|Introduction||Punished for hugging in USA Schools||
Other EQI.org Topics:
A while back I realized I didn't have a file on love. So I started one. It is called love.htm. Today I realized I didn't have a file on hugs. So now I have one. I only had this file I wrote a few months ago on hugs, poverty and emotional security. I also have a little story on silent hugs.
I used to think about hugs a lot. I used to crave them. I was almost dying from not getting them. I went for years without anyone to hug me on a regular basis. As I just wrote that I was thinking about the last few years of my life. Then I realized I went for years and years as I was growing up without getting hugs on a regular basis. I am sure I got a lot more criticism in the building called my home than I did hugs. (See what Laura said when I asked if she got more hugs or more insults in her house.)
But anyhow, I used to feel desperate for a hug. I realized that I could pay someone for sex, especially when I was traveling in Asia and sex for money was easily available, but I could not pay someone to give me a hug when I was crying. And even if I did it wouldn't help much if you have to pay someone to do it.
I also used to send electronic hugs to teens and get cyber hugs in return. I have some other memories of hugs, either received or not. Since I met Laura I have realized very clearly how important hugs are, so I felt motivated to start this page.
|Hugs and Laura
I don't have much time to write about this now, but I just want to say that Laura has given me so many hugs since I met her. Hugs do something nothing else can do for a person's emotional healthy and sense of security. I think they have almost saved my life because before meeting her I often felt suicidal. Since I met her about the only times I have felt suicidal was after her mother hit her and told her she couldn't see me anymore and when she has packed up her bags and left or has threatened to leave. When she is hugging me, everything seems to be okay.
|Hugs and Education
One thing I like about South America is that you can still give kids hugs. In the USA, England, and I think Australia, it is prohibited to give a child a hug, even a crying child.
Imagine a child is crying and goes to someone for a hug. Then that person rejects them.
What does this to do a child? How does it affect the child's brain chemistry? His or her sense of security? Are there long term effects of not giving children hugs? I believe there are. I believe the countries that have made hugging children illegal are becoming more and more cold and inhumane. The children turn into adults who are more and more insecure on a deep level and they try to compensate in all kinds of ways. But there is nothing that can take the place of a simple hug when it comes to emotional security.
|Hugs and Norma Spurlock
Once when I was visiting Norma Spurlock in the experimental school in Florida, a little black girl ran up to her and jumped into her arms. Norma gave her a big hug. As she did so she said, "This is illegal, but I don't care. I will explain later."
Later she told me that it was illegal for her to give hugs to the kids, but she said that this little girl is abused at home and she needs the hugs. She told me that she didn't care if they tried to fire her for giving the girl hugs, she was still going to give them.
I believe we need more people like Norma in the world. And more people who understand the importance of hugs and get the laws prohibiting them reversed so we can make the world a more humane place.
|Hugs or Positive Psychology?
One day when talking with Jerren I told him that there is nothing like a hug to help you feel better. All the positive psychology in the world can't take the place of a hug. I told him that maybe the people who write the positive psychology self-help books don't get many hugs so that's why they have to try to control their feelings with positive thoughts.
Positive thoughts are important, I don't want to deny that, but they still can't take the place of a hug from someone who loves you.
|More hugs or more insults?
I just asked Laura what she got more of in her home: more hugs or more insults. She said "more insults."
She also recently told me that in her whole life her father never gave her a hug. I have heard this from a lot of suicidal teens, by the way
|Hugs balance brain chemicals
Here is something I found from my journal writing in 2003. I was thinking about the people who say that depressed, self-harming teens have "chemical imbalances". The excuse of "chemical imbalances" is especially popular with parents who don't want to take any responsibility for emotionally harming their own children and teens. But I don't believe the teens have any innate chemical imbalances. I don't think they were born with some kind of brain problem. I think they were born with sensitive brain connections, but not "chemical imbalances."
What I would say is that when their environment causes them pain, they are affected by it more intensely, and their chemicals are temporarily out of balance in moments of pain.
After talking to many teens who tell me their parents don't listen to them and don't give them hugs, I have thought more about the mental health benefits of hugs. This led me to this simple, but powerful thought:
Hugs balance brain chemicals
I believe that if the teens would have consistently received hugs during their moments of emotional pain when they were younger, they would be much less depressed as teenagers. Often, all we need when we are emotionally upset is someone to listen to us and give us a hug.
I also believe this is the most natural way for us to get our brain chemicals back into balance. And it is the most peaceful way. There might be times when violence and aggression helps balance our brain chemicals to some degree, but while violence breeds violence, hugs breed more hugs.
|Can Hugs Prevent Suicide?
As I was writing about my belief that hugs balance brain chemicals, I started thinking about hugs and suicide. Since I have met someone who has given me hundreds of hugs in the first few months of our being together, I have almost completely stopped feeling suididal. And I think about the suicidal teens who have told me they want a hug so badly, I feel a deep sadness and a type of emptiness as I begin to wonder if something so simple as hugs could prevent suicides.
