Free hugs are not that scary

It seems that our current culture has become allergic to human contact. We continue to separate ourselves from each other and from the exchange of touch. We have instant anti-bacterial soap to rid ourselves of any potential germ we may have received in the course of a moment. And we are constantly afraid of being physically close to one another. Personal space is key: you stay there, and I’m here. This is my space and you cannot be in it with me.

As much as I am a supporter of cleanliness and good hygiene, there is something to be said about the amazing feeling of human contact. It cannot be denied that humans are social beings-we are people people. We need to have each other. Yes, it’s true that many survive in isolation for some time, but it is also true that the nurturing relationship of humans with other humans, or even the bond between a person and a pet is irreplaceable and its value is immense for the health of any human being.

Studies have even shown that such contact and relationship has real physical health benefits. Virginia Satir, a family therapist, even has a motto that says: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

While some may prefer to continue to stray away from that close touch with other people, I think it is important to note the benefits of such a connection. Because of the touch involved with hugging, it is even considered helpful in treating illnesses.

Touch has a literal physical effect. It stimulates nerve endings, which helps with pain relief. If nothing else, touching and hugging gives comfort to an individual, which can in turn give the person warmth and strength to continue fighting whatever ailment they are suffering from.

If that does not convince you, then maybe that ultimate feeling of a mother’s touch. Think about it: something happens and you get sad-that deep sad feeling we have all felt and continue to feel. We all feel at one point or another. Like when you had just bought that really yummy ice cream and it fell on the floor. No matter what happened when we were little, when our mothers would come around the corner and give us a hug, somehow things were just better.

I saw how my baby nephew would cry desperately and intensely, as if his world was falling down upon him. As soon as my sister would come close, pick him up and rock him, he would calm down and feel better, and even laugh soon after. It didn’t work with anyone else. But it is that immediate comfort of his mother’s touch.

For some reason, as we get older, we outgrow that instant drive to go to our mothers and get that hug. We seemingly outgrow our need for that touch. I believe that everyone still needs it, but for some reason, it’s just not quite as “cool” or “adult” of us to want to be hugged. This is why when a man walks around with a big sign saying, “FREE HUGS,” the response at first is skeptical and negative.

People don’t want those hugs. They’re free, they’re just hugs. But we deny them. “That’s weird. What does he want? What a strange person,” we think.

Are we really that afraid? What can really happen? Maybe we’ll hug this random person and a little something will spark in our hearts, and we will feel better. Maybe that hug will lead us to have a different perspective on our day. Or maybe, it will just be a hug.

Either way, is it really such a bad thing? Do we have to deny it to ourselves and others? Can’t we all just give it a try? What do we have to lose?

Beni Yunis is a junior majoring in communication studies and international studies. She may be contacted at b.yunis@umiami.edu

February 27, 2007


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.