The accepted norm might be unacceptable
My father tickled me throughout my childhood, but I didn’t realize until I was an adult, that it had created lasting damage in my body and in my psyche. Tickling was one acceptable way for fathers to show love to their children in the 1950’s and 60’s. But, as it turns out, tickling is not for everyone. As I’ve done more research on the subject over the years, I’ve discovered that, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to be tickled. In some situations, children like light, moving touch on their arms or head which actually relaxes them and helps them go to sleep.
When loving touch is missing
As a little girl, I wanted to be loved by my father and feel connected to him. The main way this happened though, was by him tickling me. As a young mother, I learned from my first alternative therapist, that being tickled could be categorized as abuse. Initially, I was shocked at the suggestion, as it had never occurred to me. She then asked me how it felt to be tickled. Upon reflection, I realized that, in the moment, I had hated it. And, I hated being tickled. I hated being held down by my father so that he could tickle me.
Confusing responses to being tickled
The laughter of a child seems to give the parent permission to continue tickling. Even though I might have been laughing, that was only because tickling can cause a nervous laugh to occur. (There are numerous articles on this topic). Tickling responses are more complicated than we realize, where smiles and laughter are actually automatic fight and flight responses that don’t reflect how the child truly feels in the moment. These responses can be easily misinterpreted as enjoyment instead of the panic they really portray.
Healthy vs unhealthy
In most areas of life, we define shared activities as healthy when they are cooperatively accepted. That means, both parties agree to the shared activity. Typically, when one person says, “No, I don’t want to do that,” then it’s best to honor the request and not do it.
Healthy tickling could be defined as actions that are soothing and not over-exciting, that the child agrees to receive, i.e., gives permission to receive. Some light moving touch has been helpful to children going to sleep.
Only with permission
It is important to recognize when tickling is healthy and when it is unhealthy. Similarly, in situations where tickling is concerned, there needs to be common agreement. When it is impossible to understand whether someone gives permission to be tickled or not, perhaps it’s best to err on the cautious side, and to not violate free will inadvertently. Commonly, babies and small children are rarely given a voice or a choice in the matter.
Tickling made me feel unsafe and controlled
Being tickled as a young child made me feel unsafe, controlled and dominated by someone else. Loss of free will is not enjoyable. My dad’s tickling was a paralyzing experience each time. Even if I begged my father to stop, he rarely did. Do I wish that I had never been tickled by my father? Yes, emphatically so.
The hidden damage from tickling
I would have loved to have had a body that never felt unsafe, never had to brace or tense up at the thought of being touched. It would’ve been amazing to have a body that was calm, relaxed, and safe at all times. Unknowingly, and unintentionally my father took that away from me.
I don’t think he would have tickled me, if he had realized the damage it was causing. Most babies are born being incredibly flexible; I’d like to think I was at one point. However, being tickled repeatedly until 10 years of age, created long lasting trauma and tension in my body.
Massage therapy to the rescue
In the late 1990’s, I offered self-healing mentoring for others in an office in town. Luckily for me, the person who rented the office next to me was a massage therapist. She and I began trading sessions almost on a weekly basis. She mentioned after trading for a year, that my body had been the tensest body she had ever worked on.
Hot towels and breathing out tension
What the massage therapist found was that any touch to my back or my feet set off ticklish spasms. As those had been the main areas that my father tickled me, this was not surprising. The massage therapist came up with a brilliant solution to transform my ticklish body. She steamed towels in a crock pot with herbs and then placed these hot towels onto my ticklish areas. She would then massage my body through the steaming hot towels.
While she was doing this, I would breathe in Light and breathe out fear, anxiety, panic, terror, anger, hatred, etc. Amazingly, over time, we were able to completely heal the ticklish layer in my body. It was astounding to me, almost miraculous, that my body could feel calm and safe being touched again.
Tickling leaves long-lasting effects
The long-lasting effects caused by tickling are multi-layered and must be transformed gradually over time. As I have shared, I had success releasing initial layers of the physical effects from tickling by receiving massage therapy combined with steaming hot towels. During these sessions, I simultaneously focused on releasing the mental-emotional trauma using the Breathe in Light technique.
By addressing all three layers at the same time; physical, mental and emotional, I was able to create incredible relief and deep healing. While this focused work on healing these long-lasting effects took months to complete, the positive result was to finally have a body that could experience relaxation.
It’s important to know however, that once the initial layers of trauma have been transformed and released, there are usually more layers to work on, over time. You will know when the next layer is ready to be transformed.
What I am currently addressing now, is the tendency for my body to stay in a ‘fight or flight’ –tense mode. This is again, a combination of the mental-emotional layers impacting the physical layers.
I am the eternal optimist; I believe everything can be healed, over time. I am willing to address each layer as it arises, until there are no more layers left.
I used illustrative journaling to help me process this current layer. I thought of how I had felt while being tickled and how I felt about tickling in general and let the stream of consciousness words spill onto the paper. (If you click on the image on the left, it will enlarge for you to read each word.)
Meditative visualization aids the transformation
Next, I created a meditative visualization to call in both Divine Light and Divine helpers to aid in transforming these layers. Each time I repeat this visualization, I release and transform even more of this old trauma.
Forgive them, for they know not what they do…
This quote from the Bible makes it easier for me to forgive my father.
Exploring this type of physical, mental and emotional damage may shine a light on how traumatic tickling can be. Helping others realize that there are safer, more appropriate ways to interact with children is imperative.
All types of trauma have physical, mental and emotional layers
The long-lasting effects of most trauma will be gradually transformed by using the accepted therapies, with additional focus on bodywork sessions and the Breathe in Light technique.
Transforming the trauma brings hope
I know when I ask for help from the Divine, God, the Universe, and all the healing energies of Light and Love, anything can be transformed. I hope that you find this to be true in your own life.
In my next blog, I offer a guided visualization to transform trauma. Whether you were also tickled against your will as a child or are struggling from the after effects of other trauma, this visualization may provide just the help you are looking for.
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