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I Hate Hugging: Getting Over the Fear of Intimacy

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E. Cummings

I was a shy kid. My mom said that when I was in pre-school, the teacher asked all of the kids to hold hands and I said, “No thanks, I’ll just hold my own.”

That may have been the beginning of my aversion towards human contact. As a kid, I remember grandparents, aunts, and uncles giving me big horrible hugs. If I didn’t blatantly push them away or wiggle free, I stood there stiff as board, until the torture was over.

They thought this was adorable and would laugh and laugh. No one thought to seek professional help. They probably thought I’d out grow this, but I did not.

It became more apparent by middle school. I don’t know what went on at your junior high, but at mine, girls were constantly touching!

They were hugging multiple times per day, playing with each other’s hair, giving one another backrubs, and playing that weird arm tickling game where you plant a garden and watch it grow. If you’re curious what this actually is, don’t Google “girl’s tickling each other.” That’s not it!

I remember the nervous rides to Chaparral Middle School. My mind would race. Who was going to try to hug me today? What would I do? What would I say? I decided: I’d just go along with it, but I wouldn’t hug back, I’d keep it quick, I’d never initiate, and I definitely wouldn’t like it.

I didn’t fool my friends for long though. They started to notice my lack of interest. They made comments like, “You have to hug back girl!” or “Come on, give me a real hug!”

I wanted to vomit. I tried harder for a while. I tried acting like a warmer, more loving person, but it just felt fake.

I let my discomfort build until one day I finally exploded, which is the case with most of the issues I’ve eventually had to face.

My friend Laura picked the wrong girl to hug that day. I pushed her away and yelled, “STOP HUGGING ME! What is the matter with you?” Then addressing all of my girlfriends I pleaded, “Why do you always want to hug? Can’t we just keep to ourselves?”

At this point, I should probably put fears to rest and mention that I was never inappropriately touched. By anyone. No uncle. No neighbor.

I actually wasn’t touched much at all, which may be part of the problem. I come from a close-knit family; growing up they never missed a single soccer game and today they never miss a single funny email forward. We’ve just never been close in the physical sense.

We weren’t a very affectionate family and the little bit we did have was awkward; there was a lot of side hugging.

I also don’t remember my parents being outwardly loving with each other, besides once a year on their anniversary. They’d engage in this dramatic embrace where my dad would dip my mom and peck her lightly on the lips. I, of course, would turn away in disgust.

After my outburst, back at junior high, my friends’ feelings were hurt. At first they gave me the cold shoulder, but I liked that too much.

So they started teasing me. If someone outside our inner circle went in for the hug, they’d warn, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Melanie’s not a hugger!” I was embarrassed but relieved.

This continued through high school, but when I went away to college at San Diego State, I had to explain my beliefs all over again.

“No Hugging” was a difficult policy for my sorority sisters to wrap their pretty little minds around.

Luckily, I waited to reveal this until large quantities of alcohol were being consumed. They just laughed it off and then against my will hugged me anyway. “I am not kidding!” I cried, as I was squeezed between Victoria Secret Miracle Bras, way too much Mac Make-up, and an overload of Pleasures perfume.

From that day forward, whenever we went out partying (so every night but Monday) this became a running joke. My sorority sisters would send people I’d never seen before in my life over to hug me. These strangers would wrap their arms around, sometimes even double-teaming me! I was living my worst nightmare!

Looking back, I think my hugging repugnance was not about how it felt. I was just scared that I was incompetent in this area.

I felt everyone was naturally warmer than me; that they knew something about life and relationships that I didn’t. A few years after college, it became as clear as Alkaline water that I had a life-limiting fear of intimacy.

In my usual fashion, this was brought to my attention by an eruption of emotion. I had been taking an acting workshop to enhance my stand-up comedy.

After I performed a monologue, my teacher in the most loving, supportive, artsy-fartsy way, suggested I be more vulnerable on stage.

“Well, that’s not going to happen!” I declared in the most defensive way possible. I then proceeded to run out of the theater, get into my car, and drive away. “No one was going to tell me to be vulnerable! How dare he! I will never go back!”