Is it really this simple? Can listening to someone and giving them a hug when they are in emotional pain really make the difference between life and death? I believe it can. I don't know if there are any studies about hugs and suicide. Maybe someone can help me out f they know of any. But I do know how much better I feel when someone hugs me. And I remember when a friend was in the mental hospital and she told me "I need a hug so badly." I also remember getting text messages from someone else who was sucidal saying the same thing.
It was always good to have someone listen to me. But it is much better to be hugged besides just listened to. Since I met my partner there have been many times when I have cried and she has just held me while I cried. I can safely say there is simply nothing better for my mental health than this.
When we are hugged we feel a close connection to another human being. On the other hand, it is the intenseness of feeling alone which is one of the biggest contributors to feeling suicidal. A hug is nature's way of helping us feel connected. A hug does so much for us that nothing else can do. Besides feeling connected, we feel safe, we feel supported, we feel understood, we feel important, we feel accepted.
I believe hugs can prevent suicide, especially among the teenagers who have lived less years of emotional pain than adults. Unless they have been sexually abused, the teens are still open to getting and giving hugs. They are still close to their inner nature. They know how important hugs are. Most of the teens I talk to online give each other lots of electronic hugs. I believe that if they could meet each other in person, or if someone could go to their homes and give them hugs, they would feel a lot less suicidal. One of my dreams, in fact, is to have a network of people in countries like the USA, Canada, Australia and England who could give "house calls" to the teens and give them the hugs they so desperately need. I really don't know why the so called mental health authorities and social workers haven't come up with something like this before, but there is a huge need for it. Of course there are some risks in something like this, but there are greater risks in not doing it..
and My Friend in the Mental Hospital
I went to visit someone once when she was in the mental hospital in the USA after she had tried to kill herself. I got there early in the morning after driving most of the night. The hospital staff told me it was too early for visiting hours, but one of the statt let me talk to her on the phone briefly. When we talked one of the first things she said was, "I need a hug so badly."
After we talked I started asking the hospital staff if I could see her for just five minutes to give her a hug. They said no. I kept asking to talk to someone in higher management and everyone kept telling me "no, it was against the rules." I felt more and more incredulous at what they were telling me and the weak explanations they were giving me for why I couldn't give her the hug they wanted so badly. Eventually I asked if I could tape record what they were telling me because I wanted to write about it and wanted to have direct, correct quotes. At this point the two hospital managers left the room to talk. When they came back they had a police officer with them and they asked me to leave the hospital.
After that they basically blacklisted me so I never was able to visit her. I suspect the hospital staff wanted to punish me for questioning their rules and "procedures." And, no doubt, they felt threatened by the fact that I am a writer and I might expose some more ugly truths. Of course, all the while they claimed to be acting in my friend's best interest.
My friend told me later she never received even one hug while she was locked up inside that building for three weeks.
|Hugs and the Mental Health System
I have heard several stories from teens in the USA and Canada who have told me that it is not allowed for them to hug other teen "patients" while they are locked up inside mental health hospitals. Mental health workers, of course, are also not allowed to give the teens hugs. And teens are also not allowed to chose who their visitors are, so they can't ask one of their friends to come give them a hug.
To me this is almost incredible. I don't need a degree in psychology to know the mental health benefits of hugs. I have experienced them first hand. I believe hugs can prevent suicides. But the people who control the so called mental health hospitals don't seem to understand much at all about hugs.
Nov 16 Update - Yesterday I chatted with a teen in the UK who told me that when she was in a psych ward hugs between teens were allowed, and she also got a few hugs from the staff. Here is part of that convo. I asked if there was a rule against hugs, she replied
|I *need* a hug - An email
from a young reader
Here is an email from someone who used to get support from EQI.org when she was a teen.
first, talk later
(I was going to call this entry "I need a hug" but I changed it as you will understand as you read it)
I am afraid that there is something wrong now in Laura's house. I am in Cajamarca and Laura is afraid to tell her mother I am here. She is afraid to go out of the house. She has to lie when she wants to go out. I am afraid now that Laura's mother found out that I am in town, or that Laura has a cell phone (which I gave her yesterday) or that Laura has talked to her ex-bf and she has changed her mind again. Yesterday Laura and I were talking about getting married. But she changes her mind so often. It is really hard to be with a person so emotionally unstable, so insecure. So jealous. Anyhow, right now I want a hug from someone, a female. I need some reassurance that if I can't be with Laura, someone will want me, someone will be with me, stay with me, not abandon me. I feel this huge need for a hug from a girl in Lima who I met. I hardly know her but I she seems understanding, affectionate, caring. I am sure that all of my life I have needed hugs. The lack of them is painful now. It is hard to describe this pain. It seems to be all over my body. Each minute is dragging on now. I am wondering what happened? Why hasn't Laura called or sent me a text message? It hurts also that she doesn't think of my feelings. She is so wrapped up in her problems, she is so afraid of her mother and of her ex-boyfriend. She gives me so much of what I need, but right now this isn't what I need. I wish so badly there were someone I could go to and say "I need a hug." And they would just give me one. No questions asked, or if they asked I could just say "It's Laura" and they would understand enough that they wouldn't have to ask anything else. They would know that if I wanted to, I would tell them. They would know that first I need the hug, then I could start to talk. So we might call this entry "Hug first, talk later."
Oct 29, 2005 - Creation of this page