I knew I would delve deep into each relationship challenge in my past as soon as I started writing a book on touch and relationships. In the Hoffman Process I learned how to evaluate and transform patterns (beliefs, habits, etc.) learned from my parents.
I got to examine what my subconscious beliefs were and to decide what I wanted out of my life. It helped me understand where my sensitivities and triggers were and why. Hoffman allowed me to make healthier choices for myself and regain my strength.
It changed how I approached relationships. It improved my self-awareness so I could communicate at an even higher level than I used to. I stopped self-sabotaging as well (usually.) Relationships became easier and stronger.
Is there a Soulmate out there?
I’m taking a course called Learning 2 Find Love for my next certification in Emotional Freedom Techniques (a.k.a. EFT or tapping.) As many of you know, I love looking at myself, my beliefs, and my patterns in deep and new ways.
I thought this class would be a breeze
After all–I’ve already done tons of work on what I want in a partner. I know the non-negotiables, how I want to feel, and how I demand to be treated. I learned how to communicate clearly (and also that I cannot be with someone who cannot communicate.)
Week three and I’ve had some big AHA moments.
After identifying traits we knew we wanted in a partner (via looking at what did and didn’t work in past relationships), we put them into a grid to determine what traits were most important. Alina, the instructor, described it like choosing different ice cream flavors. For example, do I like chocolate ice cream or cherry ice cream better? Some days one may sound better than another, but both are delicious.
It turns out I value playfulness more than communication.
In fact– being playful, being high-energy, and possessing self-awareness were all more important. That doesn’t mean that I’ve thrown high-level communication out the window (it was, after all, #4 of my top 5). I haven’t LOOKED for playfulness as a quality in a partner, and it was often missing in my past relationships. Instead, I played the role of caretaker or mother.
I have lots of playful, child-like qualities myself
At forty+, I still build snowmen and have conversations with them. Climbing a tree or spinning on a tire swing makes me laugh . In The Touch Crisis I discuss being curious and child-like in exploration around physical contact. Finding play in your own connection to others is important. So why have I dated so many people that only want me to be an adult and show my serious side? Because I had this HUGE blind spot.
According to all the tarot readings I’m seeing online, YES! LOL. Seriously though, whether he is or not, the extra clarity I have found is worth it’s weight in gold. I already knew I would not waste more of my valuable time in a relationship that didn’t suit me. My vision is more clear now.
I started writing a post here about a month ago about my current thoughts on The Touch Crisis in our culture. It turned into three pages of stuff that I realized belonged in my relationship book.
My Next Books
Yes, you read that right. I’ve been waking up in the morning with inspirations and ideas about my next books on touch–one for relationships and one regarding physical contact and children. Also, to be thorough, I’ve been interviewing various psychologists, therapists, and families. These conversations have lead me to recall and evaluate my own experiences in personal relationships. I have been exploring what I learned around healthy contact as a child. It’s healing work I have done before, but I always find another insight or memory to explore.
Finding a Soulmate
There are a few partnerships/ marriages I have always admired. Somehow I thought I was too independent for that. Too free-spirited. Now I am immersed in two advanced Emotional Freedom Techniques certification programs. The first program is called Learning to Find Love. It is about healing old relationship patterns, beliefs, and aligning your energies to attract your soulmate. A big part of the class is realizing what you DON’T want and will not accept so you don’t waste time on relationships that don’t suit. I’ve done a lot of this work before. I could be snarky and say “it’s probably why I stay single.” But honestly, I just don’t think I was ready. Plus, there is an unresolved belief that says I cannot be free + be strong + be myself + travel if I’m in a relationship. That’s what I observe… except in those partnerships I admire that I mentioned above. Hmmm.
Intimacy and Sexuality
The second certification is called Path To Passion, in which I will help people find passion and intimacy in their lives again through emotional healing. I hear stories consistently from my female clients about how they have lost their drive. “I love my significant other, but just don’t feel like being intimate.” Libido comes from the brain, and can often be improved through emotional healing if you desire more sexual connection. Studies show Emotional Freedom Techniques (a.k.a. EFT or tapping) can drastically improve libido. But also remember, physical intimacy does not have to be sexual.
