Posted by: Marie | January 15, 2011

(491) Please forgive me in advance

Post #491
[Private journal entry written on the morning of Saturday, August 28, 2010]

After hours of internal debate, I decided to deal head-on with my resistance to Father Jim’s intention to routinely hug me. Early this morning, I sent him this email:

Hi, Jim –

It was so cool to see you again yesterday! I am excited about getting to work with you in your process of learning about and reconnecting with the music living in your soul!

I’ll wait to hear from you about the dates you have open on your calendar. I’d appreciate knowing your availability as far in advance as you can tell me . . . it helps me plan better.

One other thing I wanted to mention . . . as you were leaving, you said something along the lines of, “And that will be our last handshake because next time it will be a hug.” After some thought, I’d like to address that . . .

It is obvious to me you are warm and affectionate guy. I can see how hugging people fits well with how you show up in the world. I recognize hugging can be very therapeutic.

I also recognize that, in my healing journey, I’m still learning to be comfortable with physical touch, especially physical touch with men.

Right now, I’m about 80% comfortable with the idea of us hugging. I request we not hug until I’m 100% comfortable. That will help me be more at ease as we spend time together.

I promise I’ll let you know when I get to 100% – and, I look forward to that day! Thank you, in advance, for your support and understanding on this.

Okay . . . that is all I can think of for now. I’ll see you sometime soon!

– Marie

A few hours later, he responded with a list of open dates/times (which, by the way, were not on the list of dates and times I told him I am available) as well as this paragraph:

If I accidentally hug you, please forgive me in advance. I usually know when people don’t want to be touched. I wouldn’t or shouldn’t expect you to understand the peace I offer.

Oh, my God! I’m dealing with Mark reincarnate! How did I attract yet another narcissistic, self-appointed savior-to-the-world? I didn’t even go out looking for this one!

Photo by Martin Chen

Just like Mark, this guy has no intention of honoring my boundaries. He believes what I want or need or choose is immaterial because, in all his worldly wisdom, he knows what is best for me. He is unable to empathize. He refuses to take responsibility for his actions.

It feels as though he is saying he knows better than I when I do and don’t want to be touched – as if my saying I don’t want to be touched isn’t reason enough to refrain from touching me. It seems as though he is saying I’m being unreasonable to burden him with the responsibility of remembering to not hug me.

And the peace he offers . . . ?? I’d say I’m likely not able to experience that “peace” if I’m struggling with flashbacks triggered by his lack of discretion.

Wait . . . is all that really true? Am I judging him too quickly? Is it really all that serious?

Maybe I should say nothing more now and just keep a contingency plan in my back pocket. For example, if he again asks me to forgive him for accidentally hugging me, maybe I should ask him to forgive me for accidentally kicking him in the nuts.

Or, if he does hug me (or even start to hug me), I’ll tell him to leave and never come back.

Would those be less dramatic ways of handling this?

Am I being overly reactive just because I’m still stinging from the fiasco with Mark? Is this all just evidence of transference?

I’m not looking to create an emotionally intimate relationship with him – I’m not looking for him to be my therapist or boyfriend or best friend. I’m just trying to establish a business relationship in which I don’t have to be touched when I don’t want to be touched. I think we can have a purely professional relationship despite his savior complex – if he can refrain from hugging me.

So, do I cut Father Jim loose now or do I give him one more shot to redeem himself?

Maybe he would understand better – and be willing to honor my boundaries – if I were more direct with him and if I shared some of the reasons behind my request.

I gotta think on this one some more . . .


  1. Seeing as how it is naughty to give advice and all, I’ll do it.

    My gut says to tell him goodbye. That you know that for you hugging is not OK now, that being hugged has unpleasant consequences for you, if he can’t respect your boundaries then you can’t work with him.

    It does sound like he works from a one-up position. It does sound like a re-run of Mark.

    I look forward to seeing what you decided and if it was similar to my advice. With the time delay we have the advantage of knowing whether the advice giving worked out before it was given (if you see what I mean, that was awfully confused syntax!)

    • LOL, Evan . . . I like it when you get naughty and give advice!

