037: How to Touch Deliberately

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Welcome back to Tuff Love with Rob Kandell. The topic of the show today is touch, and more specifically how to touch deliberately. Rob is really excited about this topic because he watches a lot of people and cringes at how they touch. As someone who has been training for 14 years now on how to touch, he has some things to say on the topic.

Before Rob started doing this work, he never knew how important touch was or that there was a process of learning to touch well. It’s been an incredible experience over these 14 years to have to keep reinventing himself. He started this work at 28 years old, married with a mediocre sex life. He was enthusiastic but un-deliberate. Rob would constantly touch her for some kind of security. He was always reaching out, massaging, touching. There’s a lot of touch that’s un-deliberate, especially between couples.

Through the first years of this work, it was challenging for Rob to know what was deliberate touch and what wasn’t. When you get into conscious touch work, you have to unlearn a lot of your habits. Rob recommends people find the opportunity, the confidence, the desire to really take this on as a practice. Like everything else, it just comes down to practice. We’re not trained or taught how to do this growing up, so it’s an opportunity to learn and have someone give you feedback. That’s important.

Rob describes himself before doing this work as a ‘nice guy toucher’. He was always in his head around touching. This is detrimental because that’s when you lose the opportunity to touch well. It’s important to stay inside your body. It’s very common that we’re not honest with the people in our lives about how their touch affects us. Your willingness to be honest with your partners can totally redo things. A woman once told Rob that she didn’t like the way he kissed her. Her willingness to be honest really changed all his thinking around kissing.

Rob’s shares his steps on how to learn to touch deliberately and guides the audience in an experiment of how you can practice deliberate touch on yourself:

  • Slow down. This is the first step to touching better. Slow your body, your motion down. We’re often in some kind of scarcity when we touch, but slowing down actually creates more sensation than less.
  • Today, when you got touch someone, see if you can slow down how it feels and notice if there is any difference in the way your body feels.
  • Feel your fingers. Concentrate on how your hand feels, not how your head feels. When you’re touching someone, how often are you in your head wondering if you’re doing it right? Trust that the feeling inside your fingertips is giving you more sensory response than what’s in your head.
  • Ask questions. We think we’re supposed to look cool and act like we have it all together and like we know how to do everything. The greatest way to learn how to touch is to truly ask questions of the person you’re touching.
  • Make them specific, yes/no questions, not vague. Would you like a lighter touch? Would you prefer a firmer touch? A little to the left/right? We’re not trained how to do this.
  • Ask for the touch you want and experiment. Give yourself permission to ask your partner the different things you want to try. There’s not way for you to know if you like something based on hypothetical, theoretical concepts. The way you find out what your limits are and what you like and don’t like is by trying things.

Rob coaches Stephanie, who is working on deliberate touch because she often gets feedback from her boyfriend that he doesn’t like the way she touches him.

  • Sometimes she forgets that she’s touching him and he really doesn’t like that.
  • It stings for her when he says he doesn’t like it. Stephanie is not used to getting a lot of feedback. Rob says that’s a human response and it happens to him too. It’s the ego’s way of protecting us.
  • This summer Stephanie has been doing somatic therapy and thinking a lot about safety and so she’s noticed that when she’s touching him un-deliberately, it’s a lot more child-like than she thought it was. It’s a way to self-sooth by touching him.
  • We want warmth and swaddling for security and comfort. Rob suggests before reaching for that touch, to spend some time on the inside game to figure out what she’s really wanting in that moment: perhaps it’s attention, a transparency, a desire. The touch isn’t the best methodology to get what she wants.
  • Stephanie thinks she’s using touch for a lot of other kinds of communication. It feels like he’s tremendously confused most of the time. She could use words or feel into more what she’s really wanting instead.
  • Rob’s sets homework for Stephanie. Firstly, list out the different types of communication she uses touch for e.g. security, desire etc. Then say, ‘I want to be able to communicate better with you and let you into the inside game of the meaning behind my touches.’
  • Stephanie also reads a whole lot into the response she gets from her boyfriend, and puts stories onto it. Rob suggests asking questions to really find out what is happening in that moment. ‘Hey, when this happened and you bristled, what happening for you in that moment?’
  • The miscommunication is happening on both sides. For Stephanie, it can be really, really hard to talk about it later. When she shares her story, he has a really hard time hearing it.
  • Sometimes the problem is a shyness and giving only half-assed requests. The communication doorways can open if we ask, ‘What is it that had you feel shy in that moment and not ask for what you want?’
  • We are human beings and we are taught not to ask for our desires. So we take the half-assed measures and hope the other person catches on to the vagueness, the ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge’ in the request. Your ability to use your words will clarify your touch.
  • Stephanie feels that the more hungry she is to feel his desire, the more shy her boyrfriend gets. Rob explains that guys have a fear of not being able to produce, and your ability to produce is the measure of your manliness/manhood. If a woman comes at him really hungry and he doesn’t feel like he can match their desire, he actually shrinks more and he’s not pleasing the woman. It’s male ego, again.
  • If Stephanie can continue to communicate and approve of him and who he is, it can actually have a man’s power increase.
  • Society says a woman’s hunger and desire and sexuality is wrong. Stephanie’s ability to stand in the rightness of her desire is really important, as is standing in approval of him. It’s challenging because of the voices in her head. When you ask that much of a man, that’s when he gets to grow as a man.
  • Stephanie is realizing that is feels more vulnerable to her to be touched in other areas, like in the arm exercise, than it does to be touched in her genitals. Rob suggests maybe the practice around that is to start asking for more of what she wants and practice non-sexual touch, like a back rub for example.
  • If you ask for touch and they think it’s sexual in intent or something more, that’s their responsibility. You’re responsible for your actions, they’re responsible for their actions. When you communicate that request and set the boundary from the beginning of what you want, it gives the other person permission to say yes or no.
  • Rob bets that if Stephanie got more touch from her friends, there wouldn’t be so much hunger with her boyfriend.

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