The Touch Communication Crisis
I’ve been speaking at book clubs and women’s groups. I’ve had conversations in networking organizations and with support groups. I hear women say things like, “My significant other only touches me when he wants sex.” Then I talk to men who say, “I wish I could just touch my significant other without always having to perform.” Where is the communication breakdown? Is platonic touch lacking for men, or is it taboo even in their own relationships? Do each of us make assumptions about what another person’s touch is communicating–whether male or female?
Letting Children Choose
I’ve also been big on letting my nephews choose when and if they hug me, give me a high-five, or ignore me after a day together. If they can’t say ‘no’ to a hug from me, then what boundaries do they truly have? What am I teaching them about ‘no’ in the future-for themselves and others?
I have not run out of words.
I have a ton to say on the subject of healthy touch. There is even more to share about how we can heal and really learn to connect. Even if you choose not to touch anyone at all–even a handshake–because of the current situation.
Are you ready to heal your relationship stressors?
**This is a storyline edit and repost of a past blog. I was looking for the words to help others connect with their community, have compassion, and heal from old wounds. My connection post from August of 2019 danced through my head, and felt more relevant than when it was first posted. I ask you to read this version with an open heart and mind. Learn. Think. How do you speak/ write/ make comments to others? Are “those people” doing something? Heck, I have even used that term lately.
Who are “Those People”
I’ve found myself talking about all of “those people” who are judging other people. Who aren’t seeing the big picture. Who are creating division and separation. You know-like I was at that moment.
Crap! I might be one of “those judgy people” right now
It was a good moment to check myself and my own ego. That’s a broad-based statement and judgement there, Dawn. Not only are we all doing the best we can, but our brains are wired from birth and from upbringing to find solutions to a problem in a pattern. You are doing what you can with the knowledge, beliefs, and brain you have. So is everyone else. No matter what “side” they seem to be on.
Ego and Fear
My book, The Touch Crisis, is now a bestseller. Perhaps my mind is accurate in telling me it’s not going to help enough.
Firstly, how on earth am I supposed to help us connect with each other when we cannot even use civil tones with each other on social media? Secondly, how can we use intentionally loving or compassionate physical contact to connect when we cannot even use compassionate verbal tones?Thirdly, how can we touch each other with kindness when we are triggered by the idea that someone–that stranger over there– may or may not have a mask on at the moment?
I have been observing people become angrier with each other. We are acting less patient, less kind, less considerate. Perhaps as a culture we are expressing more belligerence and more defensiveness because we tie ourselves to “a side.”
Maybe touch will help? My internal dialogue spins. When did each of us stop thinking critically? When did the slippery slope of identifying with an idea shift to our ego and our tie to our own identity? How has each of us lost touch with how our actions and words impact others–no matter what the others’ beliefs are?How has the way I define myself changed?
People cheat, people lie, people do bad things—not liberals, not conservatives, not pro-Trump, not BLM, not whites, not gays, not the immigrants, not the millennials, not the elderly. There are hate groups, of course, but individuals make these choices, the same way my individual friends make the choice to use tones of hatred. Individual People also make mistakes. Many are traumatized–even if they aren’t aware of it yet because they are in survival mode. “Those people” who are judging others for their actions or inactions are part of the problem. How do I become part of the solution? How can I even stop using the insidious yet seemingly-harmless term “those people?”
My goal of helping others connect seeming suddenly hopeless, I stepped away from my computer and wandered aimlessly around my house. Instead of the peace of the Norwegian countryside, I was confronted with rain and the piles of detritus left on the curbside by the college-student turnover in my neighborhood. I thought of my friend who made the comment, “Suddenly I’m associating the American flag on vehicles with the concept of racism, and I don’t want to feel that way. In fact, I know it isn’t that way.”
Our shadow side has emerged. On one hand it’s great, because to heal anything we must face the hard truth of what lies in the dark. Of what has been hidden. Of what needs to be healed and confronted and understood. But one cannot fight shadow with anger, with cruelty, with judgement, and with denial. My mind drifted again to an exercise at my Blandin Community Leadership training. If only people understood how much our beliefs are actually part of our brain function.
