Meanings of Touch and Forgiveness: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Inquiry

By Ferch, Shann R. | Counseling and Values, April 2000 | Go to article overview

Meanings of Touch and Forgiveness: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Inquiry


Ferch, Shann R., Counseling and Values


The author examines personal meanings ascribed to the experience of touch in the context of forgiveness. Data from in-depth interviews with 6 self-reported Christians were analyzed to determine themes in the meanings participants assigned to a forgiving touch.

Touch is an experience fundamental to humanity. From the enfolding touch experienced in the womb to the touch of another's hand before death, touch accompanies, reflects, and speaks to the reality of our lives. Touch is among the most meaningful ways we come to experience and know our world, and in the context of relationships touch can be a potent reflection of connection.

From the early work of Spitz (1965) and Harlow (1958) regarding the importance of touch, to the work of Bowlby (1997) on attachment, touch has received widespread attention in the scientific literature of the last century. Forgiveness, on the other hand, has only recently begun to be systematically explored. In the social sciences, few quantitative studies and even fewer qualitative studies have attempted to investigate the phenomenon of forgiveness in the context of significant familial relationships. (See McCullough, Sandage, & Worthington, 1997 and McCullough & Worthington, 1994 for reviews of forgiveness research.) Even more rare in present social science literature are investigations of the relationship between touch and forgiveness. The purpose of this study was to combine research on touch with research on forgiveness using the qualitative method, hermeneutic phenomenology (van Manen, 1990).

THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS

Both Plato, in the fourth century BC, and Aristotle, in the third century BC, described how touch differs from the other senses. Each philosopher stated that with the other senses a specific organ conveys the sense to us (for example, eyes for sight, ears for hearing); yet with touch there is no specifically correlated organ. In De Anima, Aristotle (trans. 1941) stated "we are unable to clearly detect in the case of touch what the single subject is which ... corresponds to sound in the case of hearing" (p. 25). Aristotle did not see flesh as the organ of touch. Rather, he saw it as the medium of touch, implying that the organ of touch is neither the skin nor the flesh, but something that lies deep within us, perhaps the soul or the heart. Aristotle stated "the soul is analogous to the hand; for as the hand is the tool of tools, so the mind is the form of forms" (p. 98).

Frederick II, emperor of Germany (1194-1250 A.D.), conducted the first known experiments on the significance of touch. Frederick II wanted to find out what language a child would speak as an adult if no one spoke to the child beforehand. In his desire to learn, he discovered tragically, the importance of touch in the childhood years.

   [H]e bade foster mothers and nurses to suckle the children, to bathe and
   wash them, but in no way to prattle with them, for he wanted to learn
   whether they would speak the Hebrew language, which was the oldest, or
   Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or perhaps the language of their parents, of
   whom they had been born. But he laboured in vain because the children all
   died. For they could not live without the petting and joyful faces and
   loving words of their foster mothers. (Salimbene, 13th century; in Montagu,
   1986, pp. 102-103)

The animal studies of Frank (1957) and Harlow (1958) increased our understanding of the significance of touch. Frank found that rats that were handled gently were able to metabolize food better, were less susceptible to invasive surgical shock than other rats, and were gentle animals, in general. Rats that were not handled gently were more excitable and fearful. Harlow, in a seminal experiment on the significance of touch, exposed the need for young mammals to experience touch from the beginning of life. He found that when baby monkeys were raised in a bare wire-mesh cage, the monkeys survived with difficulty or did not survive at all. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Meanings of Touch and Forgiveness: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Inquiry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.