Getting comfortable with the idea of touch can be very hard after experiencing abuse. During abuse, touch is the last thing you want to feel, because more often than not, touch means hurt. Touch means bruises and soreness, uncomfortable feelings and shame.
Being touched used to be my worst nightmare. I did not like hugs, I did not like shaking people’s hands. I did not like partner work in ballet for a while, because I cringed the entire time people touched me. Holding hands was another horror. All these physical affections that were normal and welcome for most people made me want to run into a corner and hide so that I could cry.
Especially this one spot on my back. Right up near my shoulder blades, where a line of knots tightened like vines around my spine. In fact, my entire back was in knots. Knots and pains and spasms. The effect of years of slouching into the ground trying to disappear. Whenever someone would touch this spot on my back, I would cringe and collapse. Sometimes tears would well up in my eyes. Sometimes, on rarer occasions, I would simply turn around and slap away the person’s hand, out of instinctual reaction. My friends used to tease me about it. They thought it was just some funny nervous habit.
But touch is something intensely personal. If I had lived a life without abuse, perhaps I wouldn’t have all the problems of handling touch that I have. But abuse has made touch personal, and touch is now associated with trust. If I trust someone, they are allowed to touch me. If I do not know someone, touch is still something that makes me very uncomfortable.
As I have undergone counseling, healing, and started practicing yoga and surrounding myself with people who are good and kind, being touched has gotten much easier. Acquiring comfort with touch takes practice, much like anything else.
Personally, I love hugs. Well, nowadays I love hugs. They make you feel better, and I’ve even heard it said (though I’m not sure how scientific this statement is) that 12 hugs a day can make you happier. The trick was, I just had to find the right people to hug.