The Art of Hugging

Are you a hugger? Some people are natural born huggers. Others need to learn this simple art. The scope of hugging behavior is wide, ranging from "Don’t even think about it" to "Sorry about the rib fracture." In between, lies the possibility of one of the most satisfying of human interactions.

Hugs can be greetings. They can communicate emotion. They can comfort. They can show warmth. For some, they can be a source of discomfort.

Let’s look at some types of hugs:

The full body hug:  Two people with arms around each other, torsos touching, holding each other close.

The quick greeting  hug: A brief clutch to say hello or good-bye, may or may not involve back patting, a peck on the cheek or an air kiss.

The back pat: hugging while patting the huggee’s back. The pat says, "I like you, but this is just a friendly hug."

The one arm hug: Usually two guys, one or both or them trying to hug, but they can’t quite commit to it. It may say, "I’ll stand by you, but I’m not going to get that close."

The bosomless hug: Usually performed by a female hugger. Contact involves arms and shoulders, but nothing below that latitude. May feel perfunctory rather than warm.

The slow dance: Hugging to music.

The lip lock: A hug for lovers. May follow the slow dance.

The soothing hug: Often given to children and others in distress. Involves cradling, possibly caressing, and does not require reciprocity.

The bear hug: A big two armed squeeze where the huggee may be lifted off the floor. The perpetrator is usually male. It can communicate exuberance, and extreme fondness, but can be controlling or violent too. One of the few forms of affection that is also a wrestling hold.

Think about your hugging repertoire. How comfortable are you with hugging? How would you, if at all, hug a casual acquaintance who is a man? A woman? A child? How would you hug if they were a person emotionally close to you? How would you hug your parents? What does that say about your relationship?

When you hug someone do you hold them off, or do you bring them in close?

What feelings arise when you hug a person closely?

How comfortable are you holding another person’s body next to yours?

Is there something you are afraid of?

Are you afraid of sexualizing the experience? Are you afraid the other person will?

Does that fear serve you? Does it prevent you from giving and receiving comfort and intimacy?

A meditative hug:

Communicate your intentions. This should be a consensual hug.

Wrap your arms around the other person and hold them close to your body. Take your time with each other. Allow your hearts to be in close proximity. Feel your heart open to them. Allow love to reach from your heart to theirs.

Allow your heads to touch, either side to side or forehead to forehead. Imagine your thoughts are joined.

Visualize light surrounding you. Imagine that your aura and theirs combine to form a bright light that penetrates both of your bodies. The light is full of love and healing power.

Allow the life energy that flows in your body to flow into theirs.

Hold them and just be present with them. Notice any reluctance to being close and let it go.

Be aware of the other person’s  presence and responses, but try not to project your own thoughts and needs onto them. Let the hug last as long as it wants to last. When it is over you both will know it.

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© 2002 Tom Barrett