HugFeb 14, 2024–Are we hug deprived?

Did you know that when two people hug, their hearts are only two inches apart?

Some say this induces a sympathetic response, when the electrical fields around both beating organs intersect, creating a bond. This lowers stress, boosts our immune system, lowers blood pressure, and decreases depression.

Even if pseudo science, what a lovely image that creates.

Sometimes I think we don’t hug enough. People close to me will be startled to read this. Because I am not a hugger. Being raised in a large, Catholic, farm family, I spent my childhood trying to escape human contact. I found refuge in solitude, far from the hugging crowd. Our Depression-raised grandparents were not natural huggers. I don’t recall my paternal grandmother ever touching me. And she even lived with us.

Other cultures seem more comfortable with closer interpersonal spacing.

My experience is in Latin America, where the default spacing distance between two people feels uncomfortably close to Americans.

I’ve seen the “conversation dance” where the Peruano kept moving closer to the Americano, who kept stepping backwards until she was literally up against a wall. Both individuals thought the other was being rude, when both were just exhibiting their cultural conditioning.

In the 1970s, self-help guru and University of California professor Leo Buscaglia began lecturing and writing about human disconnectedness. He actually taught a class called Love 101. His mission became spreading the gospel of the hug. He traveled the world, walking up to strangers and asking if they would like a hug.

Everyone said yes. His point was breaking down barriers, reconnecting humans. Yes, it sounds “kumbaya,” but it worked.

As an elementary teacher, I followed Buscaglia’s advice and found it a valuable tool in the classroom. Kids needed hugs.

If reading that last paragraph makes you uncomfortable, congratulations. You’ve identified one of the reasons we stopped hugging. Due to predators and litigation, schools and offices implemented mandatory sexual harassment training laying out boundaries that essentially forbade touching of any kind.

As a result, school teachers perfected the “side hug,” where you stand beside the huggee and pristinely drape an arm across their shoulder. What a long way from “the bump” we so brazenly danced during those disco years.

The final detachment came with covid. Along with touch leading to torts, medical leaders convinced us a handshake was a death sentence.

That’s where we are today. Fist bumps, safe spacing, and face covering have all become the default for being in public.

With no scientific basis at all, I am wondering if this disconnect is why we are seeing more cases of depression, anxiety, and desperation. The need to interact physically is innate to all species. To fill this void, we instead funnel all interaction through the electronic device in our hand.

Yes, the internet brings the whole world to our fingertips.

We just can’t touch it.