Blandin Leadership Training
“I am going to put you into groups based upon your Meyers Briggs results and have each group figure a way to solve this problem.” One of the program directors stood in the middle of the U-shaped table formation near the front of the room and watched us expectantly.
I was one of fifty rural community leaders. We were a variety of ages, backgrounds, gender, and race. Our similarity was our passion and our desire to change our community for the better, and each of us had been chosen– after a lengthy application process– to be trained and resourced to build and sustain a healthy community. We were learning not only about ourselves, but where individual and organizational blind spots may be, how we interact with others, how to see problems from a higher perspective, how to build positive social structures, and how to resolve conflict. Quite an undertaking for a five-day retreat.
This should be interesting, I thought, as the director divided us into three groups. The last few exercises taught us all a lot about individual roles and reactions, but this is the first big group problem-solving exercise. I smiled as everyone stood up and a cheerful buzz filled the room, as people grabbed their materials and re-organized themselves.
“Here’s the situation,” she interrupted the chatter as people organized into smaller circles. “You are on the board of directors of a nonprofit organization. Your bookkeeper, a volunteer who has been loyal, accurate, and timely for 15 years, suddenly starts making mistakes in the financials. The mistakes seem to be growing slowly, and one day it is brought to your attention that someone smelled alcohol on her breath while she was at the office. What do you do?”
She stepped back and smiled knowingly. “Does anyone need me to read that again?”
Huh, not quite as challenging as I anticipated, I thought as I turned back to my group with a thoughtful look on my face, I already know what my plan of action would be.
“Well, of course we need to have a conversation with her,” one member piped up right away. “We don’t know what’s going on or if it’s true she really had been drinking.”
“She is a volunteer,” another person chimed in. “But we do have a duty to our organization, especially when it comes to finances.”
“Yes, we definitely cannot sacrifice our organization if she isn’t able to continue here duties well, but if she needs a bit of time away from the job to deal with a personal issue, we could find another person to help temporarily,” the next comment came.
Yep, this is easy, I sat up straighter and looked around the rest of the conference room to see how the other two groups seemed to be getting on. Looks like there’s a lot of agreement in the other two groups as well, I noted, people are smiling and nodding and seem enthusiastic with their hand gestures—-at least the extroverts.
I giggled to myself. Blandin had broken our 16 types down into sub-types, giving us further insight to each category, and I could see those dynamics playing out in the room. Our group is much smaller than each of the other two, I noted. We only have about ten, and the other two are around twenty people each. That must make it a bit more difficult to come to a resolution.
“You have three minutes left. Please pick someone from your group to present your decision to the group,” the director interrupted loudly over the animated chatter.
We hastily picked our leader, had her verbally recap our final decision to us quickly, and turned towards the front of the room, waiting.
“Group one, please present your results.”
A prominent businesswoman stood up and projected the decision easily and clearly over the group. “As the board of directors, we have no choice but to terminate her volunteer position immediately and find a replacement. We cannot tolerate any financial impropriety in the organization, as it could cause a negative impact on our nonprofit status, our revenue, and the community trust in our organization.”
Wow, that is super harsh, I thought, stunned. No communication? No making sure that there wasn’t some other error in the system or an update that wasn’t her fault that was creating the errors? Wow. So much for years of loyalty. I know how much time that stuff can take.
“Group three, go ahead,” the leader interrupted my thoughts as I shook my head and turned my body the other direction to hear the verdict from the other side of me.
“Well,” the executive director of a nonprofit stood and faced the group. “She has had 15 years of loyal service. We thought it was in our best interest to sit down and have a conversation with her, offer her help, see if the matter was one in which she wanted to leave the position temporarily or permanently. We will give her support in finding help with her drinking if that is necessary, and do what we can to get her back on track. She is a volunteer after all, and we don’t need to jump to harsh conclusions or actions until we understand the totality of the problem.” She sat back down.
Huh, that doesn’t seem to protect the organization fast, and is completely opposite of the first group’s answer.
“Group 2?” The leader prompted.
