To touch and be touched is something of a puzzle for me.
I recently learned about the five languages of love, and in an honest display of self awareness, I realized that touch is my primary language of love. It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, I would have identified almost any other of the five languages as my primary language.
The premise of the five love languages is that there are five kinds of experiences where human beings feel loved:
1. Quality Time
2. Acts of Service
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Physical Touch
5. Words of Affirmation
Anybody who has ever loved me would tell you that my primary language of love is quality time. But this is actually not true. I am primarily a touch kinda girl. But I have hidden, repressed, stuffed, and pretended this is not the case.
I have been lying to myself. I need touch.
To touch and be touched is one of the most basic, fundamental needs of our species. Babies literally need to be touched in order to thrive. It is the conditioning of our bodies and our psyche to equate security, safety and love with the power of touch.
Sometimes this equation gets interrupted though, as in cases of abuse. For me, this interruption came about just as I was going through puberty. Along with all the confusion about my own body; the clumsiness that accompanies growing hips, the awkward feeling of suddenly not being able to run around in the summer with my shirt off, the uncertainty about how I might look in the next few years—along side all of this, I began to be sexually molested. At a time when nothing about my body, my feelings, or my mind made any sense whatsoever, I was faced with deep betrayal and confusion.
How could being touched feel so immediately good to my body and at the same time so empty, so devastating to my mind? It was as if I couldn’t even trust myself—I had no answers. I couldn’t begin to understand.
The violation continued for almost a year. It was always sporadic, I never could pin down a pattern. I tried to avoid him as much as I could, but inevitably I would find myself sitting in front of the TV with nowhere to go. Silence was assumed. The shame of what was happening kept me quiet. The embarrassment that I could not speak about something I feared was destroying me inside, kept me weak.
I gave up on myself. I gave up on feeling safe. I gave up on touch being good for me.
Soon, what I believed about boys who wanted to touch girls was that they were to be feared; they were predators, they used girls bodies only for their pleasure. I was taught that growing up. I learned that touching and being touched did not mean what my mind or heart told me it meant. It was during this time, I disconnected my heart from my body.
To protect myself, I got into a long distance relationship at the age of 13 that lasted until I was 18. I kept myself from dating anybody else in case they might try to use me. Eventually I went out on a few dates, and usually ended up being violated in one way or another. It wasn’t the guys’ fault though—I never learned how to say no to boys who wanted to touch me; the shame kept me quiet, the weakness kept me timid. The shame that my body felt good being touched, but my heart didn’t like it, continued to confuse me. I stopped accepting myself.
I kept myself occupied with long distance boyfriends. I gained a lot of weight hoping it would stop any interest in my body (because I had been taught that it would), and I kept hoping it might stop the confusion. But it only increased it. Of course I wanted to be wanted, (we all do) but I didn’t want to be hurt anymore.
I’ve been mending this interruption for years now. I’ve been learning how to care for my body, how to say no when I mean no, how to trust myself, and how to trust people around me. I became a massage therapist to learn how to touch and how to be touched. I slowly learned how to give my body (and heart) what it needs, physically, nutritionally, mentally, & sexually. I am still learning how to be fully in my body, accepting and loving it throughout my life.
We each have opportunities to heal our bodies and our minds.
If we cannot look upon and touch our own bodies with love and affection, how can we expect another to do so? If we don’t accept our bodies (and others’ bodies) for the beautiful, unique, unspeakable miracle that they are, who will? It’s up to us.
In this effort to heal our bodies and minds, we must be willing to give and to receive. We must be willing to receive touch as love. We must be willing to touch with love. We must be willing to receive pleasure in order to have pleasure.
To receive is not to resign oneself to the inevitable. It is not achieved through a place of victimization or martyrdom. To receive is an active movement of the body, heart and soul. It is an opening, an invitation, and absorbing of the energies, the power, and the pleasure being given by another. It is allowing the body, and the energy of another to move us. It is the ultimate display of union, of surrender to togetherness.
To touch is to focus our energies toward another; our attention, our sensation, our movement is directed with the intention of healing or of bringing pleasure to their senses, of connecting the energies in our individual selves. To touch is the ultimate exchange of energy. Consensual touch between people can be one of life’s greatest pleasures.
We actually call being moved by something ‘being touched by it’. Allowing touch to move us can be a cathartic, exceptionally pleasurable experience.
Let’s all be a little more touchy, shall we?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Pixoto user Pradono Gunawan