Why Hug?

I can not get my head around the concept of hugging someone.  Apart from the obvious I hate people touching me issues, I just don’t understand what can be gained from it.

A good hug results in oxytocin “bonding hormone” flow, they would have us believe but how can they claim that to be fact?  The pituitary gland releases this hormone and is linked to sexual desire and more recently with the development of psychological studies, it has been linked to attachment and bonding.  When this hormone can be artificially given to you, then this negates the apparent need to hug.

A hug can apparently lower your blood pressure, especially helpful if you’re feeling anxious.  This is also true of breathing techniques and rest. It is also claimed that it lowers your cortisol (the stress hormone), enabling a higher quality of sleep.  This is yet another gland (adrenal) that can also be replaced by medicine.  A physical touch can trigger glands to emit but so can many other factors.  To base the positives of a hug on a biological function seems ridiculous to me.

I think if you want to find the ‘benefits’ of a hug we have to look more at psychology.  The need for people to feel loved and have the reassurance from others.  This would have started at birth with breast feeding, when a child is wrapped in its’ mothers arms getting nutrition and having a sense of fulfillment, this would establish a link between being held and comfort.  Psychologists base much of their diagnose and reasoning on early experience under the age of 5 (the informative years) and would claim that we all learn attachment from this stage.  I question whether a confident person still needs to have this form of touch or if it is just learned behaviour.

In the animal kingdom,  the physical touch is more about dominance.  With the one touching the other having greater power and influence in the relationship.. primates are one of the very few that see touch as a sign of warmth and affection.

I do believe that for many they enjoy hugging and see it as an expression of how they feel about someone or of a situation.  But surely words can do much more to convey what you want?  The rules of hugging seem to be very varied.  An unexpected hug can be regarded as an invasion of a person’s personal space, however if it is reciprocated it is an indication that it is welcome.  Hugs given to a loved one reinforce the bond that is there and can show protection or care for them.  It can be used to greet someone, to show appreciation, to console or congratulate.  Having so many possible reasons for a hug, in my opinion, invalidates it.  One act can not represent many different functions.  

The duration and intensity of a hug can demonstrate the sentiment behind it, in theory, but only if both people are on the same wave length.  Who decides this part?  Who really benefits from a hug?  The person giving it, to make them feel superior in reassuring, caring and the more stable person.  Or does the person receiving the hug gain more, as they feel safe and secure.  Ultimately they mean the same, the person giving the hug is showing dominance over the other.

I wonder having a thyroid condition that affects my glands, if this is the reason that I have never seen the need to hug?  I doubt this as i firmly believe it is not a  biological thing but more psychological.  Perhaps having my mental health problems means that I am incapable of understanding attachment and bonding.  Possibly the lack of care and attachment I have had in my life is the reason that I do not require this act.

But is hugging an act that can be learned to be appreciated and become effective?   Is a hug like religion that you have to believe in it to get any pseudo benefits from?  Am I missing out on something or not seeing the bigger picture?  The majority do hug and appear to be happy doing so, with some choosing to do it regularly for seemingly any purpose.  I don’t think I will ever understand it. Despite my obvious problems with being touched, I am not sure I would gain anything.

Maybe one day I will allow myself to be hugged and see for myself if there can be any enjoyment or in fact any benefit from a hug….



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