Our spokeswoman, who worked for a large corporation, stood up and announced our decision, an exact blend of the other two. Starting with compassion and curiosity, and if the issue wasn’t fixed, to take strong disciplinary action.
Our brain wiring determines how we make these kinds of decisions. Holy crap. And my group’s brain wiring has a blend of both sides, which is why we are smaller and have a blend of both answers.
The understanding hit me as ways to increase communication and synergy to pull two conflicting sides together became clear.
Nature and nurture both influence how we see and interact with the world as individuals. The fear, drama, and propaganda in our culture now shapes the tone and grace–or lack thereof–in which individuals choose to share their opinions.
My mom told me that if I can’t say anything nice—-don’t say anything at all. I don’t believe that is true. Communication is necessary for a vibrant community. We need to be able to disagree, to have respectful conflict, to speak our minds, to share what is disturbing us, and why. However, it can be done in a curious, educational, and amicable way. Are there people spouting melodrama and hatred out there? Of course. Does that mean you need to match their tone? Absolutely not.
If something someone says triggers you and makes you extremely angry, is there a way you can pause, take a breath, and reply in a manner or tone that conveys your disagreement in a way that opens communication? What kind of attitude and tone would open you to listening to an opposing point of view? Try using that.
That’s my challenge for you this week. Whether it’s a disagreement with your child, your coworker, your friend, or on social media, take a breath. Realize that everyone has a right to their own opinion, no matter what information or lack thereof informs it. You may not be able to change someone’s mind, but you won’t for sure if you attack them. Ignore those who haven’t learned these lessons yet, except to prompt them to please use a different tone.
Does that seem too challenging? Perhaps it’s time to learn Emotional Freedom Techniques (a.ka. EFT or tapping.) It’s a powerful way to release the visceral emotional reaction to stressful situations. Check this link for class details. If you would prefer to talk about it individually, schedule a free session here.
Connection. It has so many nuances and meanings. I’ve been interviewing people about how they want to approach physical contact (touch) with others as we start connecting in person again. How they want to communicate around touch and where their wants, needs, and desires are. I feel called to connect and collaborate with three non-profits who I have personal connection with right now. So am donating 30% of my EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques a.k.a. tapping) gross sales to these charities July and August (see the end of this blog for links and more details.) EFT not only empowers you to work with yourself on stressors and emotional challenges, but can make permanent and positive changes in your life. Click here to access a short video on the science and power of EFT. I am offering inexpensive classes online through eventbrite for those who want a sneak peek. You can also book a complimentary session online so we can chat and see if it’s a good fit for you.
I’m really excited to join Lois Koffi on a special edition of her weekly Friday Podcast. We will speak about The Healing Touch Through Difficult Times. Please join us on the 10th of July at 12.30 PM (PST) / 2:30 PM (CST) for this interview! www.loiskoffi.com/podcast
I’ve been cherishing the people I’ve been able to stay connected to from overseas, and enjoying reconnecting with my clients, friends, and family here. But overall in these last two years I’ve been learning to reconnect with myself, my deeper desires and passions that fuel me and my work. I also explored how I want to help others find connection to their own being, their own spirit and soul, and feel the deeper connections to others. I’ve been getting support through my own practitioners and loved ones. My book, The Touch Crisis, will be out in early August, and I have classes and experiences to help people find their way through their own muddy pasts and out of their ruts so they can have the experience of connecting authentically—even if they feel they are already connected.
A recent Cigna study (September of 2019) of over 10,000 Americans showed that 61% of Americans surveyed feel lonely. The top causes cited? Not enough social support, too few MEANINGFUL social interactions, poor mental and physical health, and not enough life balance. Heavy social media users are more likely to feel this way. That’s before the quarantine. I want to help shift this for each of you. It’s my passion, my desire, and what I feel I am called to do at this point in my life.
Beyond joining others on their podcasts to teach this great concept, I am offering online one-hour classes on creating connection via communication around physical contact into your life. Not only do you get to learn what you want, but what you don’t. How can you gently tell someone to stay six feet away and remain connected? How can you ask for a hug that you desperately need when you are not sure how the other person is reacting to touch? How do you navigate the tricky terrain of handshakes, elbow bumps, or physical distancing for yourself and others you are meeting? Check out some of the Touch Conversations on the Touch Remedies YouTube Channel, and if you are so inspired-please subscribe!
