We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance.
We need 12 hugs a day for growth
—Virginia Satir, family therapist
I am a very huggy, touchy, sensual tactile person and love to put my hands and arms around anyone and anything that moves or doesn’t move. My hands have a natural tendency to explore textures, hold things, caress, tenderly stroke, massage, play with things … oh yes, I guess, not surprisingly, I have a healing anointing in and through my hands.
One of the areas I absolutely love to do is give others intuitive or prophetic healing touch.
What is intuitive or prophetic healing touch, you ask? Well, basically I invite the Spirit of God to lead me to move my hands towards ‘safe’ areas where they need healing in their bodies … safe as perceived by the person I am working with.
Sometimes that means that I do not actually touch them and just let my hands hover over that area. Sometimes I am led to embrace and hold the person like mother would with a small child. I am normally very quiet and gentle when I work with people like that, as I am relying on the Spirit of God to do His work. Invariably the person experiences some sort of a release often with tears and then joy.
OK, let me explain what is happening here, or rather, how I understand what is happening here.
Quite a number of people have experienced trauma in their lives, including sexual abuse and domestic violence. I will describe in another blog post some of the coping mechanisms such victims live with; else this one gets too long.
For this particular blog post, let me point out some very interesting scientific research with growing verification that neurobiological responses to trauma are stored as trauma memory in the body, even down to the cells.
These body memories continue long after the abuse occurred. Invariably the victim is not even aware of this until it is triggered by some seemingly harmless, non-related incident, when, to the surprise of others, that former victim completely over- reacts or totally freezes.
The reason is that commonly a trauma victim, especially if they experienced sexual abuse or violence as a child, will disassociate that ‘reality’ from their conscious experience memory, building coping patterns and continue with other areas in their life. In other words, it’s like the effect of the trauma does not exist for them, it’s cut off from their daily life, yet shows up when it is least desired.
No matter how much they convince themselves, may even go to psychotherapy – talk therapy – the ugly effects just linger on.
Basically it is important to realise that we are dealing with an invisible body wound, a soul-body wound that needs healing like a physical body wound.
Because the body was central to the trauma, it is now also central to the healing process.
Let me explain a bit more. In sexual abuse, clearly the body is implicated; it is assaulted, its value warped, it is used and abused, boundaries trashed, resulting in pain and confusing sexual responses, or dissociative absence. The joy, comfort and ease with his or her body were, in a sense, stolen. A permanent body wound resulted requiring a combined healing to resolve the body trauma issues.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this writing, I am a huggy touchy person and many social environments, such as churches, are just so perfect for me to throw my arms around everyone that walks through the doors.
Some years ago I was astounded by an unexpected reaction by someone in the congregation. They froze, pulled back and point blank told me, “don’t hug me and don’t touch me!”
Back then, I really did not know what to make of this. I mean, did my breath smell? Did I stink? … or what?? I must have looked ever so puzzled, but the person in question was unable to explain. Later I had similar incidents, but they were gracious to just indicate to me that it was not my breath smelling …
As my work as a relationship psychologist is in the field of intimacy especially, sexual intimacy between couples, I learnt that some people have some very deep pain and unresolved issues. Sure, in situations with clients I never hug or touch them unless there is a specific need to assist them in the healing process that way, and only if it is appropriate for me to do so, such as during a healing touch and intuitive massage session.
But in social situations, do I still make mistakes and throw my arms around people, unknowingly pointing them to their scars? I have to admit, yes I do, but I have learnt to become more sensitive with my hugging. There are some people who much rather not be hugged and touched in a social setting.
Now, there is actually a flip side to this.
As a backlash to abuse and their aversion to touch, it will leave some victims touch-deprived, and actually yearn for a strong, warm and heartfelt hug and to be held for long enough for their comfort.
How do we dissolve this hugging dilemma? Be sensitive and approach them respectfully, if necessary ask, “Is it ok to give you a hug?” And if they say yes, then hug them from your heart. They’ll need it, and it will be healing to them.
I shall finish this writing with the following food for thoughts:
How to Hug
Hugging may sound like the simplest thing on earth, but it will help to keep a few things in mind. Non-hugs are no good.
I. The A-frame hug, in which nothing but the huggers’ heads touch.
2. The half-hug, where the huggers’ upper bodies touch—while the other half twists away.
3. The chest-to-chest burp, in which the huggers pat each other on the back, defusing the physical contact by treating each other like infants being burped.
4. The wallet-rub, in which two people stand side-by-side and touch hips.
5. The jock-twirl, in which the hugger, who is stronger or bigger, lifts the other person off the ground and twirls him.
6. The violating hug, in which one hugger grinds into the genital area of the other and tries fondling their behind. With non-intimate people this is classified as violating, abusive and a sexual harassment.
The real thing, the full body hug, touches all the bases. The two people coming together take time to really look at each other. There is no evasion or ignoring that they are about to hug… You try as hard as you can to personalize and customize each hug you give… With a full body hug there is a sense of complete giving and fearless. Communication, one uncomplicated by words.
It is the attitude that is important. It need not be a full, frontal hug. It could be sideways.
Politely ask, “Would you like a hug?” Rushing up to someone assuming they would want a hug is disrespectful.
It’s ok to say no to a hug; and do not feel offended if someone says ‘no’ to you!
Many people do not like their personal space to be invaded. Still others may feel too vulnerable at times to like to be touched.
Many people feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when hugged, but still give it a try, because they are bound to feel good afterwards and may even feel grateful to you.
When you feel the need to be hugged, ask for one.
And don’t forget to thank the other, just be respectful and honouring to each other.
It only takes a hug, a heartfelt and warm embrace, to change the lives of others. Try it, it works.
…. And smile while you do it,