I want to share what I’ve learned about human touch. It can be safe or unsafe. And that has consequences. It wasn’t until recently that I realized what some of them were.
I remember the first time I was ever hit by someone I loved.
One moment I was sitting there on a chair and the next thing I was aware of I was looking down at the floor. You would expect that I’d be thinking about pain or wondering how I’d gotten there or if there was another blow coming. But no. The first thought that went through my mind was “Don’t get blood on the carpet.” And I picked myself up, cupped my nose, and ran to the bathroom sink.
Over time as the verbal, physical, and sexual abuse increased I began to guard against human touch. I didn’t realize how guarded I was until I walked into Sunday School one Sabbath Day and chose to sit next to a sister that I visit taught. At one point I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees and cupped my chin. For whatever reason, this sister began to scratch my back and just like that I began to sob.
The genuine warm touch of another with no sexual expectations or intent to harm was almost too much to bear for me.
Still later I realized that the problem with withdrawing from human touch because it is unsafe is that it doesn’t discriminate. This means withdrawal from even safe touch….as in I didn’t hug my children.
I didn’t even recognize that I had withdrawn physically from my children. Not until my divorce which gave me freedom from this shell of withdrawal. Not only did I not have to fear and guard against touch (especially his), I didn’t have to feel guilt for denying him. And I realized I craved touch.
I also realized that my children must be starved for safe touch. Suddenly I wanted to hug my children. Of course I was afraid that they were too old and would reject it – teenage boys after all. But it warmed my heart when they accepted my hugs with open arms.