As always, please let me know how I can support you. I’m willing to work around barriers-including financial, time, and location. Now that I’ve gone through the wringer and come out the other side embodying all the love and joy I thought I had lost, I’m fully present and here for you all.
Pause 4 Paws was established in 2011 with a mission of working to ensure that dogs and cats are treated with dignity and respect. Through 2019, Pause 4 Paws directly supported numerous animal rescues and sanctuaries in Minnesota as well as the rescue community in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Most animal rescues are small, volunteer-based community organizations that do not have staff available to spend time fundraising. P4P worked on behalf of these organizations and has distributed over $500,000 to these beneficiaries since our inception. In doing so, the rescues we supported have saved over 46,000 dogs and cats and spayed or neutered nearly 31,500 animals since 2011. 100% OF THE FUNDS WE DISTRIBUTE THROUGH PAUSE 4 PAWS GO DIRECTLY TO THE SUPPORT AND CARE OF THE ANIMALS.
The Spread Sunshine Gang is a non-profit with the mission to share goodness, kindness and generosity to the Twin Cities metro area and beyond. We do this by providing outlets for people to creatively give. Everyone needs more sunshine!
Inspire and Flourish…..It is something we can all do. It is something we can help others do. It is something we should do. There are so many ways we can make a difference in each other’s lives. We can lend a helping hand, donate something ~ whether it be goods/supplies or our time. Watching someone else’s life change just because you decided to help ~ is a wonderful thing.
All of our auxillary events are put on and run by volunteers. Monies raised from the “Mobile Memories Photo Booths” helps to support these fundraising projects.
Have different experiences in your own life changed how you interact with touch?
Excerpt from The Touch Crisis:
I had just dropped my rucksack on the bedroom floor and stepped into the bright, open hallway when I heard the ruckus. I peeked over the open stairwell and saw my two nephews pounding up the stairs with excitement, the six-year-old, Geoffrey, a few paces ahead of his younger brother.
“Auntie Dawn! Auntie Dawn!” I knelt down to receive the oncoming barrage of love, and my heart nearly burst with happiness when I saw his sweet face round the corner. His brown hair bounced as he ran toward me, his green eyes sparkling with glee, a giant smile on his face.
He almost knocked me over as he ran into me full-force for a giant hug. I wrapped my arms around his little frame as soon as he crashed into me. His brother joined from the left side, blonde curls framing his sticky face, and snuck in for a group hug. As I gave them both a big squeeze, overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from their big hearts, I wanted to hold onto them forever.
“Auntie Dawn, I missed you! Are you going away again?” Geoffrey’s tiny voice was strained with anxiety.
Oh no, I thought, surprised by the length and ferocity of his hug as I held him close. I was suddenly feeling polarized between the immense amount of love flowing between us and the intruding guilt sinking into my stomach. I didn’t think it mattered to him that I was gone for nine months. They don’t see me that often anyway.
Suddenly, the two large dogs descended on the three of us, tails wagging and tongues flying, trying to get in on the action. As the youngest let go and started asking questions, Geoffrey kept me locked in his arms with an intensity I hadn’t felt from him before.
I don’t want to be another person in his life who comes and goes and makes him feel unstable, unloved, or disconnected. I thought we stayed really connected over FaceTime. I guess that wasn’t enough.
As I held him close, trying to reconcile the overwhelming energy of the dogs, the barrage of questions from the youngest, and the increasing concern about him, images and sounds of a different memory emerged—reminding me of the last time a wonderful hug led to questions about connection and my responsibilities within it.
Every culture we are engaged in, whether personal, professional, or geographical, has different touch rules. Many are unwritten. So how can we approach connecting through touch in a genuine and open way?
