A mentor once asked me, “Carmen, do you like to be touched?”
The answer “No” bubbled up out of my mouth without even a single thought. I was finally getting the opportunity to witness the truth of me and explore why this was so.
I had ‘mind-body’ anxiety surrounding being touched due to some past stressful events with resulting PTSD. I felt unworthy of loving touch and would push it away.
I became a scapegoat for the sexual shame of the elders in my tribe. Rewind to about the age of five when I discovered that there was a part of my body that was off limits. I was sent to doctors and psychiatrists because of my elders projection of unworthiness and sexual shame onto me. Whatever we are unwilling to face in ourselves shows up in our field as judgment towards others who remind us that we have work to do on ourselves. This is how dysfunction gets passed down in families until one breaks the cycle for themselves. This is not a judgment of my elders, whom I love. My elders were also hurt by their society.
One of the doctors touched me inappropriately at a very young age and a psychiatrist would try to engage me in adult sex talk during our sessions. At that early stage in my life I did not know how to find the support that I needed. Understandably, I carried around a lot of shame around sex and attracted more experiences in my teen years that were trying to show me that I had been divided and conquered.
Stress comes from a feeling of being overpowered by an experience such as war, rape or incest, it comes from negative thoughts about self and life, ideals we carry inside of who we think we should be (and not meeting those ideals), shortness of money, lack of security, feeling trapped in a relationship or a dead-end job, thinking we are being judged by others, ad infinitum. Basically, anything that would bring up resistance in us, or feelings of incompetence and an inability to change our situation, or feelings of rejection and being unworthy of love.
I was on edge when around people for so long and did not want them touching me intimately. Not in a loving way, anyway. I would not like to kiss during lovemaking with my partner. I preferred positions where he could not see my face. Sex and love had to be kept separate. I carried around so much anxiety about intimate touch because love had been removed from it.
Massage therapy can help with stress in many ways, such as decreasing our heart rate and bringing our bodies and minds into a more relaxed state of being. Sadly, many people seem to think that massage therapy is a place they can go to for a ‘happy ending’ massage. This is a perversion of what massage therapy is as a profession and can be a reason that the thought of massage therapy brings up stress in others. The word perversion means that something has been altered from its original course. Massage therapy is a great way to care for yourself with appropriate touch. My clients can expect a respectful, professional, nurturing, massage that follows all the rules set by the Virginia Board of Nursing. I reserve the right to end any massage that makes me uncomfortable because I honor myself and the profession.
- Massage Therapy Can Heal Stress, American Massage Therapy Association, 2006
- Healing from PTSD, Trauma and Mind-Body Anxiety, Louise Hay, 2016
Disclaimer: Massage therapy is not to be a substitute for seeking mental or medical health care. It is a supportive role in overall well-being.