As I round the bend toward the end of Part I of my online process painting class, AROUSE, I continue to be struck by how much I've learned about me. Today, while I considered my personal boundary issues, I struggled to try to find the origin for them.
Its no secret...I don't like to be touched. I'm far better than I was a few years ago. I'd gotten to the point where I felt as if I'd fall out on the ground if someone touched me for any reason. Today, if I see it coming, I can steel myself and make ready. Yes, I am talking about other people touching me. Yes, it actually requires preparation on my part. This is, of course, not true of everyone. I frequently hug my husband and feel fine about that. But, he will tell you that I'm not a 'touchy' person.
The scary thing is when someone comes up behind me and I don't feel their presence before they touch me. I'm less able to control my startled and sometimes angry reaction to that type of invasion. There are many possible reasons that I'm over-sensitive to touch. Historically, I've been in violent situations going back to very early life. I've lived in great chaos in certain portions of my life, some of which was my own making. I have been aggressive, myself, projecting that aura out into the world. But, in the end, I (again) return to issues of trust and boundaries.
Its a great struggle for me to allow people close enough to physically touch me. I don't welcome it. And, most often, I don't feel comforted by it. Clinically, the term for me is "tactile defensive." I am extremely tactile sensitive -- I don't like clothes made from unnatural fibers, because I find the way they feel against my skin to be so distracting and offensive that I can't clearly focus on other tasks. I can't stand for my skin to become upset or inflamed (which is a real treat since I have auto-immune issues that sometimes cause this), because any lack of symmetry makes me a little crazy, hence the reason I take great pains to care for my skin. I won't eat certain foods if the texture is unappealing on my tongue.
The accepted medical treatment: medication and systematic desensitization (SD). I abhor the idea of medication, or anything that blunts my senses. Lets face it, I spent way too many years trying to shirk any emotion or sensation at all. The last thing I'm willing to do is to minimize them, now, even if they're unpleasant. As for the SD, I'm doing that, but not in the way that its typically used. I don't continually expose myself to physical touch in order to allow myself to be less sensitive to it. Instead, I explore the ideas of touch and my resistance to it. I experiment with touch in a variety of settings to allow me to better facilitate successful interactions with others. I journal and blog and talk about my issues. I have environments where that is okay. I have friends who are receptive, or who have similar issues who help provide support.
I don't want to overstate the obvious. Being a person of tight control, most people don't notice how uncomfortable I am with touching others. Its not a germ phobia, although that has been a piece of it, in the past. Its really not a phobia of any kind. Its an issue of trust. Will you hurt me if I let you in too close? Physically and emotionally. Can I trust you? How frustrating that I'm just resolving these issues in my 40s! I wish that I'd managed it, long ago, like most folks. But, if wishes were horses, even beggars would ride. And, I just have to travel my path, no matter where it leads or what obstacles are upon it.
I'm in no way sorry for the lessons I've learned. Some are wonderful. Some, are harder. All are important. What have you learned about yourself, today? What are you doing about it? Blessed be.