But, I crawled back the next week to try and wrap my mind around this outlandish concept he spoke of.

Shortly after that—through an interesting chain of events—I started working with a spiritual advisor, well okay a sponsor. Every time we’d meet she’d give me this big bear hug. I tried to explain my position on hugging, but she wasn’t hearing it.

Instead she grabbed me even tighter and whispered in my ear, “I am going to love you until you can love yourself.”

Ewwwwww gross! What have I got myself into?

But like with the acting class, something kept me going back for more. And it wasn’t just her; everyone in our spiritual development classes (okay Twelve Step meetings) would wrap their arms around me.

They showed me more unconditional love than one person should ever have to endure.

But little by little, I started to soften to their hugs. The transformation was so slow and subtle that I didn’t even notice it happened. Until, one day when I attended an off-site work conference with my company.

I was running late, but luckily there was a complimentary valet. I tossed him my keys and he pointed me in the direction of the convention room. I turned one corner and then another. It was further than I thought. My boss was going to kill me!

As I turned the next corner, I was so relieved to see Derek, my friendly co-worker who everyone loved. I rushed over to him and that’s when it happened—I threw my arms around my colleague and pulled him in tight. Oddly, he stiffened up and pulled away.

Just then, my mind flashed to the mandatory sexual harassment video we had recently watched. I think this was one of the scenarios! Darren looked stunned as we found our seats.

As I sat there in the conference room—bright red—it dawned me just how so far I had come. So far that I was now accidentally hugging co-workers (who were only opening their arms to usher me inside).

I laughed and felt this comforting warmth fill me. I guess I was capable of connection. I guess I wasn’t inadequate after all.

None of us are. But, intimacy doesn’t come naturally for a lot of people. Many of us have to work for it. Or better, work to break down the defenses that keep closeness at an arm’s distance.

So, we’re the ones sitting in the front row at Marianne Williamson talks. We’re the ones cutting out inspirational images for our vision boards. We’re the ones pouring these new things called feelings into journal after journal. We’re the ones buying ourselves flowers.

I have proof that all of the work is worth it though. And, I am marrying this beautiful person in a few short weeks.

We all laughed, but maybe Stuart Smalley had it right all along. So, please repeat after me: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone It, people like me!”

Oh, and co-worker Derek never did file a complaint.

Photo by deneers

Avatar of Melanie Reno

About Melanie Reno

You may recognize Melanie Reno from “Comedy Central,” but she doubts it. Melanie produces and hosts the female storytelling show, “That Time of the Month.” Her goal is to become the Poster Girl for Anxiety. Check out her blog The Nail Biter.

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  • Jen

    I really, really, really enjoyed this.  I remember talking to my counselor and asking her how typically the hug usually goes – “What are the parameters for a hug?” I would ask, like it’s this logical explanable thing.  Like you, my family was never very physically affectionate but neither were my friends in school.  I didn’t want my own kids growing up being uncomfortable with it, because in truth I think hugs are pretty nice.  Strangely, I’ve become comfortable with hugging my kids but when you wrote about accidentally hugging your coworker I was mortified.  I can’t imagine that.  I’m glad you made progress with hugging.  It really is nice once it’s not a terrifying experience.

  • LadyTamborine

    Melanie,
    Thanks to your post, I can now better understand how many non-huggers may feel. 
    Indeed, feeling vulnerable is a scary thing and perhaps learning to love ourselves can be even scarier.

    Great post.

  • Nina

    All of my friends poke fun at me for being the “non-hugger” of the group. I have always been that way. I have one friend who refuses to care about my no touchy feely policy, she hugs me every chance she gets. Hard. I never thought of my hug avoiding as a fear of intimacy, but as I read your article I cried. “I’m going to love you until you can love yourself.” What a beautiful thing to say, and to hear. After reading this I want to work on my intimacy issues and one day be able to say those words to someone, mean them, and follow through with them. Thank you for sharing this, it truly sparked an “ah-ha” moment for me. I think next time I see my friend, I will hug her. hard. Thank you. 

