They lurk in the shadows, awaiting the darkest of times to feel whole. They sneak up on us and endure bulk negativity to create a little slice of magic. They greet, they reassure, they care and they display reliable friendship. They wrap around, they snuggle and they dysfunctionally smother. The glorious hug somehow feels something of a strange prehistoric pastime. Some quench thirst, scratch an itch, or even fill a void of isolation. So, what do we do when this urge is disallowed, outlawed and abhorrently frowned upon? The answer is abundantly clear – we go against our instincts as a primitive and authentic human race. As Emperor Kuzco, from cult 1990’s Disney film, Emperor’s New Groove, slammed down the law so powerfully, “no touchy!”
No doubt, there are many personality types embracing distancing; both socially and physically. Those who loath the passing brush from a stranger or despise that show of affection from a colleague or friend. But, for the most part, humans are showing mental health ramifications for the lack of connection and physical proximity. So, please, whilst we explore the depths of empty (or crammed places) within our homes and, indeed our inner self, in an effort to find connection during these times, spare a thought for the hugger.
Mark Bowden, director of TRUTHPLAN explains our nature as beings is the desire to touch. The very nature of squeezing, grabbing, groping, snuggles and rummaging gives us an innate sense of protection, safety and belonging. More importantly acts of physicality shows others around us that, “based on five hundred million years of evolutionary data, we are a friend or a foe…” Over time, he explores our (physiologically speaking) reasonably new ‘neocortex’ in the brain, and how we use signals to “cherry-pick” behaviours in body language to discover whether someone is a good person or not. “How one uses their hands in dealings is a classical signal… and another is in the physical interaction, including hands shakes and hugs…”. Often, more widely our ability to relate to and recognise others is through touch. Peter Pan and the lost boys in the 1991 movie, “Hook”, springs to mind straight away. After many years away from Neverland, an older man re-enters the lost boys’ lives claiming to be Peter. It takes the touch of one of the boys; who rubs, pokes and smooshes Peter Pan's face, to truly know it is him. This happens at a subconscious level in all our lives. We touch to feel (on different levels), and the ‘neocortex’ starts making conclusions on what the other person in the interation brings to you and your needs. All really interesting stuff, right? But what about the hugger?
When this ordeal passes and the clouds begin to clear, where does the hugger re-enter the scene in society? It must be awfully strange for the hugger during this time. Are they ready to step back into the world of partial normality? And, resist the urge to say things like, “bring it in” or “I’m a hugger” (whilst motioning open palms, flicking the fingers back towards themselves - you know the act) must be an incredible predicament to find oneself in. What for the awkwardness and the discomfort in which they will approach each day? More than ever, people will be conscious of the personal space and when it is appropriate to enter that of another. You can't exactly find protection, assurance and safety in hug anymore. It's kinda' paradoxical by the means of our very primitive existence. These are rare times.
It is an amazing relief to be heading back to work, beyond the realms of intense isolation and a world made up of technology and disconnected connection. Please, remember to be kind, think of protocols put in place to keep the restriction eases moving forward, and lastly, spare a thought for the hugger. It is going to be tough for them.
Welcome back people, give yourself a big hug!