      I guess I was struggling with the fine line between being reasonable and being unreasonable . . . being too sensitive and being able to deal with all kinds of people.

      I find myself often struggling with defining what is reasonable or not . . . and then I remember that it is all about what works and doesn’t work for me.

      It’s a learning process . . . and I was really glad to have your input at the time! It was most helpful!

      – Marie

  2. I do not think at all you are being overly dramatic. He has no interest respecting your wishes. As you said, he seems to think he can decide when you are ready to be hugged. And implies he can’t control his impluses to hug people. In my opinion, dealing with this individual could be difficult and draining. I have no doubt you can deal with him but is he a worth while investment of your energy. I think your instincts are bang on correct. You know what you feel comfortable with, perhaps its a matter of truely tuning into that wisdom. I hope it went well!! I’m sure you handled it fantasticly :-) The very best wishes.

    • Hey, Marie –

      Ooooo . . . I like your point that one factor is to consider if having him as a client would be a worthwhile investment of my energy . . . I think that would be a great guideline!

      Thanks for giving me credit for having solid instincts!

      – Marie

  3. His response makes me go “Yuk”!! He certainly thinks well of himself.

    I think you could try giving him a lesson and see how it goes. He maybe is just over the top at first meeting. It could be HIS way of dealing with insecurity. But if you don’t feel it is worth your energy to worry about it, then you certainly would be very reasonable to decline to teach him. Teaching is such a personal process.

    I would not share any more of your story with him. You shouldn’t have to explain any more than you have. My feelings are that it is a private story, to be shared with close friends and healing professionals. And of course, people who read your blog :).

  4. Another thought.

    Is there any way you could use him for practice? I mean being pleasant and professional, and yet having some part of your brain observing with amusement (rather than fear) his self absorbtion.

    • Hey, Susan –

      You have some great ideas . . . staying detached, giving him a second chance . . . I think those are great options!

      I went back and forth on how much to share . . . I know that sometimes I change how I interact with someone after I learn more about their circumstances . . . I keep wanting to give other people the chance to change how they interact with me when I share some of my reasons for my behavior . . . it is tough to know how much to share.

      – Marie

  5. I hope you kicked that self-righteous idiot to the curb before he ever had the chance to have a lesson from you.

    • Hey, David –

      That would be fun, wouldn’t it . . . I mean, kicking his self-righteous ass . . . LOL.

      – Marie

  6. Yes, yes it would be. :-) I know you did the self-protective thing, and my sense is that you probably also gave him a chance first … because that’s who you are, and while your gut is good, you also want to give people space to be better than they are, if they can be. I really admire that about you; I’m not like that, and sometimes people need more space to decide how they’re going to show up than I am willing to give them.

    This pissed me off so royally because, as the survivor of a very abusive music teacher, I know what an incredible gift your teaching is to your students, and this asshat doesn’t deserve it. Okay, I suppose that’s judgmental, but … I’m pretty much at peace with it. ;-)

    • Hey, David –

      You are right . . . I do always want to give people a chance to make a different choice before cutting them off at the knees . . . because I want people to give that chance to me (I need it often).

      What disappoints me so often is how people don’t want a chance to make a different choice, they don’t want to think, they don’t want to take responsibility for the consequences . . . I want people to be aware and sensitive and so often, they are not.

      Anyway . . thank you for the kind words about my ability to teach . . . I do consider it a gift I give to my students.

      – Marie

  7. Wow. I’d definitely go with ‘kick him in the nuts,’ and add, ‘then turn go far, far away from wherever he lives. Yuck. I knew a funeral director who used to love putting corsages on the older women at funerals, and he was so overt it about the weirdness of it he shocked me. He had no shame.

    • Hey, Meredith –

      I am often shocked at how insensitive people can be . . . I guess it works for them on some level or else they wouldn’t continue.

      I thought kicking him the nuts was a nice option, as well, LOL!

