Reflexions… On Human Connection and Touch

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Today, was my first day back at work after almost three weeks. I had missed it so much! And even though it was a long day, it was a great one. And then, on my way home, I bumped into a fellow Dramatherapist I hadn’t seen in a long time.

We were catching up on how our lives have been, personally and professionally, and I ended up talking about a meeting I had had with other Dramatherapists many months ago, in my role as member of the Equality & Diversity Subcommittee of The British Association of Dramatherapists.

I was telling my friend that during that meeting we were discussing boundaries in clinical practice, and it occurred to me: we are a clinical practice based on the art form of drama – which will include physical touch at some point during a clinical intervention – so why are we so attached to the boundaries laid down by psychiatry and the medical model of psychology? We don’t even follow the medical model!

And whenever this comes up, I always tell this story. During my third and final year of my Dramatherapy MA training, we were doing the final facilitations in one of the modules when something beautiful happened. By the way, in Dramatherapy training, we actually practice therapy on each other. We take turns being clients and therapists for each other, so by the end of three years, the connection you feel with peers is beyond profound.

So, during one of these facilitations where I was being a witness, and observing a peer being a therapist for another peer, there was a moment of breakthrough and revelation on the part of the client-peer, and a moment of freezing on the part of the therapist-peer.

In that moment, I related to the experience my therapist-peer, as I felt that the question in her mind at that moment was: “Do I hug her? Do I hug my client?”

And I felt my peer in that moment, because I have found myself in that place before. As a trainee and as a qualified therapist. That place where my professional mind is telling me something and my human heart is telling me something else. And my observation is that whenever someone freezes in relation to someone who is in need or distress in front of them, is because they are probably listening to the mind voice, rather than the heart voice. The heart voice always knows what to do, because its essence is to connect. The mind voice’s essence is to justify. There is no comparison.

But back to my peers. There they were, in that very short moment, which probably felt longer than it actually was for all of us. And then our lecturer/examiner stands up, and silently mouths to the therapist-peer: HUG HER!!! I wrote that in capitals and three exclamation points, because that is what her body language and gestures were expressing. HUG HER!!! And my peer did just that. And it was beautiful. We all cried.

Afterwards, whilst reflecting on the situation, my lecturer simply said: “Sometimes, a person just needs to be hugged.”

SOMETIMES A PERSON JUST NEEDS TO BE HUGGED. Writing this, I can still feel what I felt in that moment. Is there anything more human, more simple, than that? I mean, sometimes, theory means absolutely nothing. In the face of guttural, primal, life-changing/saving situations, who cares about what person wrote what, when, why, or how? Who cares? Sometimes, a person just needs to be hugged. And the rest is commentary. Simple.

Why am I writing about this today? Well, one of clients. It was our first session together, and in Dramatherapy, we usually do an exercise called 6-Part Story. The invitation is for the client to create a story in a simple format, but which actually allows their unconscious to reveal what they think of themselves, their goals, their support systems, their obstacles, their problem-solving, and their hopes. It’s so simple, yet so profound! It’s amazing. But anyway, my client today really struggled with the support system bit. And as we were talking about that, it dawned on me how much we all have internalised this story of “I have to do it all on my own”.

This whole Independent Woman/Man thing, which most of us have subscribed to without questioning it for one second. This idea that we don’t need anyone, or anything. We can do it all alone! We should do it all alone! Where has that gotten us, you and me?

I realised today, that I have actually unsubscribed from this story. I mean, one of the three core principles of my practice, Integrative Dramatherapy, is Relationships. I had put these principles together, but until today, I hadn’t actually realised how much I value the principle of Relationships – of connecting to others. Of touching others. Of intimacy.

Why do we subscribe to this idea of being on our own, if our DNA – spiritual, psychological, and physical – is undeniably and vitally, social and relational?

Sometimes, a person just needs to be hugged.

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