Boundaries, touching and what’s not okay!

I am discovering only now at 40, the very troubled relationship I have with boundaries, physical touch and being able to say NO!

It is no surprise that all of this is difficult for me having been sexually abused by the man who was given the job of protecting and nurturing me. To compound the issue, any misgivings I had about what HE was doing to me were silenced and shamed by my mother’s absolute denial of my reality and her inability to validate my feelings and give me any comfort and protection.

I am thinking about this today because I went for a full body massage yesterday. It was a Thai woman who did the massage and she did a breast massage too. At the time, it didn’t feel creepy at all and she asked me beforehand. But now I am feeling bad about it, like I did something wrong or shameful. When I told my friend about the massage, I left that bit out thinking that she would think I was strange. I started thinking about whether I really was ok with it, or just went along with because that is what I do as a default. Was I really okay with it. How could someone not know what their body wants and doesn’t want? How could someone not be in touch with their body enough to know whether something felt okay or not? Well I’ll tell you that it IS possible to be so far from your own body and instincts because of childhood sexual abuse.

I know that when I was 15 I went to the doctor by myself and he took advantage of my vulnerability. A very upstanding doctor who had daughters my age and who ran church trips for teenagers. He told me to remove my bra so that he could listen to my heartbeat properly ( because of course there is no other way you can do it!!!). I remember removing my bra without protest and sitting there frozen in time while he breathed heavily over me with his stethoscope. I didn’t tell my parents, why would I, when I was already full of so many other shameful secrets. I told my ex-husband about it many years later and he made me feel bad about it. How could I just agree to take off my bra? What was wrong with me?

Of course I know now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. My innocence was robbed and my boundaries were violated in the worst possible way during those crucial formative years. It affected me profoundly and I don’t need to feel bad about myself anymore. I only need to hold myself close and say it’s okay, it’s okay that I had a breast massage it’s okay that I am like this because how else would I be, given what happened. It is recognition of what happened and how it affected me and it is validation of me finally.

 

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17 thoughts on “Boundaries, touching and what’s not okay!

  1. So interesting you would write about this as while warming my morning tea I’m in my body for a change and have moments where I reach with a hand, feel it, feel it’s mine. And I think, that’s a good goal, be in my body, feel it, be in tune with it’s whispers, be connected, whole…none of which seems to come naturally or at all. I run. Eat, do, veg out, escape. But being whole, accepting myself, that’s a journey I’m still on.
    Saying no to hugs if someone else wants one, but I don’t? Very hard to say no, I move away instead. Maybe I will learn to just no, maybe not. I do the best I can.

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  2. This is one of the big reasons why we isolate ourselves. We have no defenses to say no, protect our boundaries, or protect ourselves if someone hurts us! Instead we freeze and are left with hindsight! I don’t think you could have done anything differently.

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  3. Goodness. This post resonates with me on so many levels. I am finding that I sometimes fail to recognize when I need to be protected and just submit to whatever the other person wants of me.

    I had the same experience with a doctor just a few years ago as an adult and still struggle with it. I understand the feelings you come away with after an experience like that – with someone you’re supposed to be able to trust with your wellbeing and body. Your doctor. It’s such a violation and rocks you to your core. I hope that is something you can (if you haven’t already) place the blame on him for rather than yourself. All your experiences (and all my experiences) as you so beautifully outlined in your post have taught you to say yes. Automatically. And it’s a slow undoing.

    This post was very timely for me as I’m supposed to go have a massage from someone that my therapist knows soon. And I’m freaking out about it. This reminds me to think a bit more about my boundaries and discuss them with my therapist before allowing anyone (even a massage therapist) to touch me.

    Sending you kind and supportive thoughts.

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    • Good luck with the massage, and yes I think thinking about it beforehand will help to protect you. I know that in the heat of the moment I submit too and I lack the spontaneity that others who have not been abused may have. Take care and thank you for sharing your experience and validating mine. It means a lot to me.

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  4. You have no idea how much I feel you on this one! To this day I still panic at the beginning of a massage because I suddenly wonder if I’m putting myself in a situation where I’ll get violated again – and I have to do a lot of deep breathing and staying in touch with all the sensations in my body in order to stay present. But, what’s worse than the fear of being molested again is the fear that I would be so overwhelmed with fear that I’d stay frozen like I did as a kid and not instantly stop the massage, start yelling, and call the police etc… And perhaps what can be even worse than that is that I forget in the moment to be compassionate with myself. My parents trained me from birth to allow people to violate me, not hold them responsible, AND to treat them nicely! How many times in my childhood and adult life (when I was still in contact with my family) did I hug my dad in front of family members and act like absolutely nothing was wrong? But, that kind of behavior was the only kind that was permitted by my family – denial and fake politeness no matter what. Of course I struggle with validating my own internal signals and speaking up about them because my family didn’t allow me/or teach me how to do otherwise. We deserve a tremendous amount of compassion about this – and I hope you feel very proud of how you used the experience to transform you. A lot of people aren’t as brave and honest with themselves as you are!

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    • I am sorry that you have suffered in similar ways because I know all to well how hard it is. Yes, I used to hug and kiss my dad automatically like I was a robot, but deep deep inside there was something stirring and it just got bigger and bigger now and I can’t even be in the same room as him now. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in the last two and half years and my life is better for it! Thank you, you are brave too to be on here sharing your experience and validating mine. I am comforted but saddened by how many people have suffered what I have and it’s still such a taboo in society to even talk about.

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  5. I have sooooo many boundary issues. I wrote a post about it recently too. Your posts are sometimes hard to read because I can feel you emotions in them. But I realize I can see your healing through them as well. Thank you for sharing with us. ❤️

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I am starting to realize how many times I also froze in moments of sexual manipulation. (I wasnt sexually abused in my family but I had other experiences). I felt as if I had to comply even though I knew it didnt feel right or comfortable. I felt like i had to prove to myself that I was strong enough to handle it. Looking back on these moments of having my boundaries invaded, I really don’t know why I felt the need to prove to myself that I could handle it. Maybe this stems from feeling incredibly rejected, criticized and been told to stop being so sensitive in my childhood. These inappropriate sexual acts happened when I was 15 and many more came my way from other predators. I feel your emotions so deeply and it’s awful that such a simple ‘No’ was so very difficult for us to say..but at the same time, it seems to make complete sense.

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    • Thank you for sharing your experiences, I am sorry that you relate to any of it. But yes, the more I share, the more I find people who feel the same feelings and I feel so much less alone and alien and I know without a shadow of a doubt that these feelings are a result of the trauma that happened to me and not a result of my own weaknesses or faults. i appreciate your sharing and I send you warmth and healing vibes on your journey.

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