In my early 30s, taking a break from my filmmaking career, I turned to the body for answers. I became a massage therapist practicing many modalities – deep tissue, shiatsu, and infant massage. I harbored hope that by incorporating these new healing methods, I would become more whole, bridging the elusive mind-body connection. I wondered if I could develop more self-empathy by understanding the relationship between my deep beliefs and the impact on my body. Cause and effect?
I learned that the skin is our largest organ, and that touch, with the appropriate intention behind it, can be a way to help heal past traumas. Whenever I placed my hands on the receiving body, I took a moment to distinguish my energy from theirs. At the risk of sounding new-agey, ‘I’m an open vessel for healing’, my hands acted as receptors and I could sense another’s energy and attempt to transmit healing. I was quite good at it. Although this new understanding didn’t become a panacea, it gave me a newly found sense of calmness. The rhythmic elements of massage strokes and shiatsu finger pressure would send me into a meditative state.
This natural ability is also one that creates a huge amount of discomfort in my life. I’m prickly, like a cactus. That’s what I’ve been called since childhood. For example, a lover’s caress at a perceived wrong speed or desired time, sends me blowing up irrationally and I find it difficult to recover from it. In childhood, I often struggled with my mother’s soft caresses or kisses, feeling my body squirm away like a snake. I would become extremely aggravated with haircuts, crying angrily unaware as to why, making hairdressers roll their eyes at my mother. What a difficult child, they would say to her. She already knew.
Sometimes it feels like my skin is paper thin, and my nerves are exposed. Everything becomes too much. I’m hypersensitive. Some people release hurt, distress, over-stimuli, through skin cutting. I never did. Visible scars mean externalizing pain which is non-desirable. Early on, I learned that appearances matter. Both my parents suffered tremendous personal losses during WWII but built their lives around appearances. We lived in a wealthy neighborhood, took long and expensive vacations, and socialized with other people like us, (meaning – other immigrant Holocaust survivors who made their wealth after the war). In summary, I lived in a world that placed emphasis on external gratification. I would never be as beautiful as my mother, but I could attempt to be as graceful. When people give me a compliment, that’s what they say, you are very graceful. I like that. It makes me feel I’ve achieved something.
By Catherine Tripp
On April 18, 2023
Appreciate the reminder that indeed skin is our largest organ. Skin hunger was a phrase I heard during the lockdown, I think we all have that. Well done.