Day 8

Why are hugs something we are wired to need?  Why are hugs so important to our social, emotional, mental, physical and spiritual development?  Basically, what’s up with the power of THE hug?

I remember when I was about 40…my 78 year-old Mom shared something with me I have never forgotten.

A hug.

This wasn’t any regular ole’ hug…this was a feel it from your heart-bear-embrace-that-warms-you-from-the- inside-kind-of-hug.  I remember exactly where she gave me that hug.  I was preparing to leave her house…my daughter snuggled up underneath a blanket on her couch and my son was at school.  She had been watching my daughter that afternoon while  I was at work.

There was nothing particularly earth-shattering about this day…but the hug…I  simply won’t ever forget it.  I always hugged my mom good-bye (or hello for that matter…we were a fairly affectionate family) but in this instance as I was releasing the quick-nice-to-see-ya-thanks-for-watching-Helen-kind-of-hug, my mom didn’t let go.  She hugged more tightly.

For thirty more seconds, she held on tight.  (Thirty seconds is a long time.  Try it sometime.) I then proceeded to launch into the nice-pat-on-the-back-now-we-are-done-kinda-hug and step away, but she just kept on holding on.  It was at this point that I just gave in.  I surrendered to the hug.

“You know,” she said.  “Sometimes we just all need a hug like this.  I miss them.”

My mom was a very strong independent woman.  She and my dad were divorced in 1975.  I’m not sure she had experienced many bear-heart-to-heart-big-strappin’-hugs like this since then.  (it was now 2000.)

What’s up with our human need for that?  I’m not talking about a sexual-come-on-over-here kind of hug.  I’m talking about that hold me with all your might kind of hug where heart meets heart and belly meets belly.  They last more than a minute and they are, as far as I’m concerned, incredibly enriching and overwhelmingly powerful.

I remember when my children were much smaller…little tykes.   There was nothing better than lifting them off the ground and holding them tightly around their mid-sections, and there little arms around my neck.  We didn’t have to utter a single word.  We could  just be with the hug and know that we were loving and loved… immersed in the warmth of it all.

They are older now and we don’t share bear hugs in quite the same way.  Hank is now taller than me and Helen is a pre-teen.  Our hugs are less frequent, but when we do hug they are still that heart-felt-embrace that, like a deep breath, fill me up.

My daughter and me.

I wonder sometimes about the children (and adults) who don’t get that exchange…who live alone or who are, for whatever reason, unaware of the power of a hug such as this or perhaps even afraid of it.

I wonder if we have, at times, confused our need for a bear hug such as this with needing love…which are two very different things altogether.

I’m not sure I know why hugs are so important to our well-being or even at this point, sure that I care why.  I just know they are.  I wonder how many “other-kinda-hugs” I might have avoided if I just owned up to the fact that a hug from a friend, family member or other close individual might have been all the “breath” I needed and that in fact, I wasn’t needing love or needy at all..that instead I was just human.

What do you think about the psychology of the hug?  What do you think about the spiritual nature of hugs?  Why do they matter? Why is our need for them wired into our well-being?

P.S.  Couldn’t resist sharing this photo.  I was in NYC the day I wrote this entry and crossed paths with this fellow.  Based on what I’ve written here, I’m sure he is a happy, happy guy!”

Free Hugs at Time Square


5 thoughts on “Day 8

  1. Uh…it is slightly weird that we are oddly in ponderous-sync this week. I was thinking about this very thing at work last night. When I walked in, this young guy who is lovely and fun to work with and just an all around good kid said, Andi, I think you need a hug. And while I normally would shy away from that at work, I let him just squeeze the heck out of me and squeezed him back. When he let me go I said, Matt? I can’t remember the last time someone hugged me like that. Then we high-fived (b/c that’s what I do) and went on about our days, but I spent a lot of time thinking about how to get more of those kind of hugs in my life.

    I knew a girl for a while a few years back who said she read somewhere that for optimum mental health, a person should have 5 hugs per day. She’d ask people at rehearsals that we were in if they had gotten their 5 and then go about making sure she helped meet their quotas. Just thinking about her makes me feel loved, and we weren’t even that close.

    When my aunt died, my mother told her 16 year old daughter that her mom worried in her last days that she hadn’t hugged her kids enough. Jen said, I think maybe she hugged me too much, because now I miss them so much. She is one of the biggest huggers I know, and it breaks my heart because I know in every hug she is looking for that solace and peace she got from her mom.

    Maybe it’s a longing for the comfort of our formative years, which for many of us included being held safely on someone’s shoulder while we slept. I just know that in a really good hug, time stops and I really do feel, if only for those fleeting moments, like everything is going to be okay.

    Hugs to you, Molly B!

  2. When I read this post this morning I was still sort of percolating on word etymology (thanks to creaction), so I decided to look up “hug”. It led me to “huggia”. Hmmm. Sounded like a Scandanavian artificial sweetner. More interesting was its’ meaning, “to console”. I guess we often think of “console” in times of sadness. But if we disect the word from a Latin perspective it seems to mean “with one”. And that is why we need hugs, because we need to with one another. If we take it a step further and play with the word, we might creact the homophone “consoul”. Hugs actually help us be with another’s soul, and they with ours.
    Console is a word you can really take places. After a long, exhuasing day you must still “consoldier on”!

  3. I think a hug is someone reaching out in love, comfort, and acceptance. In some ways, the very act lets us know that “we are ok” if that makes sense. I’m not a huge hugger, but with those closest to me in life, I love a really good hug!

  4. I definitely appreciate the kind of hug you are talking about. The warmth and energy that is shared between two people in a deep hug like that is one of my favorite things today. You said you wondered about people who don’t get hugs. I was one of those people for quite a few years – but by my own choice. I am not completely sure how or why but I created this imaginary “personal space” zone around myself and did not want anyone to get close to me or especially touch me. Hugs were the worst violation of my space and I avoided them. I was not in a good place. It was a very lonely and sad place. It was almost like I forgot how to love on even a basic human level. When I learned to love and accept both myself and all those around me, I began to hug again. I want to share the happiness and love in my heart and I know that I (like everyone else) need to feel that human connection as well. A hug can certainly make someone’s day so much better.
    I think smiles are similar but without physically touching. There is that kindness and warmth that is shared between two people through a simple smile. 🙂

  5. I was just connected to your blog today for the first time, so I have been catching up and reading backwards through the entries. I think it is interesting that the fear entry and hug entry are next to each other. For me I am very similar to the person before. All my close friends know I “don’t like hugs” when reality, it’s not that I don’t like them, I am just uncomfortable with them and I think I have a fear of getting close to someone. Not in the physical sense but in the emotional connection sense that you described feeling with your mom. Feeling that with anyone and letting it happen can be a very scary thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s