How do you feel about being touched by other people who are close to you? Some of us are touch-avoidant, and scientists do not completely understand the reasons for this.
It’s worthwhile to take a few minutes to think about your childhood experiences with touch in your family of origin to get some insight into your adult feelings about touch.
An interesting research tool called “Recollections of Early Childhood Touch Scale” (Jones and Brown, 1996) is a scale that looks at retrospective self-reports of experiences with parents and primary caretakers. Some of the questions may prod your memory of the role loving touch played in your family of origin.
For instance, did your parents hug or kiss you when you left for school? Do you have memories of sitting in your caretakers lap? Did you get soothing touch at bedtime? These are typical questions to ask yourself about touch. But you may have had some idiosyncratic experiences that are also relevant.
When I asked one of my patients who enjoys sex if her parents were affectionate to her, she said, “not particularly.” Then she went on to describe a very tender and positive memory she had of being a small child and being tenderly bathed by her father. Her mother, on the other hand, bathed her and her brother by scrubbing hard with a washcloth, an experience that got the cleaning job done but was anything but tender.
He described his bathing as a “soft wash.” He dribbled warm water on her while he gently used a soft washcloth. She loved being bathed by him, and smiled as she told me this story.
Although this was not a “typical” affectionate experience of touch like hugging or kissing, it was a wonderfully meaningful experience with touch. She felt cherished, just by the way her father washed her.
If you answered yes to items like the items from the questionnaire, or family-specific memories like my patient’s “soft wash,” it means that your caretaker used touch as a normal part of their relationship with you, and you probably associate touch with love.
These good associations are major building blocks to having positive associations to sexuality. They are the cornerstone of what I call the Milestones of Sexual Development.
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