  • Margie

    This hit home for me! Your teen years and family sound like they were written out of my life story. Some of my friends even have jokes about ‘awkward hugs’ or ‘hand hugs’ with me. I just have always felt uncomfortable being hugged or even holding hands – being outwardly affectionate is not natural for me and always feels and comes out forced. I can also probably cound on 2 hands the number of times I have vocally told my boyfriend I love him and we have been together for almost 2 years. The words also never feel natural. I guess never thought to wonder why I have such an aversion to intimacy. I too don’t have a traumatic background. But, I never equated my ‘issue’ to a fear of intimacy. This article has helped me start to reflect on what it is that I’m afraid of…though it’s really just a starting point…I dream of the day I’m able to love openly and hug freely!!!

  • Anonymous

    I’m autistic and very much dislike hugs from people that I don’t know very, very well.  I used to feel bad, and self conscious about it, but anymore I have decided to embrace all of my quirks and not being touchy-feely is one of them.  Not everyone who doesn’t like hugs needs to change.  There’s room for introverted types and extroverted ones too in the world! I wrote a post on hugs a couple months ago: http://inneraspie.blogspot.com/2011/09/different-perspectives-hugs.html

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    I like what you said, especially “I have decided to embrace all of my quirks”.  I’ve started doing that as well.  Sometimes I say something that comes out awkwardly, or I have a weird reaction to something and instead of getting embarrassed, I just think, “well, everyone has their quirks, and that was one of mine”.  So good for you!

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    This was a great piece.  Even though I mostly don’t think twice about being hugged, I do respect other people’s boundaries when it comes to hugging others.  I definitely recognize how unwanted it can be for many people and I like to get to know someone’s preferences a bit before I touch them at all.  I think it’s sad that someone who doesn’t like to hug would have to be made fun of.  I don’t understand why it’s so weird to think that it might make people uncomfortable, or that there might be circumstances or cultural differences that would make hugging unwanted.  Either way, I enjoyed reading this and it’s nice to see that you were able to overcome your dislike of hugging!  It is also nice to know there are people out there willing to “love us until we love ourselves”.  I hope I can be that person for someone else someday.

  • Wequestionauthority

    Thank you for writing this! I’m 56 and struggled with this for years, knowing that my lack of hugging giving and receiving was from my family of origin. I too am mostly over this and listen to my body when in contact with others. I think listening to our bodies is so very important because there are boundaries!!! lol And then the hugs to and from some people are just so delicious!!! Thank you!

  • http://tammi-tan.blogspot.com tammi

    Love this article! My parents never hug or touch me so I became a non-hugger/toucher too. Not that I’m affected negatively or have any fears, I’m just not used to hugging people I’m not close to and feel like it’s rude to touch people without their permission.

  • http://thepathtopassion.com/women/ Mika

    I want to HUG you for writing this:)

    This writing is laced with vulnerability as well as humor. Very engaging with a great message: You have to get out of your comfort zone if you want to change your life.

  • Gllelove

    I’m very glad you were able to work through it. Hugging has a lot of benefits for health too.

  • Marilynrmart

    Yep! sounds familiar. Still working on it but I definitely feel better that I’m not the only one that does this. And I also thought hugs felt fake but will work on keeping a warm embrace for friends n family. Thx for sharing

  • Jaw

    Whoa, hold the phone as a nonhugger I want to say some of us just don’t want peoples germs, them rubbing themselves on us, or even care to get that personal with the general population.  It’s not about loving myself, or being able to be intimate. And as far as hugging colleague, please be careful there are those out there that will file a sexual harassment charge and it may not even be the one being hugged.  Best of luck to you, I am glad you have come to an understanding of why you didn’t like hugs. 

  • Anonymous

    There
    is no need to look for love. you can never find what you dont recognize inside
    of you. look no further than inside of you for the love you seek. what you
    might find is the greatest love of all inside of you. once you find that, there
    is no need to seek any love outside of you. you will then realized that  all other love  are lacking and always leading to suffering in
    the end as they are not real.

