A Healthy Voyeurism

By on May 8, 2014
girl looking out window

I came across an interesting article that said we all love voyeurism. I’m not referring to sexual voyeurism, even though part of the article mentions a strange setup between some couples and a photographer.

What made this article interesting to me was how it nailed a truth: being a voyeur—or one who looks—on some level is enjoyable and healthy. Think about your favorite movies, books, and speakers. What is it that makes you like them? It’s probably because the person revealed some intimate truth.

The book that quickly came to my mind is Wild. What made this story so intriguing is the author Cheryl Strayed’s vivid description of a dark time in her life. She was a young woman who had just lost her mother to cancer. She felt like an orphan, so she turned to affairs and drugs even though she was married. Eventually she divorced, filled a giant pack with essentials, and hiked 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. The book is graphic; the reader lives inside the fear and longings of someone searching for comfort.

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I also thought about Brené Brown and her astronomical success. Her TED talk has over a million views. Why the success? Because she tapped into the universal topics of shame and vulnerability, the qualities we all experience, but the ones nobody wants to talk about. In her bestselling books Brown shared her academic research, but she included the shame and vulnerability stories of the men and women she’s met, as well as many of her own.

What makes megabloggers like Glennon Doyle’s Momastary successful? Almost always it’s because they talk about things most of us would typically hide. We get to live vicariously—voyeuristically—in their worlds.

Towards the end of the voyeurism article, the author encourages readers to take a risk and share something vulnerable because there are many positive side effects. He says, “Sharing your life with others is a great thing. It lets people know that their own horror story of a life is not so unusual.”

Now I’m not advocating oversharing, sexual touch, creepy voyeurism, or anything inpropriate, but I thought of something funny that happened last Sunday that I could risk sharing with you:

We had some out of town friends over for a BBQ on the deck. My daughter and her husband joined us. I went into the house to grab some water and when I came back out, I had to squeeze between the chair where my husband was sitting, and the house in order to get back to my spot. Without thinking, I slipped my hand through my husbands gray hair, and down around his neck, ear, cheek, under his chin, and towards the top of his chest. It was my usual love touch. Very intimate. Only guess what? The person wasn’t my husband! It was our friend Brian. Yes, I had imbibed in one glass of wine, but the mistake is understandable. Brian and John look identical from the back of their heads, they both have gray hair, and they were sitting right next to each other.

Brian thought it was his wife Carol touching him, but at the same time he realized he was looking at Carol. He flipped his head around at the same moment I understood what I had done. All six of use erupted in laughter. Tears streamed from our eyes. (I’m still laughing!)

I sat down and the conversation turned to other topics, but I continued to reflect on my own stressful week and the power of touch. I had been nervous about some medical tests that someone had forewarned would be excruciating. When I relayed this to the doctor, he and his nurse professionally explained the details ahead of time. Then the doctor touched me lightly on the shoulder and reassured me it wouldn’t be bad. It was the touch that caused me to relax.

“Mmm, maybe a (unintended) tender touch from a friend was comforting to Brian in some small way.” He and Carol have had a heck of a year. They moved from Colorado to Texas for Carol’s job. They rented their Colorado home to a man who turned out to be a drug dealer that did tens of thousands of dollars of damage to it. Then Brian was laid off work because he kept forgetting things. Turns our he had a brain tumor.

Our time here on earth is short, and times are hard. Friends are precious. Health is fragile. Maybe we could all give and take a little more love, touch, and authenticity in our lives.

For more, read what the latest clinical research shows about pain and touch.

Can you think of a time when someone’s authenticity or gentle touch helped you?


Originally posted on Lucille’s blog.

About Lucille Zimmerman

Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University. She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice." You can find her at www.LucilleZimmerman.com.

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A Healthy Voyeurism