Friday, December 4, 2009

Free Hugs

I hugged this guy. Well maybe not this guy, but it was a guy with a sign just like his. And a woman too. I hugged her. I was walking down the sidewalk in Times Square and when I saw the free hugs signs I excitedly ran and gave them both enthusiastic hugs. It was a great moment!

Here is a link to the FREE HUGS campaign site. Visit the site. Watch the video. It is good fun.

"We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth," says Virginia Satir, family therapist. I don't know where she gets those numbers, but it is certainly something to think about.

I teach an improvisational dance class at a university. The dance form, contact improvisation, explores contact and support between dancers. It leads to interesting lifts and tumbling about, falling to the floor and rolling over one another. Our language is touch. In the beginning of the semester, dancing together in this way can feel a bit awkward as we are unaccustomed to such close interaction with people that we are just getting to know. Touch is delegated most often, in our culture, to sexual relationships and to mothering. Because touch can be so loaded, once our children get older, we often stop touching them. Despite the fact that children love to hug, people who work with them are often told to touch them only on their shoulder or arm. Because we are fearful of touch being misunderstood, we err on the side of caution. But studies have shown again and again that human beings need touch. Babies who are not touched, for instance, do not thrive.

My students soon get over their initial awkwardness and by the end of the course are able to crawl all over each other with the playfulness of young children. One thing, to this end, that I repeat each semester is a hug day. On that particular day we receive more than the four survival hugs, the eight maintenance hugs or even the twelve growth hugs. We probably get close to hundred hugs in a less than an hour's time, depending on the size of the class. The hugs start out tentatively, like in the video, and by the end of the class we are running and jumping joyfully into each other's arms, spinning one another around. Everyone leaves class with big smiles on their faces. The dancing changes quickly after the hug class. The students become much more comfortable supporting one another, lifting each other up, piling up on top of one another without feeling awkward, sexual or worrying that the touch will be misunderstood. Our class becomes a community, the participants feel safe and open to interact in a way that is unusual for our culture. Unusual maybe, but so very healthy.

Touch is necessary for our health.

And that is a great reason to get a massage. And you should totally do that. But you can't get a massage every day! But you can get a hug. And here is the good news...


And today, I got 4 hugs. Which is...


I am going to start keeping track of my hugs daily. I will report back.

Wishing you balance,



  1. and before this was posted I texted you that I saw a bumper sticker that said "hug a dancer" today. Coincidence?

  2. Jeff- The bumper sticker should read- Hug Everyone! We all need them!

  3. Get ready for a hug the next time I see you! I'm definitely WAY behind on my daily hug quotient!

  4. Law Chick- You can get a hug any time you want!!! Just go to Times Square

    Larew- Yay!

  5. why can't they get a massage every day? There are plenty of us LMT's to go around.

  6. Jeff- You are right. Forget I said that.


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