When I heard about cuddling as a profession I was intrigued.
I’ve always enjoyed showing affection through touch. So when I heard that I could translate that natural inclination into work that I could share with people, I jumped in enthusiastically and became a professional cuddler.
Here are 10 things I’ve learned along the way:
PROFESSIONALS GET NERVOUS TOO
Before my first session as a client (I wanted to experience it from the client’s perspective first) I was surprised to find myself super nervous. I had sweaty palms, fast-beating heart, the whole flurry of physical alarm bells! “It’s cuddling,” I told myself. “Why should I be nervous?” But I had to acknowledge that I was about to share this potentially very intimate experience with a guy I had met just once before, at a Cuddle Party, appropriately enough.
As an experienced Cuddlist, he reassured me that getting nervous and feeling awkward happens to both clients and professional cuddlers. Cuddling is about being human and creating a safe space to show up with all our feelings.
CUDDLING MIGHT SOUND LIKE NO BIG DEAL BUT IT CAN BE VERY INTIMATE
Touch is a basic need we all have but living in a not so touchy-feely culture, it can be hard to find ways to meet that need. I’ve heard people say that cuddling can be more intimate than sex. With sex, we have a set of conditioned expectations and ways of behaving. We can easily fall back on a default “script.” For example, if two people are holding each other, it must mean the the door is open for something sexual to come next.
With cuddling, we’re in new territory. Nothing is taken for granted. Instead, we create an experience with another person based on feeling and what we want in that moment. Without a “script” it might feel more intimate to hold eye-contact or hold hands than to have sex.
CUDDLING COMMUNICATION SKILLS WILL HELP IN YOUR DAILY LIFE
Knowing one’s boundaries, asking for what you want, getting comfortable saying NO – these are huge! So much of the work I do in my sessions is sharing clear communication with clients. It’s often very hard for clients to ask for what they want. Sometimes they don’t even know what that is, much less feel comfortable asking for it. Saying no can also feel very difficult for people in this kind of setting. But that’s what’s amazing about cuddling, it’s a space where we get to practice these skills. These communication skills are human connection skills. As we practice them, we become more confident about having our needs met and being able to trust and connect deeply with other people.
BEGINNER’S MIND. ASSUME NOTHING
I’ve learned not to get in my head and not to think I know beforehand what is going to happen. Just because I like to be touched or held in a certain way, that doesn’t mean everyone else likes the same thing. So the practice is to stay awake and present in each moment. What is happening here, right now, with this person? Bringing this attitude keeps things fresh and interesting.
I WASN’T AS OPEN AS I THOUGHT
And that is ok. When I started cuddling I felt that I would be a natural at it. My background as a bodyworker and coach and my nurturing personality made me feel like I was born to do this. I saw the potential for healing and connection that it offers. What I did not expect was to find that there were times when I was not as “open” as I thought I should be. The closeness that happens in cuddling can feel very vulnerable and taking care of yourself means not forcing yourself to be more “open” than you really feel.
I had to look at this expectation within myself. Because if I was offering a safe space for my clients to honor their own boundaries, I had to get really honest about my own limits on any given day. So it became part of my own practice and my own healing as I did this work.
IT’S OFTEN HARDER TO RECEIVE THAN TO GIVE
As a healer/coach I felt quite skilled in creating a space where my clients could feel free to open up and have a transformative experience. But with cuddling, I was also receiving in the process. I saw how much easier I find it to take care of someone else. It’s much more vulnerable to also receive.
Allowing ourselves to receive and let in that touch or attention from another person can feel confronting if we feel we should be “taking care” of them. Letting go of that expectation opens us up to have a new level of freedom and connection.
THE RECIPROCAL NATURE OF CUDDLING MAKES IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER MODALITIES
Cuddling is like a partnered dance, when you get into a great flow, you can’t quite tell who is “leading” and who is “following”—you are creating the experience together. When you give touch, you cannot help but receive in the same moment. When you hug or hold someone, you are also being hugged and held. That makes professional cuddling totally different from other therapies such as massage where there is a clear “giver” and “receiver”. It has been a great opportunity to grow in my ability to be real in connection with my clients, and that benefits us both.
DON’T PUSH THROUGH RESISTANCE
Honor it. Be curious about it. Inquire and play with it. If your body doesn’t feel safe, there will be clues or even just a vague feeling that says “NO”. Trust that. You can’t fake safety. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t force yourself or your body. Many of us have more resistance to touching and closeness than we even realize. It’s important to not blast through that resistance but instead to create safety and inquire. You can still find your edge and be with some discomfort as a way to grow but go at a slow enough pace that you can actually notice where that edge is.
A cuddling session is a great space to get in touch with our own sense of what feels safe and practice taking care of ourselves. This can be powerful because it’s not theoretical, it’s happening in real time with another human being.
VULNERABILITY IS POWER
This idea has become cliche in personal development circles but it holds true. Without vulnerability, there is no real intimacy or connection. It takes vulnerability to be open about our needs with another person, to let ourselves be seen without masks, without performing. And yet when we take the risk to be vulnerable and real, we are rewarded with the power of connection, not only with the person who is sharing that moment, but also with ourselves.
TOUCH IS AS VITAL AS FOOD OR SLEEP
People might hear about cuddling and think it sounds self-indulgent. Not so! Touch is vital. Unlike food or sleep, you can go without touch and not appear to be suffering from missing that “nutrient”, but studies done with babies who didn’t get touched showed what researchers called “failure to thrive.” That need for nurturing touch doesn’t go away once we’re adults. If it isn’t met, it goes underground and might express itself in any number of addictive behaviors through which we try to get those needs met. Compulsive eating, excessive drinking, workaholism, you name it.When we do get the touch that is so vital to our wellbeing, many of our issues and compulsions naturally fall away. We find ourselves back in our natural state of being grounded, expansive and happy to be alive.
I have learned A LOT through working as a professional Cuddlist. This work has been healing and profound, fun, and full of surprises. I feel lucky that I came across Cuddlist.com and found out that I could share this with people professionally. I know people out there need this. Until we build a culture where people are able to get the touch and connection that they need to thrive, we’ll definitely need professional cuddling. See you on the cuddle mat!
Patricia is a former Professional Cuddler with Cuddlist.com and she is based out of NYC. Her skills & specialties are Bodywork Life Coaching Health & Nutrition Counseling Yoga.