How my cravings for touch showed me what I really need
Some people who are single and/or attracted to the same sex find that physical touch is something they feel they lack. Despite being a person who falls into both those categories, for much of my life this wasn’t a feeling I particularly shared. I’d never really thought of myself as someone who especially appreciated physical affection. It’s not that I minded it – but it just wasn’t something that I really thought about.
Therefore, feelings I began to have a few years ago took me somewhat by surprise. I became aware that I felt acutely untouched. I felt like I needed to be held. I felt like I had a craving for physical intimacy.
I can’t remember when I first noticed these feelings. But once noticed, they seemed impossible to ignore. It felt like they were always there, like a constant throb or hum in the background. Just as I need my cup of tea when I get to my desk in the morning, it seemed like I had a physical craving that had to be satisfied.
But whilst it was clear to me what I was craving, I couldn’t work out for the life of me where these feelings had all come from.
I’d never really felt like I particularly wanted to be touched – even when I had felt at my lowest. And I’d certainly not wanted it in such a persistent way for a prolonged period of time. It wasn’t as though the amount I was being touched had recently declined either. And yet, despite that, the itch was never scratched – even when I was hugged. The physical affection I received left me feeling just as empty as I did before.
Nowadays, however, these feelings seem to be a thing of the past. But just as I couldn’t pinpoint when they first reared their head, I also couldn’t tell you exactly when they left. Just as they first appeared without an obvious cause, they then left in a similar manner. There was no magic wand, no 10-step programme, or even any form of concerted effort to get rid of them.
I can tell you that they didn’t leave overnight though. Instead, over the course of time, the cravings eased and my thoughts turned to other things. I’d guess that eventually the feelings were so weak that they simply disappeared.
But whilst I can’t pinpoint a particular remedy, I can’t ignore that my circumstances have changed since these feelings began. As a result, I do have my own tentative thoughts about what might have caused these feelings for me and why they then reduced. In a word, it would be: isolation.
When these feelings began, I was often working from home so it was not unusual for me to go for a whole day without seeing another person. I was also working hard, so relationships were neglected as I neither had the energy nor made the time to see people. Then when I did show my face, I found it hard to be honest about what was going on in my life – and so even when I was with people, I still felt alone.
These days, things are different. I now work in an open plan office and there’s always someone else around. Work also takes up fewer of my waking hours, so I have time for important things outside of work. In the relationships I have, I feel more able to let others know what’s on my mind and heart. I feel more known, and rarely truly alone.
Therefore I can’t help but wonder if the cravings I had for physical contact were the fruit of my experience of isolation. And since that experience has now come to an end, these cravings no longer have a place in my life.
But whilst the cravings seem to have gone, I’ve not been left unchanged by the experience. I’m aware that now when someone shows me physical affection, I notice it more than I would have done before.
The other week at work I came across a lady, perhaps in her 50s, outside the lifts, looking around and clearly unsure where she was going. After I enquired whether she was alright, she exclaimed something like “Is this the first floor, or the second? I’m meant to be on the second but I think I’ve got myself confused!” And as she said that, she reached out and touched my arm. It was done without any thought, but communicated an appreciation and warmth that took me by surprise.
A few years ago, I’d never have even been aware of what she’d done – the movement passed in a moment. Yet now, whilst I’d struggle to remember what the woman said or what she looked like, it was her touch that left the greatest impression on me.
So whilst physical touch is no longer something I crave, I do now value physical affection more than I did before.
This article was published in the Christmas 2018 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend.