Untouched: The Need for Genuine Affection in an Impersonal World
This book should be required reading for all parents, medical persons, legislators, teachers, psychotherapists-and indeed anyone involved with children of any age. Ashley Montagu writes a strong Foreword and many notable persons including James Prescott, Christiane Northrup, Bernie Siegel, Dolores Krieger, and Stephen and Ondrea Levine have given the book high praise.
Mariana Caplan has done an inspirational job describing the current state of physical contact-or lack of it-among people in our modern world, especially in the fast-moving, extremely impersonal culture of the West. The first section of the book is disheartening because she tells us so vividly and accurately just how removed we have become as a society from connecting with each other in openness and love. Instead, we keep our distance from almost everyone because of fear, mistaken beliefs, and because of our individual histories of neglect and abuse. It is chilling to consider how lack of loving touch contributes to the current state of violence in our society.
For most readers of this Journal, there may not be much new information presented, however, Ms. Caplan has gathered this material and expressed her opinions in an excellent format. She has written a book that not only validates much of the current thinking in the preand perinatal community, but also is easily readable by those in many unrelated walks of life.
My experience of her slightly sarcastic, critical style was that it is not only thought provoking, but also energizing. She presents her theories in a passionate, moderately angry tone but the reader also gets the absolute accuracy of her sharpness and is inspired to interpret this as urgency in addressing the extensive and threatening issue of alienation.
I found occasional minor contradictions in her opinions and wondered if these were purposeful in order to expose the complexity of the problem we face in our daily questioning of whether or not to touch each other. The best examples are those of teachers of young children who are these days limited even in their ordinary and natural physical comforting of their young students. From my point of view, having been in practice for 18 years as a psychotherapist, I have watched the climate of our particular version of the "to touch or not to touch clients" debate change dramatically over the years. Ms. Caplan's metaphor of "cooking frogs" is certainly an accurate depiction of the process of change in my field. I think her intent is to motivate and ignite debate and action on the part of the reader.
I do not share her pessimism about healing unbonded adults. I do, however, think that the problem is too urgent for the "healing one person at a time" approach and addressing this issue in bigger ways is imperative. She has good suggestions for personal solutions but not enough for the big picture. She successfully makes the point it must start personally.
As a whole, this book is well worth the time, the emotions it provokes and the action it could stimulate when enough folks read it.