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    Hi Margie! Great to hear your insights! Yes, I think intimacy is worth investigating. I am still not the warmest person in the world, so I for one appreciated QuietContemplation’s comment about embracing our quriks!!  ;) 

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    thank you – this helped me!!!  i know that embracing my other quirks has been very freeing, so thanks for the reminder. ;)

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    now you made me cry!  wow, sharing this story is helping me get even more in touch with myself…Nina, I will love you until you love yourself! 

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    I want you to hug me too Mika! they don’t call them growing pains for nothing I guess, huh? ;) 

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    I would love to hear about some of the benefits! maybe it will keep me motivated to continue on this path…thanks!!

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    how cool that you can understand us non-huggers now! it is interesting how we can all be so different in that area. my fiance’s family is total huggers. it is fascinating to me. ;)

  • alana

    This is so ME.  I read this and I felt so good that someone could identify with what I’ve been feeling. I’m only 18, but like your parents, mine never showed affection, AT ALL.  Our hugs we shared are awkward, and I know they love me, but it’s not vocalized at all.  I have a boyfriend, long distance right now, and I fear the day we see each other (which is coming soon) that something as small as a HUG, is going to be awkward.  Even showing my friends any affection is hard: no kisses on the cheek, no hugs, etc. 

    Intimacy definitely doesn’t come natural to me.  And I am scared to love I believe, because it requires being vulnerable, and open…and although I want that type of relationship, it is hard to let your guard down.  I’ve never really had an experience that “made” me this way, which is why I thought I was just weird.  But, I do want love, and I do want intimacy.  I’m just scared of it. This article helped me a lot though; I’m looking to overcome this fear.

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    the “parameters” for a hug! love it! that should have been the title of this story. ;) thanks for your comment – made me smile – now get our there & hug a co-worker! hehe 

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    I know! germs! I still freak out if someone I hug is a little sweaty or just naturally stinky. as for sexual harassment, luckily the only person I see at work now is my fiance (write from home) & I am pretty sure he will not file a complaint if I hug him, but you never know these days! ;)

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    I am learning so much about people from writing this story! Thanks for your comment. I didn’t really consider the cultural differences thing ’til way later in writing this…but it is so interesting. I hope you break someone in to hugging one day too! My “spiritual advisor” was very persistent, but patient. I am so grateful. xoxo Melanie ;)

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    I am so glad! One thing that really helped me was to look at where my parents came from. My dad’s side had some abuse and my mom’s was loving, but not very affectionate. And since neither of my parents have had any therapy, I realized they are just doing the best they can with the models they saw. We are so lucky these days since therapy, meditation, 12 step programs are not taboo anymore! We can change the cycle! woo hoo. That said, I don’t think I will ever be the warmest person alive & I am ok with that. baby steps. ;) best of luck! -Mel

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    hehehe yes, hugs can feel so fake ;) since writing this article I have been more present when I am hugging and trying to “embrace” the experience more. it is nice. xo, Mel

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    yeah…it is odd to me that people I barely know want to hug OR WORSE do that crazy air kiss on each cheek…i am totally confused what to do…i even practiced with my fiance, but I still end up nearly kissing them on the mouth or somehow having them kiss my forehead.  ;) that will have to be my next article – ha! ~ Melanie

  • http://the-nail-biter.blogspot.com Melaniereno

    thanks! yes, I definitely still set boundaries with the hugs – it is usually with older men…hehe I have a good girlfriend though who gives the best hugs – so tight! She smells good too, so it is extra nice.

  • Megan

    This is me all over and I have just recently realized that I have a problem with intimacy and affection :/ A friend hugged me last night and I always find myself pulling away way before she does. My family was the same way, close but not didn’t hug much and all that. Glad to know I’m not alone and hope to get better about it soon!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TS2ULBJFRRAQ5Z5CGL4JCGEBGQ Toyiah

