Why would we hug ourselves? Is this an absurd idea? Maybe what I mean is something akin to, “have you received your hug today?” And if so, have you given someone else a hug today–all of which is just another way of saying, “have you taken care of yourself today?”

One of the things researchers, animal behaviorists and scientists know is that for primates, especially chimpanzees and bonobos–to whom we are most closely related–hugging is an integral part in the giving and seeking out comfort and affection. Ask any woman, and she will say “we don’t turn on like lightbulbs–we need slow and steady affection.” Often that affection is expressed by hugs–rather than solely by the very different sexual intimacy.

Arms around each other, sisters at Christmas in 1961.

As promised, for those of you who are interested, here is the article on dogs and hugging in Mother Nature Network

I came from a family of huggers: I was hugged a lot when I was a child by both my mother and father, and I even welcomed those hugs, when they were appropriate, from both of them when I was a teen and young adult. When my mother killed herself shortly after my twenty-first birthday, one of the things I missed the most were those hugs from her. When my father died two years back, I felt a real loss, and one of the aspects of that loss was the cessation of his hugs. My sister and I hug long and hard when we see each other, especially because we live on either sides of the country and telephone calls are about all we have as a form of communication. But when we write emails, we often sign them “hugs to you.’

When I first dated my current husband, Brad, I was relying on the dog of my heart, Gulliver, to provide all my hugs. I had been deserted by my ex-husband, and my kids were teenagers who were not so willing to hug me anymore. I always felt as if I were dragging it out of them–not a good feeling for one’s self-esteem. One of the reasons I fell into such a deep depression at that time (as I describe in Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide) was because I was alone: metaphorically speaking, I had no one to hug and no one to hug me. No physical affection or support.

When I met Brad for the first time, he was overwhelmingly accepted by Gulliver on our first meeting after they had hugged one another–Brad dropping to one knee to embrace my very enthusiastic but previously extremely picky Dalmatian when it came to the guys who rang our doorbell ready to take me out. (see Bespotted for the full story!) At the conclusion of that first date, Brad walked me to my car, and rather than trying to kiss me–which would have seemed too forward and overwhelming–he merely held his arms out and I stepped into them, needy for a hug, ready for a hug, craving a hug from this very nice empathetic man who seemed to understand so well what I was going through.

And so our relationship grew. To this day, I refer to this kind of hug as a “Brad Hug” because it is a special embrace that speaks to what I need most: physical affection, and when I hug him back it is almost as if I am hugging myself for a moment. I am taking care of myself by allowing him in.

Hugs are a way of keeping us going, and of making sure we love ourselves. So hug someone else today, and don’t forget to hug yourself!

Arms around each other, sisters at Christmas in 1961.
Arms around each other, sisters at Christmas in 1961.
A hug for Dad on his eighty second birthday, August 25, 2010.
A hug on September 9 2009 at our wedding.

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