The Humble Hug.

Posted on: 10th January 2012

“You can be angry, you can be sad, you can be upset, you can not be feeling well or have constant things going on in your mind outside but as soon as you walk through the doors you see the familiar faces, the new faces, meeting and greeting, getting a hug.  It’s as if all the weight’s just been left at the door and as soon as you walk in you’re weightless, your not holding anymore shackles and everything’s just, it’s fine.” Leila, 17 years old

In this post, Body & Soul’s Head of Teen Spirit, Ros, talks about the power of the humble hug.

A friend sent me this clip the other day and it got me thinking…

Before I came to work at Body & Soul, I was a semi-confident hugger. I’m now proud to say my arms enjoy a lot more movement. Wherever there’s stigma, there’s isolation and for those living with or affected by HIV, who have been frozen out by the cold shoulder of ignorance, a hug can be symbolic, and yet as real the sun on your back. I think every community has a lesson to learn from this.

Hugging all too often seems to be reserved for those closest to us, or moments of crisis, and yet who can deny the humble hug’s powerful effects?

We’re very aware of our proximity to others – wanting space and wanting closeness depends on the when, where, who, what, why… there are also lots of implicit rules and conventions, and in each situation, no Greetings Guru to whisper in our ear which one to follow. Recently, a long-lost friend and I had to do a ‘take three’ when it came to the farewell moment, both of us making a series of ergonomic faux pas that must have looked like some sort of poorly choreographed interpretational dance. Ok, so there’s no telling which greeting method another person might go in for, be it a timid wave, air-kissing, a mildly aggressive pat, or even a formulaic handshake. But a hug never offends, it never gives out the wrong signals, and it always delivers.

Greetings can be uneasy, and it’s fair to say that some people aren’t instantly comfortable having another’s arms reach into their personal space. I’ve weighed this up and have decided that the benefits outweigh potential negatives. Yes, the recipient may be startled by an unexpected embrace, but I think it’s a risk worth taking. A hug can be a show of existing closeness, but it’s also a way to celebrate, comfort, express gratitude, feel worth, affirm solidarity, or simply share a moment’s joy. We can remind someone they’re special, show how glad we are to have seen them.

Sharing a hug fills us with warm contentment, crumbles walls of social division, and plants seeds of kindness in their place. And we all grow stronger.

No one can foresee awkward moments, but the next time you’re met with a rigid semi-hug, just widen your arms as big as you can, and melt the frost.

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