Confessions of a Hugaphobic

Yes, that was the headline in the New York Times from reporter Kristi Gustafson. In her words: “A hug is not just a hug. It’s a full-body physical and emotional event. It elevates the hugger and hugged from stranger status to acquaintance. Some people are huggers. Others, like me, are not!”

Gustafson believes that being a non-hugger in a world of huggers is comparable to being a vegetarian at a pig roast – things get complicated. But a world of huggers? Nice try – it’s more likely we’re now in a world where physical touch, a hand on the shoulder, or a hug have become quite rare.  And that’s sad, since a genuine two-second hug connects us with others in powerful ways, something even Gustafson admits. But she also believes that others use it as a form of torture when they’re totally out of tune with her body language or allergy to a hug.

With apologies to Kristi Gustafson and most Greens, after almost 18 months of social distancing, I hope hugs come back – in a big way. With what we’ve all been through and have missed out on – a few hugs to re-connect should be high on anyone’s to-do list.

But to Gustafson, they cross a certain, but well-defined comfort line (in a bad way), but she confesses that this self-described hugging issue also affects her relationships. Not in a way where it makes Gustafson any less caring or compassionate, just in a way that makes her quite uncomfortable.

Gustafson puts hugs into three categories:

  • Looking like you need comforting – even though it may just be the bad pizza someone had for lunch.
  • I did something wrong – in which case a hug won’t be enough anyway.
  • The other person wants something – even though there are more effective approaches.