For my entire life, I have not liked/allowed/wanted people to touch me. “Don’t touch me,” was one of my mother’s most frequent admonitions when I shied away from her touch. Me not letting her touch me was one of the few things I could take away from her that gave me a sense of self.
I have a confession. I have more than one therapist right now. Why S.O. thinks that this is funny, and symptomatic of how I never do anything half way. Why take chances? If you are committed to change and resolving things, leave as little to chance as possible. Get it done.
One of these therapists is a “touch” therapist. She is a Somatic Experience Therapist, using touch to heal the body. She is trained in Cranio-Sacral Therapy, which I have written about here and here. She is also a Dr. A PhD. Her journey started with touch and she then became a licensed psychotherapist. She is a scholar, and a figure in her field, having written many papers in scientific journals.
She is important to me because she is the one talk therapist I have found who is willing to do in-person sessions. I prefer this, in part for the human connection, but also because I find that zoom creates a sense of irreality, a cloak of anonymity, and I want to make sure that my openness is not being aided by a feeling of safety in distance. If you can’t say it to her face…
Those are in the plus column, and her office is amazing, a very relaxing environment. In the minus column, she is clueless about sexuality and gender issues. How many people don’t know what BDSM stands for in this day and age? She doesn’t seem to understand what non-binary.is. I would get this in the general populace, but in the world of therapy, I am surprised. Nevertheless, I am comfortable working with her.
Why? Three things. One, she is totally professional. Two, she is non-judgemental. Three, she does not believe in diagnosis—she thinks it is “lazy” science. Let me clarify. In extreme cases like schizophrenia or suicidal ideation, she very much believes in the importance of diagnosis, but for the 99% of the rest of us, she believes that diagnosis leads to labels and boxes and this idea that there is something “wrong” with us, which she believes is not conducive to healing.
For example, ADD. This is something we discussed at length in our first session. My diagnosis of ADD as a child was for a specific outcome, medication. [Blogged about here]. She asked, “who did that serve? What was the underlying cause? Did the medication address the underlying cause or simply get you to sit still? For whose benefit was that?”
So far so good. But the thing we discussed that seems to have resonated with me the most was this idea of touch. I am a person who has always had a complex relationship with touch [blogged about here]. I have never really liked people touching me. This is atypical of ADD, where the “sensitivity” and breakdown of attachment and attunement makes many more “touchy-feely”. A very small proportion of us are the opposite. And here I am using the convenience of the label. It is just for illustrative purposes, I will throw it away soon!
One of the other things she said to me which has stuck with me for a few days and now is resurfacing as a formed thought, is that my “fighting”, my rebelliousness, my resistance to my mother was a sign of strength, and that it was a good thing…and I might have spent a lifetime feeling guilty about it (how can a good boy fight with his mother?), but that it was healthy and important. Especially given how inappropriate some of our dynamic was.
Starting with my mother, and especially my mother, I really did not like to be touched. And as we discussed this topic, and many others besides, it emerged that my relationship with touch was not really about touch. I told her that my closest friend, a male, is a Mediterranean person, warm-hearted, and he touches everybody, and that I love it when he touches me. Not in a kinky way, but in a warming way. He is spilling over with love, and it comes out constantly, and he is constantly touching, squeezing, petting, poking, and holding the people around him. It feels like life itself. There is one person that I have never minded touching me.
My children can also touch me without me thinking about it, or my body reacting. There is an innocence in their touch, without guile or motive, that just feels natural and welcome. With my wife, I am pretty good. And I am sorry for her, because she likes touch, but I can hold a hug with her for about 10 seconds before I want to scream, and I start to squirm and want to get away. One of my sisters is very touchy-feely, and the second she touches me I want her hands off of me, and I will take steps to distance myself. I don’t fully understand this yet, though I think I will get there.
With the good Dr., the touch therapist, I also discussed how Mistress is the first person in my life who is an adult, a peer, who is not only able to touch me at will and not produce any resistant reactions from me, but on the contrary, whose touch I thirst for. This has never really happened to me before. At least that I recall. There were certainly GFs when I was younger where we touched each other and I didn’t react, but I have never wanted to be touched by someone so actively, have never welcomed someone’s touch before. And this is significant.
On the one hand, Mistress is opening me up to a world of touch, but there is something bigger going on. The therapist has suggested that my self-diagnosis is wrong: “that I don’t like to be touched.” For this reason, she thinks that I will be a great subject for touch therapy. Her view is that I am the opposite of my self-diagnosis. That I am like a parched desert, in desperate need of touch, and discovering it for the first time. She thinks that my reactions to touch have to do with my interpretation of the motive, and the purity of the motive, of the other person. That my issue is not with touch, but rather who and why they are touching me, and whether “permission” has been granted—either tacitly or explicitly.
She asked about inappropriate touching and abuse, and in truth I do not remember such a thing, except a snippet of an incident a long time ago. This is something that we will explore going forward through both touch and hypnosis. But as I alluded to in the opening, the physical limits of our body have to do with our sense of autonomy, and our sense of control. Managing our physical perimeter is one of the most basic things about feeling independent. With my mother, there were all kinds of unhealthy dynamics going on–that she was intensely controlling, that she wanted me to be different than I was/am…and perhaps, this was all that was left for me–a mother wants to/needs to touch her child, and by denying her that touch, there was at least one place I could assert myself as an independent being.
But I am eager to understand. And am curious as to why a few months ago, reading The 5 Love Languages book [reviewed here], my analysis of “touch” was that I didn’t care about it at all, and now I find myself, when wanting to see Mistress, that this aspect of our interaction is what is pulling me most strongly…indeed, so strongly, that sometimes all she has to do to put me into sub-space is to touch me. What is going on? I think I understand it. Mistress is not asking for something in return for her touch–it feels clean.
How little we know ourselves! Or at least, how little I know myself, and what a strange and wonderful thing it is to get to know what makes us tick and why…but how on earth can I have gone through life for so long and not know this about me? And does this mean that we are all pretty much in the dark about ourselves? Are we all just sleep-walking through life? What happens when we wake up?
My Reiki Master said something that struck me recently. “When you are investing in yourself, in your health and well-being, spiritual, physical, sexual, there is no such cost that is too great. It is an investment in life itself.”
This feels like a breakthrough.