Bodywork is a powerful way to resolve emotional and sexual trauma in your body. But having someone touch you can be daunting, if not impossible, for some people. Fortunately, there’s a range of approaches to working with the body, starting online, fully clothed and with no touch involved. Let’s find out what’s possible…
Online work is convenient, safe and establishes trust
I almost always start working with clients online. I usually work with women who have histories of sexual abuse and bad relationships with men. So working online creates an environment where my clients have enormous control. They have the comfort of their own space, they can end the call, they can move or turn off their camera.
We often start with gentle activities around consent, which are possible to do online. These develop your abilities to notice what you’d like, trust what you notice, value it, and communicate it. And, if something isn’t what you’d like, we develop your ability to say “no” – either straight away, or when you change your mind about an activity. I use Dr Betty Martin’s wonderful Wheel of Consent as the foundational model for these activities.
As we deepen these practices, it deepens trust – trusting what’s right for you, trusting you can communicate that, trusting my response. All of this sits on top of one foundational skill – being able to notice what’s happening in your body.
We can work with the body just by noticing it
I always offer new clients gentle activities based on noticing the body. For some people, even this is daunting as their body doesn’t feel safe to them. But there is usually something they can notice that is neutral or perhaps they even like. Sometimes that’s noticing their breath or their heartbeat, but everyone’s experience is different and I work with each client to find what’s uniquely right for them.
You can develop the ability to feel more in the body by noticing what’s there and being with experiences with curiosity and kindness. This is called Focusing. We do this to the level that you feel willing to go to. For some people, that might be 10 seconds of noticing one breath. For others, it might be an hour of deep inner exploration. And why would you want to do it? Eugene Gendlin, from University of Chicago, did 15 years of research on what made the difference between psychotherapy that worked, and that didn’t. Without exception, successful therapy involved the client having an inner awareness.
As sensations and emotions come up, you can decide what you’d like to stay with and we’ll explore them using simple questions. And this surprisingly simple approach opens a path of healing. I use Clean Language questions, which are a gentle way of holding and validating your experience with as little as possible influence from me.
Focusing with Clean Language is an amazingly powerful way to work with the body that we can do online, fully clothed, cameras off and with no touch.
Hands-on bodywork can happen online!
When you have some confidence in noticing your body and some consent skills, then it’s possible to choose practices that involve moving your body or touching your own body. Again, being online gives you lots of options to control the experience, such as being off-camera or under a blanket.
Touching your own body is a chance to show yourself self-care. You can give yourself the touch that you need. You can challenge body and self-worth issues by exploring what you like and enjoy about your body. And whatever arises, from emotions such as guilt or shame, to old traumas and conditioning, we can work with those using Focusing and Clean Language.
Eventually, you might choose to explore intimate self-touch and that can be something you take away to practice, do off-camera, or however you would like. Getting to this point can be a long journey, particularly if you’ve suffered sexual abuse, and it’s important that the journey doesn’t stop too soon. The body stores trauma, particularly around and in the genitals, and we can explore a wide range of options for reclaiming your sexuality, clearing the trauma and entering a new world of pleasure and expression.
Beyond healing and getting to some kind of normal, there is an amazing world of eroticism and pleasure to explore. I can draw on hundreds of practices from my training in Sexological Bodywork and Tantra. And most practices can be taken away as a daily practice, or tried online in a way that’s comfortable for you.
In-person bodywork creates experiences that aren’t possible online
So with all these online options, why might you consider working in-person?
In person, you can have deeper experiences of relating to another person. Particularly working with me, it’s an opportunity to explore your relationship to men. So even fundamental wheel of consent practices, which involve touching hands, take on a richness and power when done in person.
Touch has an entire spectrum of possibilities. A first step might be Wheel of Consent exercises where we touch hands, practicing giving and receiving touch and the responses that arise. You might want to experience a single touch you’d like, like a still hand, or a strong slow stroke along your arm. Or I could hold you in the way that’s just right for you. And, as your confidence builds, you might choose “active receiving”, where you guide me to give you exactly the touch you would like wherever you would like on your body.
In person, it’s easier to access profound, life-changing moments. When you realise someone is touching you just the way you want, with no agenda or expectation. Or when you realise you don’t have to tolerate what you don’t like and can say “no” to a touch that isn’t amazing. Or you can ask for what you want and then you get it, given willingly. These realisations happen at a deep body level and I’ve had clients burst into tears with how significant they are. And, although they start with touch, these realisations ripple out into every aspect of your life.
We can design any activity to keep within your limits, whether you choose to stay comfortable or push the edge of your experience. For example, you might like skin-to-skin contact and take off some clothes, but stay under a sheet or blanket.
In-person touch can be a transformative experience
In-person work opens possibilities of touch aren’t available online. One of my clients had an issue around receiving pleasure, so she worked in person with me. She asked me to massage her body with oil, with the movements and touch she was asking for. As she received that pleasure, we were both alert for what always happened: sudden feelings of guilt. When the guilt arrived, I maintained the pleasurable touch and asked her “where is the guilt?” and she identified a location in her body. I asked “where does that guilt come from?” and a memory came up of her being told that pleasure and fun were bad, when she was a child. Continuing with more of this Focusing and Clean Language, gave her conscious access to what was limiting her and making her feel unworthy of pleasure. Over a few sessions, she became more and more able to receive the pleasure she wanted.
Whether any touch seems unbearable, or you want to explore the fullest intensity of pleasure, we can work with your body in a way that feels comfortable for you. Wherever you’re starting, we can open up the possibilities of a body you love and fully experience with joy and pleasure.
References (External Links & Books)
- Clean Language (Wikipedia)
- Focusing (Wikipedia)
- What is Sexological Bodywork? (Assocation of Certified Sexological Bodyworkers)
- Sullivan, Wendy & Rees, Judy (2008). Clean Language:Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds. Crown House Publishing. ISBN: 978-1845901257
- Cornell, Ann Weiser (1996). The power of focusing: a practical guide to emotional self-healing. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications. ISBN 157224044X.