Excerpt from The Touch Crisis:
The restaurant had the feel of a small, simple café, complete with a tall Norwegian blonde woman behind a coffee counter and a glass case full of baked goods. Wanting to feel part of the culture, I walked up and grabbed the Norwegian menu. Maybe I can figure this out. I was a little nervous, as I really wanted to connect, but wasn’t sure what was appropriate as far as initiating conversation. Will I talk to people in English? Swedish/Norwegian hybrid?Well, I don’t understand much of this menu, so it’s already looking bad. I traded it for English and skimmed the page. No wonder. Whale steak, some kind of fish I’ve never heard of, and accoutrements I barely understand in English. After ordering, I re-gathered my courage and sauntered upstairs into the near-empty open dining room that included a small stage to my left and a bar to my right. The windows overlooked the ferry, fjord, and small patio, which was packed. Most of the inside chairs had been pulled outside and added to tables crowded with people and drinks. That’s okay. I’ve been outside all day. It won’t hurt me to sit inside near the windows. After claiming a chair by loading it with my stuff, I wandered up to the bar for a glass of wine just as the bartender ran to the back. I waited patiently, and a tall, stocky, obviously-Norwegian gentleman and eventually a shorter brunette woman joined me in the wait.
“Var är han?” the man asked, followed by something I didn’t understand, as he gestured towards the back and then down the stairs I had ascended earlier.
“Du talar för fort. Jag föstar inte. Kan du säga det igen?” I said, telling him in Swedish that he spoke too fast and I needed him to repeat what he’d said. I focused intently on the general words as he asked if the bartender was in back or getting food from the kitchen.
“Is English easier?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yes, but I should have a conversation to learn.”
The woman chimed in and my brain immediately tried to pinpoint her accent, “It’s really a friendly space here. You can just pull up at any table and join the conversation. Are you waiting for the ferry as well?”
When the bartender returned and took their order, I paused. Just pull up and join the conversation? I felt my stomach flip. From what I know, that might not be appropriate. Plus with those full tables, it seems like a lot to manage with a plate full of food.
Dawn, my other voice chided, you would have jumped on that in three seconds at home, plus that’s what you resolved to do. Remember being in Ireland in 2009? You had no compunction about joining conversations, touching people, engaging, and being yourself. Yes, you are more culturally sensitive now, as well as more aware of the impact of unwanted touch on people, but don’t hide out at the perfect moment.
I shook my head at myself. I’m back to being sensitive to people and a bit fearful of overstepping cultural boundaries. Perhaps I can bridge that with more ease this time—after I eat at a proper table.
“Miss, what can I get you?” the bartender asked.
When we all had our drinks, we started introductions. The woman was German and was traveling Norway in an RV with her husband and three large dogs. The man was from Oslo, Norway, and was on a two-week holiday visiting friends. Both returned to their respective groups on the patio. My food arrived and I was grateful for the space while people-watching through the glass. People are sitting very close to each other, and most are laughing and engaging and talking with enthusiasm, but they are not touching casually at all. Even the couples don’t seem to be touching much.
“Come, join us outside.” The German lady peeked her head in the door, her shoulder-length curly hair standing out from under her beanie. “Don’t be in here all by yourself.”
“I was just going to eat first and then come out,” I said, startled and hesitant to leave my quiet nest, “but okay.”
“How can I help? Shall I grab your water and wine?” she asked, as she reached forward to grab them.
“Thank you.” I followed her with my food out to the corner table, where her husband sat.
The couple they were sitting with must have left. I didn’t even notice.
She set my drinks down and introduced her husband. Quickly, we started with casual talk about our trips, and eventually worked our way into other conversations as we ordered another round of wine.
This is what I’ve wanted for so many days. A connection with people, real conversation, and a chance to learn.
“You are more than welcome to come stay with us in Germany,” she offered, her husband nodding as she pulled out her phone. “We are in a really small town, but it is beautiful. Here, I’ll show you.”
Everywhere I travel, I meet good, generous people who want to share where they come from and who are proud and excited to share it with others.
We exchanged Facebook messages so I had the ability to contact them in December, the next time I would be able to enter the Schengen zone again.
“Okay, we have to get our dogs out for a while,” she said, standing up. “We will see you in Germany.”
Okay, this is my opportunity to practice what I preach.
