We live in a touch-averse culture, and people who want to be touched have to be quite inventive about their approach.
I like touching, and I’ve undoubtedly offended many people as I bumped down the road of discovering cultural assumptions, and stumbled across unmarked boundaries.
I don’t know the significance of coming from a family who rarely touched one another. I don’t know if my Pisces moon is a factor in my enjoyment of sentimental closeness. I leave these questions to the experts in the two fields of inquiry.
Recently I was at a photo event organized by two people I have worked with several times and have some affection toward. I asked playfully (I thought) if a hug was available. One of them said I could have a sideways hug, and the other remained silent. I’m still learning to gauge people and their preferences.
I have tried some of the obvious sources of touch such as massage and watsu, the soothing and deceptively simple ritual of being pulled around a pool of water. These activities are professional services, and they are accomplished with the aloofness appropriate to such enterprises. By design, they are not an expression of bonding or intimacy. They do not invite the subject to share his or her inner experience. Even yoga instruction, as I know it, discourages bonding in order to respect a vaguely defined sense of propriety.
I did meet a lady at a retreat a year ago. She offers what she describes as a more intimate sort of encounter, but I have to go to another state and pay the price of admission. I don’t mind those things, but it does point up that getting touched requires a pilgrimage if you don’t live in the right neighborhood.
Often, gentle touch creates the safety that allows stifled feelings to surface. This can feel scary at first. However, when expressing and releasing feelings becomes part of our regular self-care routine, we become appreciative and welcoming of these opportunities.—Virginia Satir
We hold babies and young children because we know it is essential to their development and sense of self. Once we grow up we enter a thicket of undeclared boundaries and limitations. We cannot even talk about them.
I look at so many people who are suffering in various ways, and I suspect that the causes of the pain remains stifled. If we could sit them in the center of the circle, light some candles, and touch them gently and affectionately, and speak tenderly to them, what might happen?
Except occasionally—under the influence of adult beverages—I restrain my impulses to touch my friends. When I cross that boundary I usually rack myself with guilt wondering who I might have offended. My usual offense is rubbing a woman’s feet without being invited to do so.
What would happen if expressing feelings became a regular part of our self care program, and we used wholesome touch to evoke it?
I welcome your comments.