“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
A good friend of mine had this quote on her dorm room wall during her senior year. I had already graduated but often visited or stayed with this friend when I went back to my alma mater. The quote resonated deeply with me because I recognized in my new location, with few friends nearby and almost no coworkers my age, I was not getting enough hugs. In fact, I wasn’t getting touched enough, period.
Yes I realize that sounds “dirty” (a phrase which bothers me at the deepest level…but we’ll leave that for another Wednesday) but let me explain: I grew up in a household where hugs, cuddling, kissing, and “I love you’s” were always available in excess. I think this partially due to my mom’s upbringing and her concern that my big brother and I had enough affection in a single family home. Regardless, we were, and continue to be, an openly affectionate family.
Fast forward to high school and the beginning of my awesome albeit brief acting career. Well it might surprise you to know that theatre folk are a touchy/feely bunch. We liked to hug and hold and grab and cuddle…a lot. In college, my friends and I hugged whenever we saw each other, at the beginning and end of an exchange, regardless of whether it was our first time seeing each other that week or the tenth time that day. Then I joined the orientation team, known for its touchy/feely shenanagins.
Then I graduated and moved to Worcester. And touch all but disappeared from my life.
Until last Saturday, I didn’t realize what a negative effect this lack of touch is having on my life and my health. I didn’t realize that I’ve begun living for those moments, begging, at least internally, for them, when someone touches me in a way that is healing, comforting, and free from expectations. I didn’t see that the reason I love assists in yoga is the same reason that reiki, chakra balancing, marma, and massage help so much. I grew up with touch, had it my whole life, and need it.
Last Saturday night this all came out while visiting some friends from school. This wasn’t my “main” group for the four years but we grew particularly close during my (and then their) senior year since I was taking lower level courses to finish my med school pre-reqs. I didn’t even arrive at the party until after 1 am but immediately I was greeted with hugs and how are you’s and all those little things that make friendships so wonderful. Half of them were sleeping when we arrived but as I’m sure you can imagine, since I didn’t know this, I made quite the entrance, and they got up to greet me. And then we all cuddled and held hands and hugged and talked about the one thing we miss about school: the lack of people constantly around us.
We kind of looked like this! Source
This observation, in turn, led to a conversation about the lack of hugs and general touching in our lives…which led to back, hand, and foot massages…which led to me being practically pain-free ever since. <–the very thing that made me stand up and examine WTH is going on.
And when I got to thinking about why this particular massage was so therapeutic and healing I realized it was about intention: my friends and I love and want to hug and cuddle and massage and hold each other. Ok, so some more than others (I ADORE YOU TOO), but we intuitively “get” when the other just needs physical comfort. And we intuitively crave that comfort too. And I think a lack of this is part of the reason my wrists have gotten so bad…because I don’t have someone around day in and day out to hug or cuddle or touch. Because when I see certain people who grew up without this touch and who don’t need this touch, there’s unspoken expectations that go along with anything that happens. Because the lack of touch means that fear can pool in my body, rather than dissipating out through the touch of another.
Can you imagine what would happen if we all just touched each other more? If we gave more hugs, high fives, and cuddles? If we were open to the giving and receiving of massage, no strings attached, just for the pure pleasure and relaxation it provided us? How would the world be a better place if we held each other during our tears, held hands as we walked,and cuddled while watching TV?
How would you be a better person if you got your 12 hugs each and every single day?