    Wow! I felt like It was me who wrote this article… Never knew there were others in the world that is exactly like meeeeee… (lol) I am seeing a therapist now and this is part of it. For the past 2 weeks he has challenged me to hug my mother and I still have not done it. (Sad right?) Well, the thing I noticed that we all have in common is that lack of, or absence of affection in our childhoods. I had no father in the home and my mother wasn’t affectionate or verbal with us… Kinda had to fend for ourselves. With me being the oldest I had to pretty much raise the younger siblings while she was working 2 jobs and school, I guess I’d built up a wall and couldn’t dare show any signs of vulnerability or weakness in my eyes and it has carried over into my 35 years of life even still. I am working hard to “love me more….” and now since I see that I’m not alone in this thing, there’s HOPE! If you can do it, so can I. :-) huggggggggsss! (I think I did that right)

  • gwynneve

    it’s e.e.cummings. all small letters. i’ll let you do the research to find out why so you can have your own adventure. love. your column. i pass it on to friends.

  • sereneD

    Love your writings and especially this one. My “spiritual advisor” always pushed it too, glad he did, such an amazing transfer of energy. Now I do the same with those I work with too, they are usually a little “stiff as a board” at first…..until they do start to love themselves. Now everytime I see my sponsor, it’s a big lift him off the ground embrace…..I’m a pretty big guy and he is pretty small, like yoda or something. Thanks again, really enjoy these and sharing them. Love and Light, D

  • guest

    Very interesting post. I’d like to bring in another perspective to this issue. My wife is literally how you described yourself in this post, whereas I am completely on the other side of the spectrum. I was brought up in a family with some might say exaggerated levels of outward affection between my mom and dad and myself. As a result I find kissing, hugging, and verbalising love and affection in a relationship as a natural and even a necessary element in any loving relationship, and especially in a marriage. Not the case with my wife’s family. There was very little physical and verbal affection between them, and as a result she finds anything in that regard to be awkward and uncomfortable. We have been married for close to 5 years now but our marriage does not have the slightest bit of intimacy, at least in my opinion. In the early years I tried to “change” her by making her hug me more and confronting her in cases where I thought a kiss or an “i love you” is called for, but it didn’t work. She kept saying that it feels fake to her when she doesn’t get the“urge” from the inside, and that she shows her love in “other ways” that I never notice or understand. After a while I simply stopped, cause I was not getting any affection back from her. The only time she sincerely expresses her love is in writing on our anniversaries. Now I am dealing with this void of affection in my life in my own head, and have actually got less affectionte with others like my mom or siblings as a result. I feel that I robbed myself from one of the most beautiful and positive-energy things in life. I feel guilty at times for even proposing to her when I knew very well how she is when it came to showing affection. The other thing that I’m extremely scared of is how our little boy will turnout growing up in a house with no outward intimacy between mom and dad. I am always hugging him and kissing him and telling him how much I love him, hoping that’d be enough to teach him how to outwardly show love and affection to others. The hardest thing is having everything you wished for in your life, and at the same time feeling a complete lack of love and intimacy. I think to myself what’s the point of loving someone if you can not express it or verbalize it. I have told her about these things and I’m sure she understands it fully, but more than often she gets defensive and withdrawn even more. Sorry about the long post, but any reading suggestions or exercises for her to at least open up a little bit more? Baby steps right…

  • http://twitter.com/laurenne laurenne sala

    Perhaps sending her a link to this article might help! Either person shouldn’t have to change completely in order to compromise. It might be nice if you meet in the middle. Perhaps you can ask her to do a few things during the day like hold your hand– for the sake of your son? And from there, if she gets used to it, maybe her affection will grow. But if not, at least you both have compromised a bit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jessica-Johnson-Cribbs/1417064172 Jessica Johnson Cribbs

    Hmmmm Melanie…now I’m searching my memory to see if I’ve ever made you feel uncomfortable!!! ;) I’m such a hugger…lots of hugging…love to hug. Very well written…and insightful. 

  • Sarah

    This is wonderful, touching…and funny! Thank you for sharing this so intimately, Melanie. – Sarah T.

  • Idrathernotgiveyouit

    Who is Darren? Anyways, I don’t like hugs either. And when I try giving hugs they are so awkward, after hugging people don’t come back for a second. Which I like, but at the same time I feel inadequate.

