“What kind of touch do you enjoy?”
Adam froze. He had never been asked that question before, and he had no way of knowing how to go about answering. A few negative experiences involving touch from his childhood came to mind. Then, he worried about landing on a “wrong” answer. But mostly, he drew a big blank.
This is a question I often ask my clients and cuddle workshop attendees. Part of our philosophy at Cuddle Sanctuary is to empower folks to ask for exactly what they want. As a provider, it sets me up to give my clients exactly the kind of blissful experience they’ll enjoy.
But what if you’re new to this practice, and have never been asked the question before? What if any kind of touch sounds amazing? What if you’ve been a victim of trauma and haven’t been able to associate touch with enjoyment? If you relate to this, I have 6 words for you: You Don’t Have to Know Now.
You don’t have to come pre-loaded with a burning desire or passion for a certain caress, cuddle position or activity to find enjoyment. Give yourself the permission not to know right now – or even ever. The pressure to have a conclusion right this moment is restrictive, and can choke or hamper your imagination.Start instead, with a tiny seedling of curiosity.
Curiosity is low stakes. It’s open-ended and doesn’t demand commitment, only our openness to exploration and experimentation.
When you allow yourself to be curious, your inner child can come out to play. While you may find things that don’t jive with you, you’re also likely to find something you love.
The tricky thing about curiosity is, it comes with a prerequisite. Curiosity can only exist when you’re feeling safe. When your limbic system is processing danger or stress, all of your faculties will be engaged in fight or flight mode, and you will be left without resources for exploration or digesting new experiences.
Getting to that point of emotional safety looks different for everyone. It may be helpful if you are exploring with someone you already know and trust. But safety can exist among “strangers” too, as long as you both agree on the same parameters. It’s part of why so much connection happens at Cuddle Sanctuary – everything about the structure creates an environment of respect and support. We empower our attendees to hold their boundaries, and to respect the boundaries of others (with enthusiasm!). Giving yourself permission to opt out or change your mind at anytime (another one of our guidelines), lowers the barrier to venturing into the unknown.
A Note on Trauma
If you’ve experienced trauma, like Adam had, we understand just how elusive this baseline feeling of safety can be. Be gentle and patient with your journey in nurturing trust in your environment. Move only at your own pace. Allow yourself to first feel complete empowerment over your body, and what does or doesn’t happen to it. You may find that to be completely life-changing.
I can’t think of a safer environment than an Affection Spa to test the waters of safety around touch. We work with many clients who are working through trauma. If you relate to this, know that you’re not alone, and that with practice in feeling trustful in the environment, the curiosity and bliss will follow.
Your “Havingness” Levels
Guilt and shame are some of the biggest blockers in finding our bliss. All of us have a limited tolerance level for happiness, no matter how practiced we are. When what we are experiencing exceeds that threshold of what we allow ourselves – when we’re feeling too content or too happy – there can be a safety mechanism that kicks in that tries to stop it. “You’re being too selfish and taking too much”, it whispers. Or perhaps it will say “Stop being so pleased with yourself!”, or “You don’t deserve this.”
The lack of permission to be happy can stop the process of curiosity before it even happens. Learning to set aside self-judgment to make room for experimentation is an essential part of this process.
You can work on increasing your “havingness” level with practice. Havingness is our capacity to receive, possess, and appreciate. Give yourself a healthy dose of permission to receive, to enjoy, to be gluttonous when it comes to receiving touch.
I find that it’s helpful when I delineate a space to work on receiving. I’ll assign myself “homework” to do nothing but receive at a Cuddle event. I also work on receiving through allowing myself to be cuddled professionally. (Yes, professional cuddlers need cuddling too!)
Notice the feelings that come up when you’re doing so. I’ve learned to sit with the feelings of discomfort, thank them, and invite them along on the journey with me. With time, and with practice continually finding the edges to my ability to receive, I’ve found that I’ve been able to find more and more joy without the guilt creeping in.
Like Developing a Taste in Anything
Figuring out what you like or don’t like when it comes to touch is just like developing a taste in anything. Let’s take music for example. I remember being a teenager and working very hard to figure out what music was *me*.
Maybe you’re someone who just loves allllll music! That’s amazing! Perhaps, you’ll first discover that you don’t really like a certain band – then discover other bands that sound similar. Perhaps you’ll start to recognize that songs you like belong in a genre together. You get curious: “I wonder what else is out there?”, and start listening to more music. Maybe you’ll take a recommendation from a friend. A certain song might remind you of a memory, or a certain person.
It’s exactly like that with touch. Curiosity leads to exposure, and continued exposure to new things leads to amazing discoveries. And just like your taste in music, or food and everything else, tastes change! What you like now isn’t a commitment that you will have to like it forever. But the journey of discovery can be pretty exciting in and of itself!
A Wonderful Journey Ahead
Adam has had a lot of practice with exploring platonic touch since. He would tell you now that he really enjoys a good warm hug, squeezes, and the sensation of fingers lightly combing through his hair. There’s still a lot he doesn’t know, but he’s excited and curious to keep discovering!