I took a breath and stood, being careful to keep my body open and relaxed. “How do you say goodbye where you come from? Do you just say goodbye and wave? Give handshakes? Hugs? What’s appropriate?” I smiled, watching her reaction to my question.
It feels like a way to imply I am open for all of those things, but without crossing a cultural barrier and asking for something specific. Even though we have been talking for two hours, we are technically strangers. I know Germans have a reputation for being practical and structured, but I have no idea how they touch.
“Hugs are good,” she replied smiling and opened her arms. We exchanged a warm hug, and I stepped back from the table.
Have you ever been curious about reactions you have to touch, whether you are overwhelmed by it or longing for it?
Excerpt from The Touch Crisis:
“There are only a few rules while dancing here,” Kari, the leader addressed the circle of dancers. “One,dance however you want without judgment and without judging others. You can run, skip, jump, make vocalizations, spin, lay down, roll around on the floor, rest on the edges, or whatever you feel called to do that honors your needs and takes care of you. Two, no words may be spoken during dance. All communication should be done using gestures and touch. Three, some people enjoy dancing for a while with others. You can communicate you want to dance with someone, and wait for them to nod or invite you into his or her space. If you do not want to dance with somebody and they attempt to dance with you, it is okay and encouraged to just bow out. Remember, bowing out is an individual taking care of themselves and their body in the moment, and not a reflection upon you in any way. Do not take it personally.”
Those are great rules. I wish it had been that easy in my twenties at the dance clubs! I gazed around the circle at the variety of people sitting in the open wooden-floored meeting space inside the small Texan church. This is going to be a lot of fun.
Kari prompted everyone to declare an intention for the session, and the variety of answers surprised me. They ranged from an intention to be playful to an intention to heal oneself and let go of body stress through movement. The DJ stepped behind the table as the circle broke and people stood up, and then the music started with a steady rhythm that was easy to feel and move to. I stood with my eyes closed, getting a sense of the beat, the energy of the music, and how I wanted to start dancing. Slower at first, allowing myself to get grounded, to feel my breath, and to remind myself to just be playful and explore.
You don’t know this music, but you know how to move and how to dance and how to feel free, I told myself. Just do what you would do in your kitchen or outside.
The music progressed into faster yet more melodic songs, rhythms changing gradually with each one. There were no words—just a variety of tones and instruments—but the energy remained. This music inspired the body to dance.
I remember spinning around the edges of the group, seeing the cacti in the garden outside through the windows, and feeling my hair and my long skirt fly around me as I giggled like a small child. It was pure freedom, and I was high on the knowledge that other people around me were feeling the same. I knew I wanted to connect with people; but as I tried to catch someone’s eye to get permission or make a connection, no one seemed to respond. They all seemed like they were engaging with each other, but leaving me isolated.
Is it because I don’t know anyone? Are people only dancing with those they know? Or maybe I sent a message that I don’t want to dance with anyone else because of what I said?
We lose a lot when we stop talking to each other and checking in with what we want or need. Perhaps today is a good day to intentionally create stronger communication with a loved one.
Excerpt from The Touch Crisis:
“How about we go practice some martial arts in the park today?” My friend James asked, as he watched me shove a load of massage sheets into the wash machine at my house. “You mentioned you wanted to refresh your skills before heading overseas.”
I closed the machine and threw a scoop of soap into the drawer. “Nah, I’ve already done about fifteen hours of massage in the last few days. I should probably let my hands rest.”
Besides, I’m restless and would rather run than hang around and practice right now. I’d probably get annoyed and irritated and no one needs that. I really don’t want to do anything for anyone else right now, including him.
“You sure? I’ve been playing with releases and tweaking the techniques to be easy on you and play to the strength you have in your kicks,” he encouraged. “Plus, when we get back I can cook some dinner for us while you finish your laundry and client work.”
“How about we go for a run? I should get some cardio in,” I replied, moving past him to get to the kitchen and empty my lunchbox. And I just think I’m too brain-dead to learn anything anyway. “There’s plenty of time to practice before I leave.” Maybe his knee is hurting him again. I should probably make sure he’s okay before I force him to run. “How is your body feeling today anyway? Are you in any pain?”