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  • Christie

    Awesome, Melanie

  • AJ

    How exactly did you grow out of this? My girlfriend has this problem she wont let me hug her until we are away from other people she says its because she feels vulnerable…how can I help her though?

  • Jeevan

    Hey Melanie,

                      I would like to add that to everyone who is hopefully reading my post that; hugging/kissing could also have very much to do with what culture one is from…While in U.S.; touching is a very common gesture for most ppl…in many other cultures around the world such as in Scandinavian countries & South-East Asia; people may hardly touch or show any public displays of affection & its not bcz there is anything wrong with them or a lack of intimacy in their relationships…it may just be the NORM in that particular culture! 

    P.S. I can really relate to this post & getting used to hugging & kissing
    ppl is something I am still getting used to in my life.  This post def helps put a new perspective on it…Thank U for sharing & hope u r a having a wonderful married life! :-)

  • Sian

    hi i am a teen now and im going through exactly what you were but i cant help but blame it on parents and people around me who dont hug me and show me affection and so when someone hugs i do the awkard standstill thing but when its over i long for it and when im really upset i want a hug but im just not used to it.i dont know what to do

  • Rebeccawightman

    Yeah this sounds alot like me right now i hate physical contact with my parents and people in general. My parents never gave me any physical contact no hugs, kisses, love yous. Yuck. I avoid having to touch them altogether the thought of touching them makes me sick. Whenever someone tries to hug me i go all stiff.

  • Frost_Bite252

    Great read.

  • ElRe

    This is me in every way sans the part of overcoming my fear. I don’t know why but I used to be very open to hugs as a kid but come late elementary school and so forth I just became more withheld and kept to myself as I had started to develop social anxiety and depression. Nowadays I’ve managed to triumph over my depression and while I still struggle with social anxiety I manage to work over it.

    But my fear of intimacy is still present since I’m always afraid of what the other person thinks or I just ruin it since I become afraid of my relationship becoming deeper and I don’t know what to do (since I’m relationship impaired, haha).

    After reading the article I feel a bit more confident in developing relationships and being a bit more open to intimacy whether on my part or others. I hope I can become hugger eventually too.

  • WLC

    I dislike touches and hugs from anyone I don’t know well and love. Everyone else needs to keep their damn hands to themselves. If I were in the situation you were in I would have left the sorority. I wouldn’t have spoken to any of them again. I wouldn’t have gone to another event, ever. Nobody has the right to gang up on you to force you to change. What a buch of insensitive jerks. your sorority sisters were. Gives me the creeps just hearing about it. I think my dislike of touching is natural and healthy and normal, and has to do with my built in nervous system and sensitivity and tactile issues. Being touched creates a creepy, uncomfortable physical sensation and I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that some people experience it differently. I’m happy the way I am, I refuse to change and have every right not to chand a thing. I am not missing anything, I have everything in life I need and want. I think being contstantly hugged and touched is creepy and unecessary and I know that we all have a right to our personal space. True, some people are more touchy feely than others, but if they can’t respect my differences and restrain themselves the fault is more in them (the touchy feelies) than in you or me, or any of us who are more introverted.

  • WLC

    I totally agree with you.

  • WLC

    I totally agree with you. Why can’t people like the touchy-feelies just accept that being a non-hugger is not a flaw that needs to be corrected? Maybe the huggers need correcting, lol. I think those types have a totally wrong idea of why people don’t want to hug them. We. Just. Don’t. They need to keep their hands to their sides! And stop making our lives miserable! ;-)

  • bmelo

    Read the 5 love languages. Great book!

  • Emily

    I’m so glad i found this article. I never noticed that i didn’t like physical touch until high school but after reading this it makes me feel less of a freak (: all my friends always hug each other even as just a greeting but i’ve never liked any physical touch and i flinch if anyone does. Same situation as you i’ve never been physically harassed i think it’s because my family has never been physicially affectionate so i’m not used to any physical interaction. My friends think i’m joking when i tell them not to touch me but i hope i can learn to hug a friend comfortably in the future. Thank you <3

  • asd

    Congratulations for joining the ranks of the plebiscite.

