(From Sexual Health and Erotic Freedom by Barnaby Barratt)
Self-administrated touch integrates, soothes or comforts, and gives us a psychologically fundamental sense of worthiness and competence – which is commonly called “self-esteem.” It is the antidote to shame. The “skin envelope” defines where, and how, we are in our sensual and existential foundation – the capacity to engage in active self-stimulation of our own skin envelope is thus essential to the formation of a healthy and happy sense of “self” in at least five ways. First, self-stimulation “in-forms” or integrates our child. It informs us where the sensual space of our “self” has it’ margins, that sensual boundary where – so to speak – “self” appears to end and the rest of the “world” appears to begin. Thus, returning to the process of self-stimulation, and knowing one has the intentional ability to choose such a return, centers our “self” in a profoundly healthy sense.
Second, pleasurable self-touching soothes or comforts us when we are distraught, by alleviating our fearful anxieties, and indeed by helping us – at least to some degree – to achieve a letting-go of our judgmental mind, our fear-based patterns of thinking. The gentle enjoyment of touching grounds experience in the present moment, and quietens the chattering mind. Third, these abilities, which serve reliably to ground ourselves in our bodies and to center ourselves in pleasure, are the wellspring of our sense of being loveable. By this, I mean that we come to feel basically worthy and competent in our sense of being-in-the-world. As this occurs, we become able to experience more clearly the extent to which our world is trustworthy.
When these three contributions of self-touching are facilitated, self-pleasuring constitutes and catalyzes our most basic human capacities of feeling lovable, of being able to love and of finding spiritual bliss. However, when these three contributions of self-touching to physical and emotional development are interrupted, egotism substitutes for what I am calling a “healthy sense of self.” Disturbances in these developments of self-touching, the progression from being touched to touching ourselves, lead to profound unhappiness throughout our lives – by which I refer to the extent that we all wrestle with psychotic, neurotic, and addictive processes. Psychoanalysis shows us how everyone suffers, to some degree, from these constituents to our personality. We also know that the psychotic, neurotic, and addictive components to our mental functioning.