      – Marie

  8. Ummm….you know how I feel. You already gave him his chance with the email communication. He didn’t listen to you. Now, the question is–are you going to listen to him? He TOLD you he will not respect your ground rules. Why on earth would you want to give him further opportunities to walk all over you?
    Part of getting respect from people is, as you are finding out, really putting out a vibe that you are not to be trifled with when it comes to things that are important to you.
    People sense when they can violate boundaries and unfortunately, they will do it many times if they observe on some level that they won’t get busted for it.
    I believe it’s times like this that you make a stand and it greatly helps your confidence and builds that “aura” which you will then carry around with you throughout the rest of your life.
    Not to say that it’s the end of the world to give the idiot a second chance. But ask yourself, what are your communications worth if after being ignored, you feel that somehow it’s on you to keep going through these patterns with people?

    • Hey, Aaron –

      You have hit on one of my biggest struggles . . . knowing when I have given someone enough of a chance.

      When I have an interaction such as this, I question if I’m being reasonable (I have decided I am being very reasonable in this case), then I question if I was clear enough in my boundary, I question if I should give more explanation so that they really understand the impact of not honoring my boundary, etc. etc. etc.

      This business of setting and protecting boundaries seems to be something I never learned to do as a normal course of life. I’m having to learn it as an adult and I am having a heck of a time figuring out how to do it. So, experiences such as this, and receiving feedback from people who have my best interest at heart, are very helpful in my learning process.

      My worse fear in this case was that I would allow my skin to be too thin . . . that I would make a mountain out of a molehill. I needed to know I was behaving in a reasonable manner . . . I didn’t want to cut him off at the knees until I for sure knew there was a need to do that. (I still haven’t developed a good sense of when a situation has reached that point.)

      At this point of the interaction, I was not sure there was a need to cut him off — I kept having this little doubt that I hadn’t explained myself well enough.

      So . . . . buckle up . . . we aren’t through yet . . .

      – Marie

  9. One other little thing that stood out to me in your email with him. You described yourself as 80% comfortable with the idea of hugging him. Saying that was really opening the door for him to think, “oh eighty percent! So MOST of her wants to hug me!” Why did you say that? Based on your post and the way you described your feelings about it, I’d venture to say it was more like 99% of you did NOT want to hug the guy!
    My view is that you should not mince words with this stuff and not downplay your true feelings.

    • Hey, Aaron –

      Bingo . . . you hit the mark with this one. Yup, I wasn’t 80% comfortable . . . I was just trying to be nice, trying to not blast him (because I’m good at blasting people and I’m trying to learn a softer way).

      At this point, I still felt an obligation to protect his ego.

      – Marie

      • I understand not wanting to blast someone. Being kind and empathetic is important. But sometimes it’s “nicer” to just be straight forward and say it like it is. He’s not a wilting flower from the sounds of him. You can adjust the message as necessary. Be nice until someone gives you a reason not to be, and this guy has–he isn’t respecting what you’ve told him and he needs to understand that crap won’t fly with you. Waiting to see where it goes next!

  10. BTW I’ve noticed through life that some of the biggest a-holes have this way of making it OUR responsibility to protect their fragile egos while they manage to walk on everyone else and make people feel like shit. By portraying vulnerability along with their arrogant domineering facade, sensitive people like you will cater to them because you feel bad bursting their obviously superficial confidence.

    But that’s just a tactic on their part. They have developed these traits to enable them to act like jerks. Don’t fall for it, don’t be swayed by it and when you stop putting up with that shit, you’ll find they’re smart enough to stop sending those signals and even attempting it with you.

    • Hey, Aaron –

      You make another great point . . . I guess I just can’t imagine people operating in that way . . . I keep giving them the benefit of the doubt because I just can’t believe they are that [fill in the blank].

      I guess I have more to learn about this stuff, LOL!

      – Marie

  11. As others have said, my impression is that you were being way too kind to this odd individual, and possibly not even getting your point across clearly. Though if someone told me they were not 100% comfortable with something I was doing, I’d probably cease and desist! I’m betting you told him where to get off in your next mail.

    • Hey, Ellen –

      Yeah . . . I, too, would cease and desist at the first sign of someone’s discomfort. So, it is nearly impossible for me to imagine someone not doing that. I keep thinking it surely must be a matter of that I haven’t explained myself well enough.

      I guess it takes all kinds to make this world go around . . .

      – Marie

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