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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Midweek Musings: Some Thoughts On Touch

London is a huge learning experience for me in so many ways. One of the first things I did here was to take part in a large meet up with some of my fjriends from the internet. This in itself is a huge step as I have been talking to some (most!) of them for several years and never entirely believed I would actually be fortunate enough to get to know them in person, not even for a tiny little while -- but there were certainly other aspects that made this an absolutely enormous deal, too.

In amongst all of the small nudges of learning and skill development (and I'm trying very hard to use every uncomfortable thing as an opportunity to practice my skills), one of the big things that is coming up for me is my response to touch.

Most people who know me are aware that in general I am extremely uncomfortable with the concept of hugs and tacticle experiences - even to the point of actively disliking internet "hugs" (and other forms of touch) most of the time. It's one thing I have generally managed to have quite clear and consistent boundaries on online and sometimes in person - you don't get to touch me without my permission, even if other times I've been okay with it.

That said, and with acknowledgement and awareness of the fact that the "don't touch" boundaries have been quite heavy lately due to recent experiences, one thing I knew I really wanted to do despite everything, was to try and hug these friends while I have the opportunity, because who knows when I'll have another chance!

I went on to actually achieve this very well, and at first I properly surprised myself with how easy it all was. I expected some pretty big repercussions but there were no horrid flashbacks, no sudden memories crashing in on me -- just quiet recognition that it didn't feel like I needed to take off running and get away.

I doubt I've ever hugged so many people so much, and I don't regret doing it, but I was wrong that there were no repercussions or consequences of it, I just didn't see them at first because they looked so different to what I was expecting to see.

This time, instead of a straight jump from experience to flashback/memories, I had some different thought processes in between (although I didn't properly see them until a few days later). Some of the biggest of these were things like

"If I say yes to one person hugging me, I have to say yes to everyone who would want/give/take a hug."

"If I enjoy touch in this form, I am both asking to be hurt, and responsible for this eventuality."

I also have noticed in myself a very strong belief that others will find me dirty -- I was surprised any time anyone wanted to touch me, or accepted touch from me, and kept expecting them to get up and wash their hands/shower every time.

And now, days later, the thought patterns are beginning to trigger off some of those old problems... yet I am still feeling 'huggy'. Some of the people from the meet are still here, and I still want to hug them - it still feels safe and comfortable to hug them.

I'm finding this really tricky to navigate - though I still think despite everything, this is a huge step forward for me, and above all I am tremendously grateful I've had the opportunity(ies!) to explore this.

Challenges/cheerleading statements:
Every person and every situation is different. If I'm not comfortable hugging someone - whether that is in general, or in (a) specific circumstance, it's okay to say no.
Enjoying a specific instance of touch that I choose to allow is not the same as saying I asked for someone to take action against my body without my consent.
My past has not made me unclean.

Until next time, may you all find your own small fences along the way.

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