    Those of excelence continue.
    If you determined a problem, you had to conquer and terminate it. Instead you became affraid you are invulnerable.
    ptfu

  • Dragon2

    I find this extremely interesting. I can admit that I too am one of the shy people, who doesn’t like being touched, especially from people I do not know. Even from people I do know, I wouldn’t go out of my way to try to hug or kiss them. I had a female work colleague give me a hug recently, because I did her a favour and I felt kind of awkward. Our workplace has a masseur on site two days a week and have had so for many years. Yet, I wouldn’t myself take up the opportunity for a massage, because I just don’t like strange people touching me. However, if I’m with a man who I totally adore, I can’t get enough of him. He can be all over me with any type of intimacy without any problems. I believe if you truly love someone, it becomes a natural feeling to be intimate with that person. So, does that make me odd or normal?

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/jomanjo My Name Is‘‘ Jehan ‘‘

    I don’t like hugging. My friends tried to hug my, but my body refuse that. My mom and dad are the only one who can hug me. Besides, I love hugging them, I feel safe hugging my parents. I tried to develop myself in hugging. Now, If I want to hug my friends I just hit my right shoulder to his/her left one. like I giving them a half hug.

    I don’t know why I don’t like hugging. Not just that, I don’t like the seat-belt too, because its feel like someone is hugging me. I feel suffocated when someone hug me!

  • Lila

    wow, im surprised that there are so many people, who have similar things-issue. Thanks for shared story. Some of its details are very similar to my life, like my familie – we did not hug at all, didnt have emotional talks. we just existed in one flat, and did what we had to do – work, school, eat, sleep, watch TV. School time was tuff, I learned this look “WTF are you trying to do!” to others if someone tried to hug, or touch my shoulder, arm. And I did not get why people like hugs, and so on, and was also very stiff if someone hugged me. In university i tried to change, forced my self to pretend I like hugs, or tried to turn situation in a way people dont notice that actually I dont feel confortable. And I succeed that (although, probably people can see through that some things is not right) , which is the worst part. Because I m quite outgoing, communicable, smiling a lot, talking a lot – from the first look, but im 24 years old, and had not trusted no person to hug me longer than some couple seconds. Of course this problem “kills” me with each day more. My parents and friends usually where surprised when i tried to mention that maybe i should visit some specialist, at least just for fun. I had this not very good experience in work. People can be cruel, and coworkers made jokes and laughed that probably i was abused in childhood. And coworker in which i had crush, (ouh naive me, i thought he liked me too;) was just playing a long with others, and making jokes (like putting hand around me,or suddenly hugging), and one day someone at my presence asked him when finally he will asks me out, he answered “never, i need warm girl”.

    But that makes sense, that i should not lie to my self, that im like others. But trie to accept who I am, and be proud about it, and leave my live as I am comfortable. Well, thats of course its much easier to say, than live up to this principe. ;)

    Well, your article helps, at least by just acknowledge whats wrong, and trying to put out some kinda solution. Thanks again!

  • Grace

    I am the exact same way. When people hug me I usually go stiff in their arms and don’t hug them back. I feel awkward with hugging, and I feel terrible when I don’t hug people back. Lately, I’ve been trying my best to get over the awkwardness of hugs by hugging back others when they hug me. Like you, I am kind of shy, and hugs make me feel weird. Just be conscious of how others will react when you don’t hug them back, even though your not a hugger yourself, some may get offended. It hasn’t happened to me when I don’t hug others back though.

