Well, Valentine’s Day is over, but I’m still thinking about it. Why do we make such a big deal over having our very own Valentine? I’m wondering, do we crave a Valentine so much because we lack very many other avenues of intimacy in our lives? It seems that we have equated intimacy only with romantic relationships.
But remember, intimacy is so much more. Intimacy is that space where real connection, real compassion, occurs. There is emotional intimacy, like the feelings of support and closeness that we receive from family and friends. There is verbal intimacy when we talk to those people we trust about our deepest thoughts and feelings. And then, of course, there’s the physical intimacy of affectionate touch.
The United States is considered a “low-touch” culture. Most touch that is displayed in our modern media is romantic, sexual, or violent. Healthy, appropriate touch is not usually found in public, unless it’s parents with pre-pubescent children or couples in romantic relationships. Because our culture has limited expressions of healthy, appropriate touch for adults, we get what we need in odd and sometimes violent ways. Unfortunately, violent gestures are intimate too.
I’m not asking you to solve our cultural issues, but as touch practitioners, you are in the perfect position to address the potential lack of intimacy in your clientele and, by extension, your community.
- Educate your community on the health benefits of appropriate touch, using the term “intimacy” in a positive, non-sexual way.
- Acknowledge your clients’ beliefs and fears around intimacy, as if they are quite common—because they are!
- Protect the safety of your clients’ vulnerability, by providing one-way intimacy in the form of healthy, affectionate, therapeutic touch. Set clear boundaries to maintain that appropriate, one-way intimacy.
- Honor your clients’ right to set their own boundaries around both verbal and physical intimacy. They may be much more rigid than your own, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s your responsibility, as the practitioner, to maintain the strictest boundary that is acceptable to both parties.
Addressing intimacy in a direct and professional manner demonstrates your compassion and your authenticity. Your practice will grow organically, because people feel the most comfortable with others who are compassionate and authentic. Not every practice-building activity has to do with marketing; sometimes it’s just about being a good person. Now that, I know you can do.
[To learn more about sex, touch, and intimacy in therapeutic relationships, read The Ethics of Touch, by Ben E. Benjamin, Ph.D. and Cherie Sohnen-Moe, available at www.Sohnen-Moe.com/catalog.]