I think ‘lack of hug­ging’ is a miss­ing piece of the puz­zle with devel­op­men­tal­ly delayed chil­dren and most peo­ple who are ail­ing. I’ve writ­ten about this, in part, once before talk­ing about touch in one of my ear­li­est posts on March 2, 2007 “The Three Pri­ma­ry Senses”

Being Eng­lish I didn’t come from a ‘hugging’ envi­ron­ment – reserve in all things was the order of the day!

One of the few advan­tages of liv­ing thou­sands of miles away from the place I still call ‘home’ has been to freely devel­op the abil­i­ty to hug.

I’m for­tu­nate to have many warm friends and acquain­tances here in the US.

For the most part Amer­i­cans hug more than the Eng­lish (we are known for our ‘stiff upper lip­s’! But that attribute has also proven use­ful in the past few years!), although I sus­pect hug­ging may be a cul­tur­al behav­iour rather than one that comes in many cas­es from gen­uine warmth.

Oth­er­wise why would so many chil­dren and adults not appear to be warm even when they do hug you?

Did you ever have an instinc­tive feel­ing that you didn’t want to hug some­one? I am start­ing to respond to that feel­ing and hold back – those peo­ple end up being scary when you get to know them! And it is their chil­dren who aren’t grow­ing up to be warm and appro­pri­ate­ly func­tion­ing human beings. It does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly make them bad peo­ple, just that phys­i­cal con­tact isn’t their thing. That lack of phys­i­cal con­tact with oth­ers does not seem to stop them from pro­duc­ing children!

Gen­uine hugs make you feel real­ly good! Just think about it for a moment. I have cousins I hug when I greet them for the first time in a while and then I feel their bod­ies go “whoops, can’t do this for too long”! The rest of their behav­iour towards me and my fam­i­ly tells me how they real­ly feel about me so I don’t wor­ry so much about their phys­i­cal reserve. I can trust them implicitly.

That’s prob­a­bly the biggest cul­tur­al dif­fer­ence I’ve found between our two coun­tries. Implic­it trust is anoth­er top­ic for anoth­er day.

When my old­est son was in a seri­ous car acci­dent near­ly two years ago we took him to my husband’s hand ther­a­pist to have his wrist checked out. My son said that the most heal­ing part of what the ther­a­pist did was the big warm hug she gave when she greet­ed him.

My sons hug read­i­ly, we have long, warm, com­fort­ing hugs on quite a reg­u­lar basis. The warm hugs we gave my hus­band when he was so ill real­ly helped him heal – he always says even now he feels his blood pres­sure drop when he gets a hug from one of us!

His most impor­tant doc­tors are hug­gers, although I sus­pect most of their patients would only see the high qual­i­ty of care they give. And boy have they helped heal — us all!

Check out the health­i­est chil­dren you know and you will find that they freely hug and are hugged freely by their fam­i­lies and close fam­i­ly friends. If they don’t know you very well you will sense their com­fort lev­el with phys­i­cal warmth because they snug­gle next to you to hear a story!

The least devel­op­men­tal­ly healthy chil­dren are expect­ed to give hugs to the adults around them, on demand. The adults in their world aren’t the ones freely giv­ing hugs. And even though such chil­dren under­stand their need for hugs they just can’t quite become enfold­ed into a hug, even when gen­uine­ly given.

Hug­ging is health-giving!

If we bring back the giv­ing of gen­uine hugs we will start to heal chil­dren with autism, adults with Alzheimer’s, the sick and every­one in between!

Try hug­ging a warm per­son today!