Testing Your Touch-Ability

The one thing about massage that you really can't avoid is the fact that you have to touch another human body in order to do it. This basic reality is what keeps many people from taking the first step of either giving or receiving a massage. Touch another human? Yuck!

Most societies have quite a few touch-related taboos and complexes, things that may be holding you back from experiencing massage. The following touch-ability survey can help reveal your own, perhaps unconscious, touch taboos, and suggests ways to overcome them. After you know what problems you're dealing with, you can proceed more easily. Be very honest with yourself. There are no right or wrong answers, only helpful ones.

For each question, fill in the number that most closely matches your feelings.

  • Strongly disagree: 1
  • Disagree: 2
  • Neutral: 3
  • Agree: 4
  • Strongly agree: 5

1. My childhood family encouraged touching and hugging between members. _____

2. I can offer a compassionate touch on the arm, shoulder, or back of someone I don't know, and doing so feels natural. _____

3. When someone bumps me on the street, instead of feeling anger, my first reaction is to brush it off as an accident. _____

4. My natural inclination is to massage animals (at least ones that don't bite), scratching them behind the ears to make them feel good. _____

5. I can touch or be touched by someone I find attractive without having sexual intentions or fantasies about them. _____

6. I prefer to go barefoot outdoors when safe and appropriate. _____

7. I have, on occasion, hugged a tree or draped myself luxuriously over a warm rock in the sun. _____

8. I believe in heart-to-heart hugs that express my affection and openness to people. _____

9. People tell me I have "good hands" and ask me to rub their shoulders when they're feeling stiff or sore. _____

10. In work situations, I offer encouragement and recognition to others with a heart-felt touch in combination with words of praise. _____

Total: _____

The higher the number you come up with, the greater likelihood that touch and massage are something easy for you to accept in your life. If you scored a 50, great! If you scored in the 40s, you're among the most tactile people in the world, and massage is probably a part of your life already. If you scored in the 20s or 30s, you're somewhere in the average regarding touch-ability, and you may want to stop here for a few minutes and consider trying some of the experiences listed below. If you scored below 20, you're still in the developmental stage of touch-ability, and you will definitely benefit by trying some or all of the following suggestions.

  • Pick a parent, sibling, or even a cousin and give that person a hug for no reason.
  • The next time an appropriate situation arises, gently place your palm on the shoulder of someone you've just met, offering compassion and solidarity for a moment.
  • When someone bumps or jostles you, stop and take a deep breath and look for the hidden cause of your anger. Usually, the anger results because you feel that you're in the "right." Let go of being right and be forgiving instead.
  • Spend a full five minutes concentrating on nothing else but massaging the head and ears of a dog or cat (assuming you're not allergic, of course).
  • Get a serious, therapeutic massage and concentrate on the inner relaxing of your muscles, just to show yourself that massage involves more than sensual pleasure.
  • Take a walk through a park barefoot, feeling the textures of various surfaces — sand, sidewalk, grass, and gravel. Notice how your feet feel during and afterwards.
  • Head out to the woods, a quiet park, or deserted beach and hug a tree, or drape yourself luxuriously over a warm rock in the sun.
  • Give a heart-to-heart hug that expresses your affection to someone who would truly appreciate it.
  • The next time someone you know complains of tight shoulders, offer to give him or her a five-minute mini-massage. Don't worry about doing it "right." Just focus on caring and compassion.
  • The next time someone you work with does something right, offer a heart-felt touch on the arm or back in combination with a few words of praise. Examine your intentions before making this sort of contact, to make sure you don't have any subconscious motivations that could later lead to a sexual harassment case. Moreover, offer this tactile support in plain view of other coworkers.
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