Legal Law

Safe Contact: The Key to Good Mental Health and Relationships

I think any educated and sensible massage therapist will tell you that you tend to meet people who are more authentic in expressing themselves than you might find in an office. Even the same person is more authentic and gentle in a touch-safe massage environment. Minimal clothing, soothing sounds from the fountain, the scent of lavender, orange, sandalwood, or other essential oils, and music that doesn’t destroy your soul just seem to do that. Everyone needs safe contact to be comfortable and free to be themselves without judgment.

From my own experience, we live in a touch-deprived culture. Touch someone in the workplace, even as an encouraging “good for you” pat on the back, and you might find yourself judged as some kind of office pervert. Rub the back in a gesture of comfort or take a hand to say “I care how you feel”, and well, you’re going to jail!! Touch in our culture is suspicious and often threatening. I am not encouraging anyone to accept the touch of anyone they know as well-intentioned or harmless. But for the most part, the baby came out with the bath water as usual.

He used to lay hands on people as a shepherd in compliance and in the hope that James 5:14-16 would produce the desired and promised results. “Is any of you sick? You should call the elders of the church to pray for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will heal the sick; the Lord will rise If he has sinned, it will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

I’ve done this thousands of times and respectfully note that it’s not the cure for anything significant, from my perspective. However, I am sure that, at times and due to the reaction of some, the touch itself was deeply appreciated and significant. A church or pastor who relies ONLY on this because “it’s in the Bible, God said so, I believe it, it does it for me”, is foolish and overdue help that a genuinely ill person might need to receive from professionals. I’ve seen it in my past career and it’s hard to talk about it, although I didn’t have the perspective of only anointing.

The kind, intentional and polite touch seems to free a person from the masks that we all wear. They all wear masks. It’s how we survive by dealing with issues we can’t talk about or won’t receive understanding from even thinking about. In massage, people become more openly genuine and some want to talk, sometimes, about what they are really thinking. Some may want to vent about the office environment, the company, or the boss, but when they do share, most just talk about touch and why humans are so afraid of their own thoughts and needs.

“Needs”, now there is a word for you. Our Christian culture has almost outgrown the idea that what one needs has validity in the needy. Sermon after sermon for decades has made that equal to being selfish and carnal or unconverted and “of the world.” Just say “I need” to a pastor and often your own reprimands will well up and you’ll get a lecture on how the Bible tells us this or that, mostly along the lines of “doing nothing out of dissension or vainglory, but in humility of mind each telling others better than himself;” Phil. 2:3 (ASV) I always wondered if we should consider everyone else better than ourselves and all that implies about our own worth, what are others supposed to do?

Everyone needs to be safely touched. A customer, a long time ago, was very quiet while working on them and suddenly said, “Don’t you think it’s funny that my dad never hugged me?” We talked about it a little bit, but I knew that me, a stranger, touching him provoked that thought in contrast to his father, who knew him well, never hugged him. After a few minutes, he said, “I don’t think he’s gay.” That was also a no-brainer. That’s how it worked in his mind. “I like this touch.” “Dad never hugged me.” “Oh, I like this and this is a boy!” “I’d better tell him I don’t think he’s gay so he doesn’t think I am.” interesting huh? For him, touch was necessary but had connotations that weren’t really there, but needed to be referenced. I’m not gay either by the way.

One of the things that people need to practice more is the phrase “I need”. It is not selfish or rude. It is human and it is what makes relationships work on a more real and authentic level. How many relationships would be better or even saved if we learned to say, “I need you not to talk to me like that.” “I need you to be around more often.” “I need you to touch me in a way that makes you care for ME.” “I need you to hear what I think for a change.” “I need you to give me some space.” “I need variety in my life.” “I need you to take better care of yourself.” “I need you to keep the people you don’t like, the crazy relatives, the stupid boss, and the fucking church out of our conversations.” “I need…” Try it sometime and you will see that others also need the same. They just didn’t know that you knew something about needs.

Others talk about what they don’t need touch-wise in their lives. No need to grab or push them. They do not need to be roughly slapped or pinched. They don’t need to feel used and unloved. I guess this is a whole other topic.

