding Intensives. As participants remember their trauma, they move out of their frozen state and into being able to feel the depth of their heartbreak, loneliness, grief, and helplessness. As they sob, they are gently held and rocked with love, allowing their heart to open, not only to the deep pain which they had to protect against feeling during their fear and trauma but also to the joyful feelings – since all the deeper painful and joyful feelings reside in the same place in the heart. Until they can safely feel their deeply painful feelings, held in a loving embrace, they cannot feel their deeply joyful feelings.

Each of us can be an instrument of healing for each other. All of us – both men and women – have the capacity to open our hearts to the love and compassion of Spirit – just as the federal agent and the nuns did. All of us have the capacity to offer mothering – unconditional holding and soothing energy – to help thaw out the fear within people who have experienced the horror of abuse, war, or other forms of trauma.

Don’t Underestimate Love’s Healing Power

It is vitally important not to underestimate the power of love to heal.

While we can do much for ourselves in terms of being loving and compassionate with ourselves, we greatly support our healing of deep traumas when we experience the loving embrace of another.

The mothering that Erika and I gave to each other many years ago was life-changing for both of us. I doubt that either of us would have found our wholeness without it. I hope that you find safe and caring mothering – in person and virtually – if this is what you need and that you offer it when you see another in need.


Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions, and Relationships.”

Join IBVillage to connect with others and receive compassionate help and support for learning to love yourself.

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