Do You Chase the Embrace?

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.


4 thoughts on “Do You Chase the Embrace?

  1. This is such a smart, insightful post. I know for me as a child, I was forced to “honor thy father & mother” and “respect your elders” and do whatever adults told me to do–including any kind of touch I wasn’t comfortable with. So, after I came to terms with my survivor status, I wouldn’t hug anyone for a while (except my husband and my son). Then, I slowly found a balance with touch. I still only hug most people after asking, “Can I give you a hug?” My son knows it is always his right to refuse a hug…even from me.

    Thanks so much for letting us use this excellent post for THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. So glad you could join us!

  2. Marj,

    At this point in my journey, I refuse to let anyone touch me. I find it difficult to realize who is true to me and who is not.

    But I sometimes I want to touch people. I wish sometimes I could hold someones hand or hug them but I cannot because right now all touch feels bad.

    I was so honored to have this post in THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. Thank you for making this possible :)

    Take Care, Be Well.


    • Patricia,

      It is very confusing. Its like you want something that you fear. Sometimes I just want to be touched by someone because I miss that feeling. But I dont usually let myself touch anyone.

      Recently in therapy I held my therapists hand and it was really nice to feel that again. But I think that I am not ready to hug anyone yet.

      I think it is awesome that you respect others boundaries as well as your own, I think thats good self-care. Thanks for commenting as it was good to hear from you :)

      Take Care, Be Well.


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