Holding Space for Veiled Emotional Pain
The following experience took place in a session and is recounted by Rebekka. It is published with the permission of the client who remains anonymous for confidentiality purposes.
I was contacted by a client who questioned whether it’s possible to deliver a meaningful cuddle session when money is involved. The answer is yes, much like a massage therapist or a chiropractor can deliver healing sessions for a fee.
Upon meeting the client in person, I discovered that he had experienced major trust issues from his current and past relationships. He had been through some very challenging situations and his wounds hadn’t healed from the first relationship, when he was knocked down again in the next.
A rather interesting part of my work as a cuddle therapist, is to experience the energetic field radiating out from the client when I meet them for the first time. It is obviously a highly speculative matter to refer to any energetic field. For the purpose of context in this scenario, my definition is the energy flowing between two people which can be explained as a combination of facial expressions, body posture, pitch of voice and all the other so-called intangible energies.
When I met the client, it was as if a dark and heavy rain cloud was hanging above his head. I had a feeling this would be a ‘lower energy’ session, which is the kind of atmosphere where we get synced into a world of subtle melancholy. A sacred place, where unfelt and unheard emotions start to wander around and ultimately surface. I have previously experienced how this space, even though high in immediate emotional depth, can create one of the greatest healing experiences if navigated correctly.
My client was experienced in mindfulness and meditation, which was helpful as we started the session with a set of breathing exercises, inhaling and exhaling in sync while holding hands. I could finally feel a sense of calmness arriving into the space between us. The session continued in a normal manner and at some point my client buried his head against my shoulder. I folded my right hand around his back and allowed my left hand to lay on top of his head while gently stroking his hair. This was a very similar setup to that of a mother taking care of her young child – something we aim to emulate in cuddle sessions. I have experienced how this kind of environment, which is safe and allowing, can lead the person being taken care of to slide into the more suppressed parts of their psyche and emotions. Into the parts of the mind which have felt too scary to face alone.
I started noticing a shift in my own emotional state. Waves of grief and sorrow started entering my body. I could feel tears falling slowly from my eyes. I was floating on a cloud of emotional pain - pain that was not coming from within me.
“I feel like I’m receiving emotional energy which does not belong to me”, I compassionately said out loud. My client raised his gaze and reached my slightly teary eyes. He immediately buried his face down and burst into heart-breaking tears. I wrapped my arms tighter around, which accelerated the emotional release. Holding space for emotional expression is a sensitive, yet healing experience.
This lasted for five to ten minutes for all the suppressed emotions to leave their system. The breathing started to balance out again. Both metaphorically and literally, I could feel how the emotional cloud started to clear away for a brighter sky to come forward. His face was smiley and I could feel a burst of life flowing back into his body.
Not only did I feel that something unique and transformative had taken place, but my client himself told me he was clearing up what had just happened. He confessed that he never allowed himself to feel the pain. To my understanding, it is a fundamental human experience for people to suppress and avoid emotional vulnerability as long as possible. Sometimes all we need is someone to hold our hands while we’re crossing that emotionally scary bridge.
When we start looking at the reasons why such a transformative experience is able to take place in a touch therapy session, it’s important to understand biochemistry and the Polyvagal theory. There’s the possibility for greater nervous system synchrony to grow between the therapist and client in a safe therapeutic environment. The therapist’s autonomic nervous system may start to mirror the client’s system, and vice versa. You can read this interesting article in Nature to find out more about synchrony. Even though I have certainly experienced this biochemical connection in my own practice, more studies need to be conducted on the mirroring effects of nervous system synchrony in a therapeutic cuddle session.
To experience the power of touch and see for yourself how it can help when suffering emotional pain, book a cuddle session with one of our trained and DBS-checked practitioners online.