On this day, the street corners are blossoming with enormous white teddy bears holding red hearts, baskets of red roses and assorted goodies as well as bunches of red, white and pink balloons. The stationery aisles in drug stores and grocery stores are packed with people looking for cards and, wonder of wonders, most of them are men. It’s Valentine’s Day. While I am certainly in favor of this love fest, I wonder how many of these same people would cavil at the simplest, cheapest yet most effective expression of affection and good will—a hug.
I’m told that Americans are way behind in their ability to touch, and yet it’s becoming more and more apparent that hugs heal. For premature babies, touch comforts, increases weight and ultimately decreases medical costs. ABC’s Diane Sawyer talked with psychologist Matthew Herenstein about the power of communication through touch. You may want to listen in on their conversation.
However this is not late breaking news. In 1983 Kathleen Keating published Hug Therapy, which was touted as a “playful parody on therapy with a serious message about the power of compassionate, healing touch.” In the introduction to her book , Ms. Keating says “Hugging is an intimate form of touch. We are suffering in our society from a sad condition best described as touch deprivation, skin hunger and hug inhibition. We need to recognize that every human being has a profound physical and emotional need for touch—men and women and children. And even our animal companions!”
In looking for books on the subject, I found it interesting that so many of them are juvenile. Just go to the catalog and type in “hug” as a keyword. Children seem to be spontaneous huggers while adults write about it even when they find it hard to do. Two of my favorite books are Willie is Not the Hugging Kind and Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present.
I confess it’s a matter of “Don’t do as I do, do as I say do.” Like many people, casually touching and being touched invades my comfort zone, especially if it’s full body contact. However, I resolve today to reach out and touch at least five people, even if it’s just a pat on the arm. Who knows, if we’re in the same vicinity, it might be you. If it’s not, then across space and time, consider yourself gently touched. Happy Valentine’s Day.