The mask that covers topics of sexuality is important for ALL people. All massage is sensual even when it is therapeutic, since touch is by nature. In a safe and compassionate environment, many think about the place that sex does or does not have in their lives. Human sexuality and the need to express and experience it never goes away. I always laugh at how the Bible tells us that when Moses died at 110 (maybe yes, maybe no), and that “Moses was one hundred and ten years old when he died, that his eye was not cloudy, nor was his natural strength subsided;…” This is a coded way of saying that he realized everything and could still get emotional. How they knew this, I’m not sure. I guess he bragged about it. But it is an ancient way of stating that the man was not dead and that he was really alive until he died. Many people I know feel dead because they have no sexual contact or expression in their lives.

While many fundamentally religious types will deny this aspect of human need as merely selfish and carnal, it is very normal and very necessary for healthy living. The most extreme sexual religious ignorance I’ve heard to date is from someone who always prayed to God not to experience, shall we say, incessant force, and have to have sex with a partner just for the sex. Argh…no further comment. I would say that the partner is looking elsewhere in some way.

On the other hand, those who, although very religious and faithful to their church, listen politely to those in authority and represent “God’s opinion” to them on these issues every week, are quite capable of saying that they do not care what What does the minister say? and their sexuality really isn’t a church issue, which it isn’t. I find so many devout believers who fight against what they are taught or in many cases not taught by a church. Much of what has to do with human sexuality in the Bible is wrong and harmful to humans. It’s archaic, Middle Eastern in perspective, and controls them very well, though maybe that’s his intention. It also promotes a lot of anxiety and depression, which are functions of shame, guilt, fear, and unexpressed anger. I have yet to meet an anxious or depressed client who is not afraid or angry about something he feels he has no right to express or is too risky. Think about it.

I love my gay clients. There are probably no more honest, open and compassionate types of human beings. They have a nature that lends itself to that and many times the experience to reinforce the benefit of that way of being and thinking. They’ve also dealt with a lot of rejection and have had to deal with issues of authenticity that, again, most never face openly. No one I know is gay by choice but by nature. No one is trying to be non-gay, nor should they. Everyone is a genuine human being who knows more about himself than most would dare to explore. I think of the one where he was “discovered” by a friend at church and given a videotape to see how not to be gay. If they couldn’t change and the video didn’t convince them, then they weren’t welcome in the church. Needless to say, the video just didn’t work. I once asked a lesbian client why she came to me when I was, well… a man! She knew the history of the abuse and wondered. She said the best thing I’ve ever been told. “Because I love what you do, I feel safe and you are the only man who will touch me again.” Wow… but she wouldn’t let me use that in my advertising.

Everyone needs a secure contact. Touch tends to send its message subtly but loud and clear. A client knows if I am not present for the massage by the way the touch feels. One client said he would tell me later in the session if he wanted to go for 90 minutes instead of just an hour. From my perspective, I would like to know now how it determines what and how I do the massage, but I just said it’s okay. I put my hands on him and gave him half a pass on his back when he told me: “let’s do 90”. He said that when I touched him, he knew he wanted to last longer. Nice compliment. It was the touch.

Sometimes there may be a person who is so stressed and so angry that they just feel that way without saying it. It’s more feeling than feeling. I can sense ill intent and that makes it a very long hour. Sometimes you just can’t put your “finger” on it, but you know all is not well. That’s how touch works too. Just the energy people give off can inform you long before they get close enough to touch you. This is why we can feel good or bad when some people walk into the room. Even without touching us, they are reaching us.

So think about how you touch yourself and why. Sadly, the mantra for many is “don’t touch me”, and that too must be respected. I think a lot of obesity is a subconscious “stay away from me” message. Research tells us that 80% of all obese women have experienced sexual abuse. Sounds high to me, but could be close. Even untouched or petted, as the term is used, RATS die sooner and do not survive surgeries as well as those that are often pacified or touched. How much more our partners, relatives, children and even ourselves. Even watch others soothe and touch themselves to see that even subconsciously our brain tells our hands to comfort us in times of need.

So… have you appeased anyone today? Or if you need it, you allow it. from those whose intentions are right, without drama or accusation. I always tell my clients, “more touch grenades and less rocket propelled grenades is what I always say.” They laugh and always say, “Isn’t that the truth?” Yes it is.

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