I have a love-hate relationship with hearing about opposition to my field. As you can imagine, I run into it a lot be it at networking events, on my own Facebook page, articles, my own family members, the comments section of the articles about me, and various other places. I love hearing it because it means there's something to teach, but I hate it because sometimes people aren't open to learning. I'm going to assume that you're open to learning if you're reading this post.
I read an article recently about someone that thinks this field is turning cuddling into a commodity. And I want to challenge this idea.
This part stood out the most:
Is it not inherently contradictory to be aware of the fact that the cuddler is paid to make you feel relaxed and that the relationship you build with them is artificial, to say the least? Can it replace real human empathy, or can empathy be bought?
So a couple points on that:
1. Yes, I am paid to cuddle. I give touch to people that would otherwise not be able to receive it OR feel comfortable asking for it. Some of my clients have a very hard time asking for virtually anything, much less close proximity to someone so they feel connected. My ultimate goal is to put myself out of a job with a client so they get what they want in the capacity I can help them, although I am here if they need or want me.
2. Yes, I am paid to make you feel relaxed. There are other fields that do this as well that also incorporate touch, a short list of those things being: massage therapy, some styles of Reiki, Reflexology, Craniosacral therapy, etc. All of these are options, and people come to professional cuddlers for similar but not quite the same reasons. We are a bit more flexible and, as of right now, more basic in what we offer. However, many clients do just want to relax and feel someone else next to them and paying for a more structured way of doing that doesn't appeal to this person. Professional cuddling doesn't require you to do anything like lay down on your back and bare your back or go in a really quiet room with some gentle music and candles lit. You can stay in an environment and in clothing that is comfortable and familiar to you and still get relaxing benefits. Especially for those with anxiety, this is super appealing.
3. I've had my share of managing the client/snuggler relationship. There's people that shouldn't use this service-- of course, none the least being people that are looking for a sexual side to it, but there's also people that force the emotional aspect to be something it's not. On my end, every emotion, every word I say to a client, and every bit of the relationship I build with my clients is genuine-- and some have discovered that almost to a fault.
I'll never forget when someone who had seen a few cuddlers said to me while cuddling, "Tell me you love me." I paused, considered how to respond to this request, and said, "I can't in good faith say that to you and mean it. I do really enjoy cuddling with you though." He laughed heartily at that. "Some cuddlers are good actors, but I like that you don't do that." He said. I think that moment built our client/snuggler relationship because he could trust that what I gave to him was honest and real.
This all said, yes we can only give so much to our clients. We're not meant to replace romantic partners, but we can give in a very specific capacity that may be missing in in their life right now. Also on that note, I have worked with married people before and helped them when their spouses couldn't be for them in the capacity that they wanted-- a medical reason they can't cuddle, a spouse that's been on the road and absent, a really difficult trauma in the family that's made the spouse distant because they're attending to their own personal things and don't want even the slightest touch while they're so wound up, and various other reasons-- and I've found that many of the marriages are actually strengthened because now this innocent and basic touch need is being met through me and there's no resentment for the other partner for not being able to provide it (disclaimer: I can't fix relationships that have many other interpersonal issues. Please don't ask me to).
4. I care for most everyone that I meet. My care does not have a price tag, and I'll give free advice and resources to people I want to see get better (though I tread very carefully on giving advice with clients). Hugs are free. Hugs are short and easy. Anyone can do that, and I'd love to see a society where they're more freely offered. Making time for the people I work with to give in a bigger and longer capacity than I normally do (I'm talking hours at a time) is important to me, but yes, that requires compensation for me to be able to do that. Why? Because it is extensive time and energy I am taking out to help you specifically in multiple ways beyond just giving a hug and being there. As a friend, the extent of what is expected is much more loosely defined and less stringent than what I offer as a snuggler (though I offer quite a bit to everyone I see and work with whenever possible).
I find it interesting that we still undervalue emotional labor so much in our society, which tends to be a big part of the work that I do. This in itself is something that yes, friends can provide, and yes, professionals can provide. I'd say that professionals can provide it in a different capacity than those that don't work in the field not just because they receive training in it but because they are exposed to it more acutely through their work, so we have the ability to handle it a different way and see where our boundaries and limits for being able to provide are-- in how often we see clients, in the hours and times we see clients, in setting a container for what level of involvement we'll get into helping our clients directly with what they bring to us, etc. At least for me, empathy is raw, and it is genuine regardless of how it is obtained. That isn't something you can just give on command.
It is this reason why not just anyone can be a professional snuggler. That genuine care, the unquestionable empathy, and that uncanny ability to help people relax in your presence are essential things about being a professional snuggler.
And, last but not least (and also on a lighter note)
5. If you can find someone to cuddle with, GREAT! If you can find someone to give you a massage, GREAT! If you can find someone to do a little energy healing on you, GREAT! If you can find someone that will give you some free life coaching, GREAT!
These all have existed, are done for free amongst friends that don't necessarily do it for a living (and some that do), and are accessible. And some would rather see a professional. I think both are totally fine and wonderful things.
Holding back on cuddling is not a thing that needs to happen just because you're not getting paid for it. I do it in a fully genuine but different capacity than the everyday (although it simulates normal environment), but if you can get this elsewhere and be satisfied then I am so, so happy you can. If you're not getting that or if you aren't satisfied enough from that (much like your friend can massage your back but a professional may do a better job), feel free to reach out.