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Personal Space

Hi Sam,

Lately i've been feeling a lot more conscious of the way people touch me, whether its just a hug or someone holding my hand. i have always liked to hug someone and been a very calm person, however for a couple months now i've been feeling a lot more tense when someone goes to hug me, or stroke my hair for an example. its a very complicated thing to explain to family members who have always touched you like a loving and caring person would and I am very worried they wont understand how i have changed so suddenly.

The last time i went to my mum about it (she normally tries to hug me the most) she just started shouting at me that she never gets hugged by anyone and her own husband doesn't touch her any more. She then tried to act as if I dont love her any more.

This has made it even harder for me and i really dont know what to do. I am so scared about people touching me and i want to be supported but i dont know how to get the support i badly need.

Please help me as soon as you can,

Ask Sam

Sam

Hi there,

It’s always your decision whether to hug someone or not. Some people are more comfortable than others with physical ways of showing affection like hugs, hand holding or having your hair stroked, and you don’t need to touch someone or be touched by them if you don’t want to.

Your personal space is your physical body and space around you. You might feel uncomfortable or threatened if someone touches you or comes very close to you without you agreeing that they can. How you feel about being physically close to other people depends on lots of things and you might feel affectionate a lot of the time but also need more personal space at other times.

It can be difficult to be physically and emotionally close to other people when you’re worried or upset about something or when you feel tired or hungry. It’s always okay to say that you don’t feel like hugging at the moment. It’s likely that you’ll feel irritable or anxious if you do something that you don’t really want to. If you put your needs first, then when you feel calmer and you’ve rested, you’re more likely to feel like being affectionate or like you want to showing your feelings in another way.

Hugs and hand holding are only one way of showing other people that you like them, love them or that you care about them. It’s all about finding out how you want to express your feelings and you might feel happier telling them how much you appreciate them, offer to help out with a chore or give your time to listen if they’re upset about something. Other people shouldn’t try to pressure you or try to make you feel guilty for the decisions you make. You could try talking to your mum about how you feel or put your feelings in a letter to her. It can also help to talk to someone you trust.

There might be some people who you don’t want to hug or be physically close to at any time and that’s okay. Remember, you have the right to your own personal space and other people shouldn’t enter that space or touch you without your permission, no matter who they are. Other people should respect your decisions and you don’t need to explain the reason unless you want to.

Thank you for your letter and I hope this advice has helped. You can talk to a counsellor for more support.

Take care,

Sam

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