Haptonomy (the Greek word “hapsis” means “touch” and “nomos” refers to “rules and laws”) is a philosophy of life and a theory about “how feelings and emotions affect human affective relationships”. It studies individual emotional experiences and interactions between people and focuses specifically on the promotion of human welfare and happiness. The studies of Haptonomy, in which body and mind are seen as a whole and feelings and emotions are a matter of both, can be described as a philosophy about people in general, the human sense of feeling and the way people live together with other people.
The emotional meaning of “touch” (“hapsis”) can be seen as the basis of the philosophy of Haptonomy. It is believed that affective interaction is a crucial factor in human development and can be seen as the most direct way of communicating (even when words fail). This is for example directly visible in the natural desire of a new born baby who wants to be touched in an affective, loving way and who shows physical tension and a general sense of not feeling safe if only “practical” interaction takes place. In our current rational, competitive and fast-paced society physical contact, the influence this type of communication has on our emotional development and our sense of feeling is more and more neglected. Touching takes often place in a technical matter and in a way in which there is no actual emotional connection between the related people. The resulting “emotional poverty” can lead to numerous physical and mental complaints and relationship problems as a consequence of suppressed feelings.
In haptonomy it is assumed that the human body, especially the experiences the body goes through, is of fundamental importance for an individual person as well as for human interactions. Every human being is born with the natural ability to feel and discern what is good for him and what is not and respond to this by attraction or withdrawn from the specific situation. During the course of life, as is very visible in the western culture, this natural ability is more and more influenced by what we think is “wise” and rational thinking takes over leading to less connection with our natural abilities to feel and discern. By learning to stay loyal to feelings (of for example sadness, happiness, fear, anger or love) and listen to the signs of the body, one can however confidently face the joys and sorrows of life. Also, if feeling and thinking are truly connected, people can make the right decisions while acknowledging their feelings as well as their rational thoughts leading to an adequate “living together” with other people.
Based on the philosophy of haptonomy, the human being is seen as an affectionate (feeling and social), independent, autonomous and responsible (for both themselves as well as others) creature who also treats other people as such. A truly developed person can take care of himself and has a clear sense of right and wrong. By being able to relate to the feelings of others, the capability to show empathy, right and wrong can also be identified in the actions of other people. The human body gives the possibility of being aware of the world around us by our senses, of which feeling is a very important aspect, and can be seen as an instrument by which people are expressing themselves to the world. The body “stores” the emotions and experiences and enables people to, when in touch with their natural ability to feel and discern, live a life in connection with others and based on their own morals and believes.