Posted by: Marie | February 8, 2010

(244) The meaning behind a touch

Post #244
[Private journal entry written on Friday, October 23, 2009]

Yesterday, a dialogue about touching and being touched manifested on my blog in the comments section of the post titled, “A cruel blast of cold air“. My friend, Svasti, made the following comment:

The sense I get from this is that you don’t need to rush yourself. If you can’t reach out and touch another person yet, so be it.

I responded with:

I do think it would be helpful to know what I fear will happen if I reach out and touch someone . . . what terrible thing do I think will result . . . ?? I know, logically, that it isn’t as bad as it feels . . . I’m curious what “terrible” thing happened that caused it to be such a fearful idea . . . if I knew what it was, then I think I could start to prove to myself that it can be different from what I fear.

My friend, Evan, added these thoughts:

I wonder if there is one little and easy thing to move beyond the block – like paying attention when you money into a cashier’s hand at the supermarket . . .

I think this is a big thing for you – it seems like it has a huge impact to do with your personal and sexual identity. So, like Svasti, I think it is well worth moving at your own pace and when you are ready . . .

This exchange got me to thinking . . . what would happen if my hand happen to touch the hand of a cashier at the store . . . ?? How would I react? What would I feel and think?

I realized that I would not allow our hands to touch – I would do everything I could to avoid it. And, if I had to make contact (maybe pick up a coin out of her hand), I would use the very tips of my fingers so the least amount of skin-to-skin contact would occur.

Photo by Martin Chen

So . . . what would I be avoiding? For sure, I’m not a germaphobe – I’m pretty relaxed about stuff like that. So, what could it be?

It took me a while to find the answer . . .

The answer is that I am avoiding any chance that the cashier would be angry with me for coming on to her sexually. I keep all physical contact as “sterile” as possible so there will be no question about the purity of my conduct and intention . . . because coming on to her (or anyone else) would be sinful and disgusting and weak. Hmmmmm . . . very interesting.

I was aware I felt that way around men in social situations . . . but I never realized I carried that fear into my everyday, benign associations as well. Very interesting, indeed.

I have always avoided touch. As a kid, I avoided it because I didn’t want to give any indication of the perverted sexual thoughts and desires that lived inside my head. I was afraid that those thoughts and desires would somehow become known through touch. I didn’t understand those thoughts and desires; I just instinctively knew they were sinful and shameful and my survival depended upon my ability to keep them hidden.

I guess I still carry an adult version of that belief around with me today. When I’ve had sex, the touching has always felt sinful – that I was a slut for participating. So, in order to maintain some level of honorability, I couldn’t allow myself to enjoy it. I only did it because it was the only way I could get attention and affection from a man.

Currently, I am so afraid any person I touch will think I’m flirting, that I want to have sex with him or her – I am afraid of that even when I have no intention of flirting. I worry about it with my boss, I worry about it with Mark (therapist #1), I worry about it with my piano students.

When I do want to flirt, when I do want to show that I’m “available”, I still feel unable to initiate touch – even affectionate touch. I’m afraid a man will see my “willingness” and think I’m a sinful slut. That programming is so powerful for me. Even after recognizing that it is not logical, I still feel powerless to shift it.

Will it ever be okay for me to touch, knowing I’m not flirting? Will it ever be okay for me to touch, knowing I am flirting? Will I ever be able to participate fully in sexual relations? Will I ever be able to trust a man in that way?

I can sense the importance of this issue has been increasing for me lately. I’m starting to feel that I need to address it sooner rather than later.

I just wish I knew how.


Responses

  1. I think these are incredibly difficult things to deal with.

    I wonder if there is a therapy (or some other kind of) group that could you support to just touch someone lightly.

    Another way is to get in touch with the child inside and see what they need and want.

    Would travelling on public transport feel OK? Or being part of a crowd?

    I hear what you say about logic not dealing with illogical experiences.

    Another approach would be to find other ways to get attention – even asking for it directly.

    I realise I’ve gone into problem-solving, and that this may be the worst thing to do. If so, I hope it starts some useful thoughts anyway.

    • Hey, Evan –

      Your questions are great ones . . . I appreciate your problem-solving. I learn so much from the questions you ask, and the way you ask them is very thought-provoking and non-judgmental . . . so, please ask away anytime!

      If I can answer your questions in more general terms . . . I do fine in crowds, in fact, I am very comfortable in crowds, especially in social situations where people don’t know me well. I can shake hands and pat people on their shoulders . . no problem.

      The issue for me comes with one-on-one situations . . . networking events are comfortable for me until I get into a conversation that lasts more than a minute or two . . . then, I’m sure the other person is thinking I’m trying to flirt with him or her. I do everything in my power to make sure nothing I do would give them that impression — including avoiding touch.

      On the flip side, I haven’t given myself permission to flirt [in appropriate situations]. I’m sure people will try to get away from me as quickly as possible if I ever did flirt — kind of like I try to get away from people who won’t stop talking or who have bad breath.

      I guess this will take some more work . . . I’ll keep you posted, LOL!

      – Marie

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