As we get this group cuddle thing up and running I wanted to take a minute to share a little more about one of the workshop exercises as there’s not much time to explain at the events.
The first exercise we do is called the “No Thank You Exercise.” This happens after we:
1) Each introduce ourselves by whatever appropriate name we prefer to go by for the evening, how we are feeling right then, and anything the group should know about us (i.e. trauma, triggers, intentions, hopes, etc.).
2) Go over 8 rules for the evening: arrive and stay sober, confidentiality, no touch required ever, you are always welcome to change your mind, respect boundaries of ourselves and others, keep all touch G rated, if you get aroused please switch poses or change activities, and utilize the Ask and Wait Method which is just like it sounds with the addition of using neutral body language when asking and waiting for a response.
We then put you with a partner with the premise that no touch is allowed. If it’s a large group we will have you state your name again to your partner (without touching) and then take turns asking for a hug. The partner then says “No thank you.” regardless of if they want a hug or not for the time being. It is then the asker’s turn to say something kind and accepting to the person who said “No thank you.” We have you reverse roles, and practice this with a few more people so everyone has at least a few opportunities to practice this method.
This concept of respecting boundaries with enthusiasm does many things:
- It shows us that this person knows their boundaries and is willing to say no when something doesn’t work for them.
- It helps us understand that every “Yes” we get is a true yes and not given out of obligation or pressure.
- It takes the pressure/obligation off of each of us to say “yes” when we are actually a “no” because in this space we know people are respecting themselves and each other. There is no pressure here to give what we perceive as the social normative response.
- It gives us the right to say no when we don’t want to do something. (btw- I’m driving myself crazy trying to figure out where I should be putting quotes and knowing how awful my grammar is in this post. I also am deciding to accept that I don’t know all the things and that you all will correct me if if bothers you enough and I can update it as needed. Thank you for this.)
- It helps us deal with rejection by practicing hearing it and responding in a kind way.
- It gives us an opportunity to praise those who are giving only true consent and following their heart.
- It helps us learn how to be ok with a “no” by putting value in the “yes.”
- It teaches us to respect ourselves by saying no even when it’s hard.
- It gives us an opportunity to learn new ways to praise others for being true to themselves.
- It reminds us that we aren’t always on the same page with those around us, and it gives us that time to consider the feelings of ourselves and others.
I’m certain you all can come up with even more, but that seems clear for now.
I also wanted to throw out some options we can use in our day to day lives to help take the sting out of a no when we hear it:
- Thank you for taking care of yourself.
- You knowing your boundaries and sticking up for what’s right for you makes me feel safe.
- I appreciate you knowing what’s right for you.
- Thank you for being real with me.
- I hear you and I accept where you are at.
- Your honesty makes me feel trusted, and I appreciate that.
- Thank you for knowing you are safe to give a real answer with me.
- You respecting your boundaries makes me feel safe to respect my own.
Rejection is hard, and it sucks. This i know from personal experience. I spent a decade being rejected thousands of times by the one person who was supposed to love me more than anyone else. I know how it feels to ask, and I know how it feels to go months and years without my own needs being met. One thing I have learned is that for me, rejection is simply fear of abandonment. It’s vulnerable, and it hurts to feel alone. To feel like no one understands me or cares for me is tragic. Living this way is debilitating. After going through that whole mess at the end of 2015 and seeing a therapist I have learned that I can no longer be abandoned because wherever I go, there I am (even when I don’t want me to be). haha. But for serious, I always have me, and therefor I can never be alone. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to everyone, but to me it means that rejection is something I can deal with because now when I ask for something that someone doesn’t have to give I know that I can and will find a way to meet that need for myself.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t need other people. Quite the contrary. It does mean that if someone I ask something of cannot/will not fill that role for me, I have the ability to hear and accept that. I recognize that I wouldn’t want to accept a yes from someone who truly didn’t want to give it. By taking responsibility for hearing and accepting the no from others, I have been giving the right and responsibility to do so from myself as well. Learning this lesson means that I will no longer say yes to things when I don’t have them to give.
As a people pleaser I still have some guilt that comes up when I say no to things, but I say it anyway now. I don’t agree to things anymore that I don’t want to or that I don’t truly feel I am capable of giving freely. This is a work in progress for me, and I am certain it will take a lifetime to master. I am grateful to have this work to do though. Hopefully knowing a bit about my journey, and a little about the context behind the yeses and no’s in my world and environments will help you on this journey as well.
Peace, Love, and Cuddles,
Samantha Hess (: