The Texture of Touch
Photography and Text by Jules Hovee Steffen
If we think about how important it is to touch something that is tangible, we’ll likely know that we are touching things all through the day. As with this delightful little girl on a sweet summer day, she’s having fun feeling into the texture of this colorful bench. An important segment of each day includes the act of touching, feeling into the texture of what we touch, and making decisions about the quality of touch and what feels welcoming and safe. Life is relational in nature, as is the nature of the woundings we carry through life, and it’s through relationships that we also heal.
When we are the smallest of small in our size, a blastocyst during our prenatal existence – we reach out and touch with a finger-like extension to find our home on our mother’s uterine wall. It’s called Implantation, an essential journey to endeavor our first contact with our mother, discover the level of safety in the act of making contact, and ultimately land on her uterine wall such that we continue our prenatal development. Even at this very early time in our existence, we are assessing whether our needs will be met and what our experience of life may be like given the energies that meet us here. If we experience certain qualities of fear resonating throughout our system as we approach this topic, even now in our adulthood while reading this blogpost, we may feel unsafe to verbalize our truth and have our feelings about what may have happened for us by way of our family of origin, our experiences with the relational behavioral patterns of our parents, our interactions with our siblings, the archaic patterned themes that may have come down to us from our grandparents, and so on. Our first experience with the texture of touch may likely be that of prenatally reaching out to find a place to touch down on the uterine wall, and the properties of this touch may reverberate throughout our being even to this current day.
We are relational beings. We live in relationship with ourselves and with others. The woundings that took root within us during our prenatal and birth experiences, are relational in nature, and thus, are healed while in the context and dynamic reality of relationship with ourselves and others. We unconsciously look for and find other women with whom we are in relationship to be a conduit, a healing agent, for resolving the wounds we experienced with our mother, and we unconsciously find men to help us heal our wounds with our fathers. Not necessarily does it have to be women who help us heal our wounds with our mothers – or other men – for our wounds with our fathers. We may find that we mix or match the genders while on our journey to heal. While in relationship with these individuals (who are not our parents), we may experience feelings of fear, sadness, anger, etc. while in relationship with them, and if we dare to lean into the wisdom of these feelings, we may trace our feelings back to an earlier experience with one or both of our parents/caregivers (i.e. negative mother/father transferences). We may also experience positive feelings of joy, admiration, hope, gratitude, etc. (i.e. positive mother/father transferences) with these individuals and as we lean into the potential link, we may be guided back to one/both of our parents/caregivers. The experience may have the texture of something for which we may have hoped for from our early caregivers, but what we received, may have not matched our need.
It’s a younger part of ourselves that gets triggered with our intense feelings in these dynamic scenarios, the little one within ourselves that is present inside of us for the duration of our lifetime, who may get triggered by our relational experiences that have their roots in early beginnings. Certain situations and/or aspects/behaviors of individuals touch us in a way that may trigger the emotional baggage we may have with our parents/caregivers – and we react in the here and now, believing that our big emotion is really all about the current situation and these individuals, but they are merely the trigger. This is not to minimize the trigger, but to place it in perspective of the larger picture. Processing our current feelings such that it doesn’t interfere with these current relationships is an essential piece, for sure, but the big emotion we may feel in the current moment is likely bigger than what is warranted, which means that it is laden with the emotional energy that has built up within us over time. And, what may be true, is that we may be disconnected from ourselves and from our emotions to the degree that we are unaware of all these connections – and yet, each new moment provides an opportunity for us to reconnect with ourselves. We may have erected walls of protection such that we won’t feel the pain from the past. The trigger may come in the form of a word, a glance, a certain behavior, a theme that resonates from our past, holding the qualities of a wounding that we carry. The triggers point us back into our early storylines to those who relate to us early-on in life – most often to our parents and other significant caregivers. When we’re triggered into feeling big feelings, we may place the face of one or both of our parents onto the person in the current day experience, and it’s essential to our health and our relationship with this person to consciously realize that this person is not one/both of our parents.
The truth is that when we are triggered, we have an opportunity to gain clarity about the poignant connections deep within us – a gift that comes to us in this dynamic timeline of our relationships. The task before us is to find safe and healthy ways to express our emotions such that we may heal from our wounds. It’s essential to refrain from dumping our emotions on the individuals who are a trigger for us. When we dump, we create more wounding. Consciously naming the transferences is an important step when acknowledging our truth of what’s really happening for us. So often, what’s happening by way of positive and negative transferences is not named, and our wounding remains hidden, unresolved, and continues to have negative implications for our relationships and experiences in life. As we move into this arena of awareness, we are on the path of the Middle Ground: Where Sages Dwell. May we walk gently with compassion for what may have happened for us early on in life, drawing experiences of rest and relaxation to us. Gratitude for my teachers, Dr. William Emerson and Arrow De Groot.