The Terror of Physical Touch.

I think touch is an interesting topic. I’m talking about physical touch between people. A hug, tapping someone’s shoulder and shaking hands, amongst other things. Physical touch, it would seem, is a “normal” part of daily life for many people. For me, it’s not.

I can go days, weeks, months without touching anyone or being touched. I suppose the only exception to this is at work. My hands occasionally touch a customer’s whilst reaching for groceries to scan or giving them their change. Sometimes my psychologist will touch my hands or feet to try to help ground me. Aside from those situations I rarely come into physical contact with other people.

Generally touch scares me. It can often be threatening and intimidating, especially when unexpected or from strangers. In seconds unexpected touch can trigger flashbacks and/or dissociation. I can “disappear” (dissociate) just like that *snaps fingers*.

My worst experience with touch that was not intended to be threatening or intimidating happened at work. We were extremely busy and customers were lined up at the registers. I was making my way to the service desk to find out what register I was on. A female customer came up behind me, put her arm across my back and her hand on my shoulder and asked if I would open another register. I panicked. I answered her question and continued on my way. After that I couldn’t get grounded and was close to tears.

It seems so ingrained in my brain that physical touch is bad and threatening. I can tolerate and be grateful for gentle hugs from friends and family, providing it isn’t unexpected. It was interesting at work yesterday as two workmates gave me a hug. I’m ever so grateful that they said what they were going to do before they did it. I’m also grateful for having workmates that care so much.

I’m not sure how this can be changed. I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay with unexpected touch. Maybe, in time, I’ll learn that touch is safe and not everyone is going to hurt me. In my brain touch equals pain, terror, torture.


3 thoughts on “The Terror of Physical Touch.

  1. I think it’s very hard to unlearn things like that. It becomes instinctive to avoid touch. I can understand the dislike of unexpected touching, however well intentioned.

    I am similar in that I don’t like touching. I am gradually getting better with it, and slowly initiating hugs with people I am very close to. I have taught the people close to me that I don’t like being touched, and they need to make it clear they’re going to touch me before they do it.

    • It’s nice that someone can relate, although I’m sorry that you can. How long did it take to “teach” your loved ones not to touch without warning you first?

      • My family haven’t really been a problme because growing up we were never very physical, and I rarely see them now.

        In terms of friends, I put up with it for a long time and freaked out every time they hugged me, but at the start of this year I wasnt to Queensland for 10 days and stayed with 4 people I was close to, and it took just those 10 days of me saying I didn’t like being touched without being prewarned, or if I initiated it (unlikely) for them to learn. I think because I was just so blunt about it. They don’t know why, of course.

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