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