Physical affection…

God I hate it.

I hate it when anyone touches me. A pat on the back or a touch on the shoulder will more likely than not make me jump out of my skin. Even though the person may touch me gently, it physically hurts me.

A hug is like a nightmare for me. I don’t know the last time I actually hugged somebody. I don’t want to be that physically close to anyone.  Not my parents or my grandparents or even my siblings.  My best friend learned a long time ago that it’s better not even to try.  I guess I’m afraid of getting hurt.

I had a conversation about this with a friend a week or so ago… names removed to protect the innocent (i.e. the other person)…

[1/21/2007 2:07:25 AM] J says: I will do everything in my power never to hurt you, kathryn.
[1/21/2007 2:07:40 AM] K says: Deep down inside, I know that. That logical part of me knows that.
[1/21/2007 2:07:55 AM] K says: But it’s the emotional part that comes out and gets scared and starts to push
[1/21/2007 2:08:16 AM] J says: that’s only because we never met face to face
[1/21/2007 2:08:29 AM] J says: you crying in my beard. ;)
[1/21/2007 2:08:33 AM] K says: It was so much easier when I lived life cold and logical. The nicest thing my therapist ever said to me is that I reminded him of Mr. Spok from Star Trek.
[1/21/2007 2:08:40 AM] J says: having a hug
[1/21/2007 2:09:05 AM] K says: Even if you were a mile down the road I don’t think I could deal with a hug.
[1/21/2007 2:09:23 AM] K says: I can’t tell you the last time I let anyone hug me.
[1/21/2007 2:09:24 AM] J says: heh… you don’t know me. :)
[1/21/2007 2:09:48 AM] K says: You’re a hugger?
[1/21/2007 2:10:04 AM] J says: no, but I do know when someone needs a hug
[1/21/2007 2:10:14 AM] K says: But I don’t.
[1/21/2007 2:10:32 AM] J says: and you, girl… you are on top of the list for needing one.
[1/21/2007 2:10:48 AM] K says: No.
[1/21/2007 2:11:39 AM] J says: it’s unknown to scientists, but a hug from a good friend can relieve a person’s tensions so much that they relax immediately.
[1/21/2007 2:11:49 AM] J says: so yes.
[1/21/2007 2:11:56 AM] K says: That scares me.
[1/21/2007 2:12:01 AM] K says: I don’t like to be touched at all.
[1/21/2007 2:12:43 AM] J says: no touching in weird places, no kisses, just a good bear hug.
[1/21/2007 2:13:03 AM] K says: ::shudder::
[1/21/2007 2:13:05 AM] J says: I’ll just have to find a bear.
[1/21/2007 2:13:27 AM] K says: that would really be scary then.
[1/21/2007 2:13:38 AM] J says: lol, to teach me :)
[1/21/2007 2:13:48 AM] K says: how to hug like a bear?
[1/21/2007 2:13:53 AM] J says: yes
[1/21/2007 2:14:09 AM] K says: I wonder where that expression got started.
[1/21/2007 2:14:43 AM] J says: Dr. Adams? ;)
[1/21/2007 2:14:53 AM] K says: who?
[1/21/2007 2:15:09 AM] J says: that TV series with the guy and the bear
[1/21/2007 2:15:17 AM] K says: Never saw it.
[1/21/2007 2:16:11 AM] J says:
[1/21/2007 2:17:13 AM] J says: prolly how a bear would put both its front claws behind your head and just go ‘crush’
[1/21/2007 2:17:26 AM] K says: could be.
[1/21/2007 2:17:40 AM] J says: be we do the more friendly version, ok?
[1/21/2007 2:17:47 AM] K says: no hugs
[1/21/2007 2:17:50 AM] J says: we = us friendly people
[1/21/2007 2:18:13 AM] J says: we = us who don’t want to hurt you
[1/21/2007 2:18:24 AM] K says: I know you don’t.
[1/21/2007 2:18:35 AM] J says: we = us who want to hug you as you truly need a good hug.
[1/21/2007 2:18:47 AM] K says: It’s the last thing in the world I need.
[1/21/2007 2:19:14 AM] J says: it’s the first thing in the world you need
[1/21/2007 2:20:08 AM] K says: It would mean trusting that nothing bad will happen. And letting myself be open. And both of those things seem next to impossible right now.
[1/21/2007 2:21:04 AM] J says: yep, but if you look open toward the future, one day, I promise you, it will happen.

I remember studying the research of Tiffany Field when I was in graduate school.  One of her major research interests is the affects of touch (like massage) on various physical and psychological measures.  She has consistently found that touch has a positive affect on those measures, things like immune function and sleep.  I was always impressed with her work, especially the work she did on the benefits of touch in premature infants.

Thinking about that makes me wonder if I actually let someone hug me or give me a back rub or whatever if it wouldn’t help reduce the anxiety I’ve been carrying around or help me sleep better.  Given her research, the answer is probably yes (although most statistical tests are carried out on group means, and there are always people who deviate from that mean).

But the thought of a hug or a back rub terrifies me.  I just don’t want to get hurt.  And rationally, I know that if J were in my neck of the woods, that a hug would just be a hug.  He wouldn’t hurt me the way I was hurt in the past.  However, I just can’t get past that fear.

I know a large part of life is all about taking risks and moving outside of your comfort zone.  But right now, this is one risk I’m really not ready to take.

8 thoughts on “Physical affection…

  1. Kathryn. Now I know your name. You didn’t say if I could pray for you yet, so I am and will continue to. I don’t have any words that will change your situation, but am hoping the day you can enjoy a hug and back rub will be soon.

  2. Wendy.

    Yes you may. I’m sorry I forgot to respond to your original comment.

    Prayers and good vibes are always appreciated.

  3. hello again…perhaps you might be able to begin to feel embraced by the softness of fresh thick towels when you get out of the shower. feel how soft flannel hugs you or perhaps a soft cotton sweater. start to receive in these safe places. allow the Universe to hug you until you are able to be touched by one who loves you and who cares for you. feel how your sheets and your comforter embrace you and surround you and hold you when you slip into bed at night. there are lots of ways to allow the Universe to begin its embrace (and all things come from the Universe, even when it comes to us through the form of another person). the earth supports us, holds us, embraces us, and it becomes a beautiful thing….

  4. hi FindingtheLight/K

    the thing i’ve found with that kind of stuff is just taking everything slowly.
    i remember a dr saying to me once ‘some things aren’t ready to be faced’ and i was like ‘oh, of course!’ and off i toddled… lol-at-me!

    Gentleness has been the key for me. Someone very special in my life taught me that, but it was and is, still hard to receive any kind of physical affection from them. It’s interesting in a detached way – i think part of what i was scared of are my own emotions, not just memories/etc.

    but i think its ok in this life to have boundaries, to stay where you feel safe, at least until you feel ready to move forward?

    anyways, sorry for the rambling and ranting thoughts!

  5. Jord says:

    It’s chilling to see our chat on your blog, Kat.

    I refuse to back off though. Well, for as long as you want me to be your friend. Yet as long as I can be your friend, I want to hug you. Nothing more. A good hug takes away so much stress.

  6. Kathryn,

    Can you hug yourself? I usually feel silly about that sort of thing, but sometimes it really helps — it’s still a calming, loving touch. I actually kissed my own hand the other day — just a little motherly goodnight kiss. And it was nice.

    Pets are great, too, if you are fond of animals. Having a warm purring cat on your lap or just next to you.

    As for people, I would think it might feel safer to start with a one-second, one-finger, stroke on the back of your hand, or some other very limited touch, before a big hug.

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