As abuse survivors there are many things that we are weary of and one of them is touch. We tend to over generalize that all touch as a bad thing. Even a conceptual touch feels bad. But if we really think about it we have damn good reasons why we fear and dislike touch.
Our ideas of touch were poisoned at a very early stage in our life. We were manipulated into thinking that what we know of now as bad touch was just “normal” touch. But nothing was normal about it. And that is most likely the reason why we despise it.
It’s very confusing when you’re little because when your parents leave you with someone they always tell you “make sure you do what they tell you”. But what if what they tell you to do to is bad? As children we will do anything to please our parents or any type of parental figure. We just want acceptance and a sense of belonging. Hell, most of us still long for that. At a young age we don’t really know what’s wrong and what right. The only way we know is it someone tells us; our parents.
We (not just trauma survivors) experience boundaries everywhere; therapy, relationships and in the work environment. But what are boundaries exactly? One therapist said “In essence a boundary is a personal line in the sand that distinguishes you from someone else”.
Some cultures always hug and even kiss when they see each other. We are Italian, and we were always taught that you HAVE to hug and kiss EVERYONE. We didn’t always like that because sometimes we had to touch people that we didn’t know or like. All children should be told that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable even by relatives.
Parents need to provide consistency, find an alternative greeting – perhaps a handshake. Teach them how to say NO to behaviors, even socially acceptable ones, if they don’t feel right”. It’s our parent’s job to provide the right messages about touching.
Even now when some of my family knows about my past, we refuse a hug and we still get that look that we are being disrespectful. We always hear the whispers of “therapy is really changing her, she won’t even let is touch her”! But in all actuality we are making a positive choice because we are establishing safe boundaries. Most families have no concept of what boundaries are; it’s a foreign idea.
With that said I hope all everyone find their personal line in the sand soon. But for all the survivors out there my hope is that you find a sort of middle ground between very rigid boundaries and non-existent ones.