To Hug or Not

I LOVE hugs!  I think hugs are a wonderful way to share respect, affection and true appreciation for and with another person.  Plus they just plain feel good.

I’m not talking about the air hugs that you see fake people do, or people who are afraid to touch another human being.  I’m talking about the sink-right-into-it-and-hold-it-for-a-good-long-time hug.  The kind where you squeeze each other hard enough that it feels like a snug embrace, but not so hard that ribs hurt or vertebrae crack (even though your back might need it sometimes).  I was in a cult one time (which is a story for another time), and my teacher gave the most incredible hugs.  You could actually feel him sink into the hug with his whole being.  You felt warm, safe, and cared for.  Those hugs were probably part of why I stayed with that group for as long as I did – even after I realized it was a cult – and maybe why many people stayed as long as they did.

I believe everyone needs hugs, or some other form of positive physical contact.  Studies have proven it, over and over again.  Babies’ brains grow faster, and stronger when positive physical touch is used in their rearing.  People become more well-adjusted beings when they’re hugged often as children.  And many philosophers tout the benefits of hugs.

My mom was a huge fan of Leo Buscaglia.  If you’ve never heard of the man, I highly recommend you check out his speeches available on YouTube.  He talks about love and being connected with others, often with much humor . . . but even more than his wonderful talks, he loved hugs.  He would often talk about hugging random strangers, just to share his love with them.  Occasionally, the strangers would get offended and walk away from him, but quite often, he’d get a hug in return.

As much as I love hugs, I don’t seem to feel that comfortable hugging people that I don’t know.  Yes, there was the time that I got off the bus and hugged random people on the street who were advertising free hugs, but I knew those people were interested in hugs.  Once I know someone likes hugs, I’m all for greeting each other that way, but until I know that, I don’t want to step over any boundaries, or make people feel uncomfortable.  At least . . . that’s what I’d always told myself.  I’ve recently had a couple experiences that make me question the validity of my reasons.

My office had a Halloween party the Friday before the holiday.  People were allowed to dress up and bring their kids for trick or treating around the offices, and then stay for lunch, complete with a costume contest.  Craig came and we both dressed up and participated in the festivities.  I introduced him to people I worked with, and watched him give a hug to one of my fellow admins.  Now, I’ve known this woman for nearly a year.  I think she’s nice, friendly and great at her job, but we’ve never gotten personal with each other, so I was shocked to see that she hugged back.  We talked about both being “huggers”, and all was cool, but it made me wonder why I hadn’t known this about her before, and why I hadn’t simply reached out for the hug, like Craig did.

The other encounter was earlier this week.  I’d gone to a motivational seminar run by two women who led inspiring lives.  It was a women’s-only seminar, designed to give all of us in attendance the tools to live the lives we wanted for ourselves.  They were funny, real, and affectionate women, and I even felt a connection to one of them.  Yet, when the seminar was over, I went up and thanked them for their time and what I learned, but I didn’t reach out to hug them.  I had seen other attendees exchange hugs with these women earlier in the evening, so I could tell they enjoyed hugs too, but I was still hesitant to do so myself.  It was like I felt this invisible wall keeping me from reaching out.

So now I need to ask myself if it’s really the other person’s comfort-level that I’m concerned with, or if it’s, in fact, mine?  Am I so afraid of rejection that I’ll hold off on hugging someone until I’m certain they won’t reject a hug?  Or am I too selective in who I hug?

I’m not sure, but I hope I see someone holding up a sign giving out free hugs soon . . . or maybe I’ll just have to get a nice big hug from Craig tonight.  🙂

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cindy Sample
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 10:04:14

    Hi Alyx. I’m from the Midwest and come from a long line of hand shakers. Even at the holidays my mother shakes her brothers’ hands. I’m not sure if it’s the California sun or the California wine, but ever since I moved to this glorious state I hug everyone. And hopefully they’ll hug back and feel as warm and fuzzy as I do. Hugs and chocolate are the ultimate endorphin booster!

    Reply

  2. Alyx Morgan
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 10:07:16

    LOL I knew there was a reason I liked you! I’m from the Midwest too (Michigan), but my mom was always a hugger, so that’s been passed down to me, thankfully. How cool that you’ve been able to break out of the hand-shaker shell! 🙂

    Reply

  3. Dana
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 11:07:44

    I come from a very non-huggy family (not that we didn’t get physical affection as children, but as adults… just not so much hugging went on) and I tend to go back and forth on it. I like hugs, but I always seem to put my arms up in a way that clashes with the person trying to hug me or that I’m hugging. I guess I’m a lot like a cat in that if I’m in the mood, HUGS!!! If I’m not, my fur bristles and I hide under a chair.

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Nov 11, 2011 @ 11:18:51

      Hmmm…you, similar to a cat…nah I don’t see it. 😉

      It can be difficult to know the “proper” arm placement when you hug someone, which I can see how that could add to an awkwardness. But – as someone who’s received your hugs – I gotta say, they’re something more people could benefit from! 🙂

      Reply

  4. Dolly Chamberlin
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 13:56:54

    I was not raised in a hugging environment, but I made sure my babes were. I second the recommendation to listen to Leo Buscaglia, if you want to be inspired. I was weened on his first book entitled “Love”. At one time, I owned all his books. Over the years I have shared them as gifts of LOVES to others. He is in the Guiness Book of World Records for having given the most hugs. Thanks for resurfacing this memory. Thoughts of him always bring feelings of warm hugs. & a ;}to my heart. LOVES 🙂 >:d<

    Reply

  5. Trackback: The Ripple Effect | Droppings From the Mind of Alyx

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