Hugs have always been a natural part of my life. Raised in a family of five girls, throughout the decades, we hugged when we came together, when we left, and many times in between. In fact, as children, our mother made us hug and say, “I love you” when we fought with each other.
Hugging is natural in my world.
The comforts of hugs carried forward to my love relationships; when times were dark, a hug was always the beginning of healing. I learned to say, “I need a hug,” when it was true.
Hugs have had a bad reputation over the years. While working in education, teachers were instructed not to hug kids to avoid interpretation or accusations of sexual abuse. In counseling, I was sensitive to the same. Handshakes and side hugs replaced the therapeutic hug.
There are bad hugs, and I hope most of us know the difference—I call those creepy, but I’ve experienced few. There are also hugs resembling a dead-fish handshake. They give the message of being uncomfortable—unwelcome. I immediately sense my overstepping and file, “Oops,” for that person.
This week I received a hug so solid and warm I asked for a second one. It reminded me of hugs from my younger sister, who we lost in 2017. Both gave hugs leaving me with a rare moment of knowing, “Ah, all is good.”
Touch is vital for thriving, and each person is responsible for getting and giving appropriate touch, including sincere hugs. I often think of people deprived of the human connection of contact, especially the elderly who live alone and seldom see family.
We can all improve our mental health while contributing to the wellness of others if we hug more often. Even a side hug or a pat on the arm is better than nothing. We need twelve hugs a day, and since I can go days with just me and Lucy (wild puppy) when I get the chance, I store up hugs to recover from past deprivation and build a future reserve.
Some people don’t like hugs, and because of my upbringing, I think it’s odd, but I sense it immediately and respect their discomfort. Boundaries are also a part of mental health, and we need to respect those of others.
I know I win as I ponder how many hugs I give and how many other people instigate. I often ask, “Can I give you a hug?” Nobody has ever said, “No.”
Sometimes it takes one person to make the first move, and I don’t mind being that person. Think how much healthier our little corner of the world could become if we all received twelve hugs daily. It takes giving and receiving — I’m open to both. How about you?
Until the next time: Live while you live.
Jennifer Goble, Ph.D., LPC, is the author of “My Clients…My Teachers,” and the blogger and writer of Rural Women Stories: www.ruralwomenstories.com.
Powered by WPeMatico