“Nah,” he said, playfully puffing up, “I’m tough. I can handle any kind of run you throw my way.”
…As our friendship grew, he was respectful with his physical contact. We had great communication around touch boundaries which gave us opportunities to be causal about it, touching each other for emphasis when we talked, plus tons of hugs and snuggles when we were watching movies. I could tell when he was in a lot of pain, which he often was, being an ex-racer and having had many crashes on cycles. If I started giving him little massages, he would tell me not to get into a healing role with him. He said that he was open to getting some massage here and there, but that he didn’t want to become a project or for me to get into work mode. It was hard for me to find the line between offering healing touch and not stepping into healer mode. Sometimes, he would stop me and tell me not to give massage unless he could reciprocate; so, I taught him some massage techniques so he could work on my arms, shoulders, and neck. The intention was to create some reciprocity and balance.
I’m not even sure what or when it happened, but somewhere along the line I did shift into the healer/caretaker mode because it was so natural to me. And as our friendship changed, our level of communication did not keep up with what was needed in order to allow the whole relationship to shift with our changing needs, wants, and experiences. Eventually, we both stopped paying attention to how we were feeling about touch. I didn’t realize until much later that I had started feeling like I was over-giving. My brain would justify it with “I’m the one who asked if I could try that technique,” or “I am the one who started working on his arm because I was bored with the movie; so since I had initiated it, it felt unfair to be upset and demand something different.” Right? Nope. Not at all.
Suddenly, subtle layers of inequality had settled into my body and into my deeper consciousness. Because I didn’t make a choice to tune into myself and see what was really truly going on, I started allowing other aspects of our friendship to exacerbate the feeling of inequality. Suddenly, his being twenty minutes late, even when communicated, became an issue and another bit of evidence that he didn’t value the friendship. Stuck in my own story of over-giving, I had no idea that he was feeling the same…
The communication balance had broken because our intentions were not clearly expressed. The safety of the culture and communication that we had so carefully built between the two of us was dissolving. The nurturing warm feeling it had offered both of us was replaced with confusion, desperation, and neediness.
“I set my laptop down on the beige tile floor so I could give my dad a hug before I left. My need for touch had returned during the last few weeks. It didn’t take me long to get over my touch sensitivity, I mused, thinking of all the hugs with family, clients, and friends in the last month. Luckily, I’m in the right spot for a really good one before heading to work.
Plate in hand, my dad reached his other arm out and gave me a quick squeeze. “Have a great day at work, Honey. It will be nice to see you when you get home tonight,” he finished, walking over to pick up his coffee cup.
Is that it? I thought, suddenly panicked and dissatisfied. Give me a real hug, dammit! Stop being in your routine and pay attention to ME!!
The child in me screamed, remembering those long, comforting hugs I got when I was little, when Dad would wrap me up in comfort and love—the kind that made my body feel snuggly and safe.
You are an adult now, my mind reminded me. You’re not supposed to need that kind of attention from your parents. I felt the familiar surge of unmet emotions rising into my throat. It felt like I wanted to throw a mini-tantrum to release the emotional void that I could feel growing deep in my stomach.”
“Do you want some water or anything?” Sofia asked, touching my arm as we entered the kitchen from the basement.
Oh my gosh, please don’t touch me.
I was startled by my own internal reaction at such a small, innocuous, and normal gesture.
What is going on with me?
As soon as I asked the question, I got my answer. I had gone from barely any touch to loads of it in less than twenty-four hours. My internal need for touch had completely reset itself, and I was full-up.
I didn’t actually think it was possible for me to get too much touch, I mused, struck and semi-amused by the conflict of being so grateful and wanting to hug Sofia and Lance for all their hospitality while at the same time wanting to shut myself in a room and hide.
As I gulped down some water, I applauded myself inwardly for making this connection. With this awareness, I knew that I could make a clear choice on how to interact with my friends for the rest of the day.
Yes, this is a far cry from a few years ago when I was struggling with how to negotiate physical contact with people I love, including my clients. I’m so glad my awareness has increased.”