My dear friend Zan Packard posted a very interesting thought on Facebook. She wrote, “There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.”
My first thought was, “Do you really think there’s a fine line? The two vibrations — of cuddling and controlling — are very different.”
But that’s on the “giving” end.
On the “receiving” side of the affection, things can look and feel very different indeed. It all depends on where the recipient is on his or her journey.
When I first became single again after my marriage, freedom was one of my dominant desires. Anything that felt even remotely clingy sent me running for the hills. So while the guy may have just been acting in a sweetly affectionate way, I perceived it as something very threatening — not threatening to my physical safety, but threatening to my freedom. My response: Run away!
In our society, I suppose it’s more common for men to feel and act this way. Women more typically want security and commitment, and men more typically want freedom or space or at least a little breathing room.
One reason I especially love Zan’s post is because it helped me stop and think, once again, about how our responses have so little to do with the actual outside stimuli.
Someone may indeed intend to sweetly cuddle with us, but our personal experiences and our place in life will color our response to that well-intentioned behavior and may indeed cause a response that’s shocking to the cuddler and perhaps just as shocking to those of us having the dramatic knee-jerk reaction.
The power — or empowerment — comes when we recognize that we can control our response to external stimuli. I can panic and run away when someone tries to get close to me. Or I can take a few deep breaths and remember that this fight-or-flight response is about my desire for freedom (or whatever it might be at the time). Then I can ask myself if the stimulus really does threaten my freedom. In the case of cuddling, probably not so much. So I can choose to step out of my pattern of response and embrace this moment and this person.
I can choose to feel smothered, or I can choose to feel loved. I can choose to feel panic, or I can choose to feel tenderness. I can choose to pull away and distance myself, or I can choose to feel sweet and enjoy a sense of connection. I can block all attempts at love, or I can open to receive.