A while ago I wrote an article about misunderstood touch, and how touch becomes sexually charged. Recently I wrote about if a massage should hurt, discussing the misconception that a massage must be painful in order to do any real good.
There are probably many reasons why people think pain is necessary during a massage. Poor education of how the body reacts and functions and a lack of being in touch with our bodies and actually being able to feel the signals. For many there’s a hidden desire to punish themselves, which is supported by a society saying that “you don’t deserve good without going through bad first.”
Personally I think a large part of the blame also lies in how we perceive touch. We often feel guilt over enjoying touch, and if a touch hurts we can’t enjoy it and thereby we avoid the feeling of guilt. We’re often not allowed to treat ourselves well enjoy pleasant things. This is in particular true for women. So if the massage hurt and left us really sore the day after, nobody can tell us that we had a massage because it felt good.
Another reason is that we often only experience two forms of touch. Intimate/sexual touch and violent/abusive touch. Anything in between we can’t quite figure out, as it doesn’t suit one or the other extreme. If we see two men hugging closely on the street, our first thought is often that they must be lovers. If an adult touches a child, we worry about abuse, which has gone to the degree that teachers in some schools aren’t even allowed to hug and comfort a crying child.
This means that we tend to avoid touch all together, unless it’s intimate. We feel uncomfortable with a friendly, pleasant touch which isn’t intimate and we see pushing in the metro as more aggressive than it was intended.
I still recall how shocked I felt when I was introduced to a friend of a friend in France and he gave me two kisses on the cheeks. A strange man so close and so intimate was something I had never experienced before and my entire system became ready to fight or flight.
All these different aspects of how we view touch and what we put into it, means that a pleasant massage-touch becomes linked with intimacy and sexuality instead of natural healing. By making sure the touch hurts, and we disassociate the two and can better enjoy the therapy, or even justify it to ourselves.