I remember a moment at a family gathering. A now “ex” relative I wasn’t fond of, was going around the room hugging everyone, whether she knew them or not.
I saw the facial expressions of many unwilling recipients who didn’t know how to say, “No” in this situation.
It was like a wave of awkward was growing, and headed my way. Then the inevitable happened, she came for me.
Empowered by the needs to spare myself unwanted physical contact, and put an end to the awkward feeling in the room, I acted.
I extended my arm, and with palm facing her I declared, “I’m good.”
Stopped her dead in her tracks.
This adult, ended up making a pouty face, and walking away. Even after I reassured her my issues were sensory, and not personal.
I don’t remember any feedback I received from others in the room. Doesn’t matter anyway, I feel good about how I stood up for myself in that moment by setting a boundary.
Sure I could’ve said, “Pardon me madame, but I don’t think we’ve been introduced. Would it be terribly inconvenient if I requested a simple knuckle bump this time around?”
It’s difficult to be eloquent and resourceful the more anxious you become. I went with what I could get out.
Some people on the spectrum will hit, shout or push others away, if they fear being touched in a way that feels threatening.
I’m hyper-sensitive to touch, the wrong touch can feel overwhelming, and send me into fight-or-flight. I become hostile, and want to lash out. I feel like pushing the person away. It takes a lot of strength to contain that impulse. I often feel tired afterward.
When in public, a restaurant or theater, I try to position myself so no one can brush up against me. It’s worse if I can’t see it coming. My nervous system treats it like an attack. Good old autism at play.
It’s one of the reasons I avoid handshakes. If the touch feels weird I need to rub the spot on my hand that feels weird. The deep pressure on that spot helps calm things down.
But if the other person sees you do it – Awkward!
Touch is something I wish more people would ask permission to do. I ask for permission, because I understand how it feels to sometimes fear touch.
You can imagine how stressed I already was by being at a family gathering. Now I risked being thrust closer to the edge by unwanted touching, by someone I didn’t like.
I’d had it with the input bombardment at that point. I wasn’t just setting a boundary with her. In a way, I was saying, “enough already”, to the situation.
In the years since I’ve become more skilled at diplomatic self-advocacy. I rehearse in my head, what I’ll say if I need to set a boundary in a respectful way.
I love sharing my strategies with my members, and watching their relationships transform.
When you prioritize doing what you need so you can bring your most resourceful self to the table, everybody wins.
Because in advocating for yourself, you give others permission to do the same.