In the early years of Real Love, I explained the principles to a great many people, in person, by phone, and in writing. Our first Real Love groups were all men, and yet we discovered that there was something immediately healing and connecting about physical touch. Initially, this touching was awkward, because men generally go out of their way to avoid touching each other.
For many years, I touched only men. I wanted no confusion in our group—nor in my own mind—about the motivation for touching people. I continued to explore touching, however and found that it had an enormously healing effect. People tend to spend far too much time in their heads, and physical touch—being held, specifically—tended to stop that.
The Effects of Being Held
A great many people have been through many years—even decades—of therapy and other helping modalities without significant improvement. Our unhappiness derives from deep emotional wounds, not from confusion about intellectual concepts. And yet therapy usually focuses on an intellectual dissection of past and present events. Sometimes clever diagnoses are employed, but in the end, the wounds remain.
Holding alone is meaningless, but when accompanied by genuine unconditional love, physical holding can become a singularly powerful way to connect to another person, establish trust, and facilitate the healing of deep and complicated wounds. Holding alone doesn’t create love, but holding does sometimes communicate love in a way that is otherwise impossible. Holding is ONLY a way of intensifying love that is real.
I don’t believe I could communicate the role of holding better than was expressed to me by a woman I once loved, taught, and held. In her words:
“I have been deeply unhappy all my life, traumatized in more ways than I can count. I had lost all trust in others, as well as hope for myself. For thirty years I’ve been seeking healing—with every program and technique known to man, including work with dozens of therapists. But every approach has failed, leading only to more frustration. I became sick of one brilliant “insight” after another.
“I've heard insights referred to as emotional running in place, and I'm inclined to agree. I see them as IMITATION and addictive healing. I kept seeking the next insight—just like it was the next "fix"—believing it would be the one that would change my life. Meanwhile, decades were passing by and my emotional state was NOT changing.
“It’s much like the relationship between sex and love. Sex can be a fun part of love—in a committed relationship—but sex is not love and usually becomes a substitute for it. Similarly, insights can be included in True Healing but for me became an addictive, imitation SUBSTITUTE for True Healing.
“I now see this so clearly: TRUST is the ONLY thing that is bringing me True Healing. I'm experiencing more true emotional healing & transformation in the last several weeks of trusting than I ever did in thirty years of being in multiple recovery and transformational programs, both as a student and teacher. It kept me busy and occupied for decades but produced no healing.
“To be fair to myself and those programs, I wasn't CAPABLE of trust. I had never seen it, and no one had ever taught me to trust. When you loved me unconditionally, and when you held me, you generated a spark of trust that began the healing. When I felt the healing, I trusted even more. And it keeps getting better. After trying every other method on earth, I am certain that it was the physical holding—in a completely safe and loving way—that bypassed my brain and healed the early wounds that I had never addressed—the wounds that were killing me.
“Prior to being held like a child, I had never really trusted anyone. Now I can feel my body and soul healing for the first time. I’m feeling hope in a world that before this I had seen only as dark, confusing, painful, and even worth living. It all began with the pure and child-like language of being held.”
Appropriate Holding Method
First, holding is NOT a technique. Physical holding is one means of communicating unconditional love to people. If used as a technique, holding is simply an awkward physical act.
But for now, let’s assume that it becomes appropriate and desirable for me to hold you. I could hold you in a number of ways, but over many years I have learned a “method” of holding that has proven to be most effective emotionally and simple physically.
Let’s suppose that I’m sitting at the left end of a couch—left being determined from my sitting position, not by someone facing the couch. You stand (1) slightly to my right, (2) facing away from me, (3) with your right knee touching the couch and your left knee touching my right knee. In this position, when you sit down, you unavoidably find yourself sitting on my lap. You extend your right arm under my left arm and behind my back, and then in one motion you lie down so that your head and neck rest on the inside of my left elbow, and you swivel your left hip toward me while lifting your knees up onto the couch. The end result is that your chest is pressed against mine, and your right cheek is resting against my shoulder. Your right hip is secured between my legs, which are slightly spread in such a way that you don’t slide around, and your weight is evenly distributed on my legs. This is an intimate position that few people have experienced.
Dangers and Wisdom of Holding
If someone doesn’t know what they’re doing with holding, they can actually hurt people. If holding is done for any purpose other than communicating Real Love, both parties can become even more confused about what unconditional love is. Nobody needs more confusion on this subject. If you are not utterly secure in feeling loved, you WILL use holding to get love from those you hold, and that will not serve you or others well.
Holding can cause sexual feelings that would tend to eliminate any possibility of giving or feeling unconditional love. Until you do feel certain about your motivations in holding people, it is best to hold people for whom you have no sexual attraction whatever. Heterosexual men, for example, would begin—and continue for some time—to hold other “straight” men.
With regrettable frequency, I see people who distort and misuse Real Love such that it becomes yet another form of Imitation Love. Holding is one example of this potential distortion. We tend to enjoy physical touch, but “enjoyment” is NOT the same as happiness. We see this confusion between enjoyment and happiness in sex, drugs, many hobbies, and the excitement of adventure, shopping, gambling, and more. Holding can be most enjoyable, but many people use it as a form of imitation safety, pleasure, and so on. Some groups become obsessed with physical holding, turning this potentially powerful and even sacred activity into a kind of plaything. Rare coaches advertise their availability as “professional cuddlers,” which is not in harmony with the principles of Real Love.
Find someone experienced at holding, and trust that person to communicate Real Love to you in this profound way. Choose someone for whom you feel no sexual attraction at all, and if it helps you to feel more comfortable, invite a third person to be in the room with you. Then allow the love to heal your wounds and change your entire perception of love and happiness.
Learn how to truly love others and give them what they need.