  • Anon

    I’m in your wife’s shoes in this situation. But would like to ask you (and Commenter Dragon2) was she affectionate in the beginning of the relationship? I find in the early stages of a relationship I can be very affectionate. Kissing, hugging, sharing a bed no problems but after a year or two, or we move in together, I kind of just… shut down. I dislike hugging and lovey shit. I put that down to just being around someone so much (and I have a son always vying for my attention) that I feel ‘hemmed in’ or ‘over hugged’ and need space… but I have considered I might have an intimacy problem. Relationships starting out aren’t half as intimate as they can be a few years in…

  • kesmi

    I hate being this way. Ever since I was little my dad never hugged me so I thought if he didnt like it I shouldnt hug him either, throughout the years I became the person who hated to be touched. Now my dad is getting older and he has changed and he always says he wants a hug from me just incase I something happens to him and I never hugges him. Believe me I want to hug him and give him a big kiss, but I cant, I cant hug anyone. If I do I feel weak. I want to be tough and independent and I know hugging someone dosnt make you weak but I feel that way. Now people will never know if I really apreciate them or care for them… ughh, but I dont want to change at the same time. I never cared about this untill I was told my heart is cold and no one will ever love me.

  • Nalliah Thayabharan

    Hugging and laughter are extremely effective at healing
    sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress, but healthy and
    wholesome habits of hugging and laughter are endangered by the bustle of modern
    life. The more typical ways of greeting people like handshakes are designed to
    keep us apart rather than bring us together. Reaching out and hugging releases
    Endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels and the released Endorphins and
    serotonin cause pleasure and negate pain and sadness, lower blood pressure,
    decrease the chances of getting heart problems, helps fight excess weight and
    prolongs life. Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the
    stress levels. But teddy bears, whose use has been increasing in the recent
    decades, are a poor substitute for the real hugging. The nurturing touch
    of hugging will make us healthier,
    younger, thinner, more relaxed, live longer, fight depression and make us age
    slower. A proper deep hug, where the
    hearts are pressing together not only improves both psychological and physical
    development, but also helps to build a good immune system, decrease the risk of
    heart disease, and decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol in women.
    Hugging instantly boost the pair bonding hormone neurotransmitter oxytocin
    levels which stimulates and sharpens the senses, contributes to our sense of
    connectedness, causes to feel calm and happier; and heal loneliness, isolation,
    and anger. During lactation huge amounts of oxytocin are released from the
    brain to the breast tissue allowing milk to flow. Breastfeeding mothers have
    lower blood pressure. Oxytocin receptors have in other tissues, including the
    heart, kidney, thymus, and pancreas. Oxytocin plays a powerful role in
    protecting heart. By touching another person, oxytocin is produced in heart and
    travels throughout blood stream dilating them through a mechanism of increased
    nitric oxide leading to a decrease in blood pressure, less inflammation and
    less plaque build-up. Excess chronic inflammation is the key player in plaque
    buildup in arteries, known as atherosclerosis. Oxytocin reduces free radical formation and
    other inflammatory markers decreasing the risk for heart attack. Hugging
    strengthen the immune system. Love is a miracle drug. Hugging teaches us how to
    give and receive. There is equal value in receiving and being receptive to
    warmth, as to giving and sharing. Hugging educates how love flows both ways.
    The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates
    activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which
    regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep
    you healthy and disease free. Hugging for an extended time lifts one’s
    serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness. A couple who hugs for
    20 seconds has higher levels of oxytocin, and that those who were in a loving
    relationship exhibited a highest increase.
    15 minutes of holding hands with a romantic partner can help reduce
    stress, and its harmful physical effects. Adults who have no contact with people
    had higher blood pressure and heart rate.
    Hugging therapy is definitely a powerful way of healing. The energy
    exchange between the two people hugging is an investment in the relationship.
    Hugging encourages empathy and understanding. Hugging is synergistic, which
    means the whole is more than the sum of its parts. This synergy results in
    win-win outcomes. Hugging also builds trust and a sense of safety, helps with
    open and honest communication and boosts self-esteem. In the mother’s womb,
    each part of the fetus’ body is touched by the amniotic fluid, which is the
    origin of the yearning for touch. Holding a baby offers physiological and
    emotional benefits. The tactile sense is very important in infants. During our
    early childhood our family’s touch showed us that we’re loved and special. The
    associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are
    still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from
    our parents, grandparents and relatives while growing up remain imprinted at a
    cellular level, and hugs remind us at a somatic level of that and connects us
    to our ability to self love. Hug relaxes muscles; releases tension in the body,
    take away pain and soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft
    tissues. Hugging helps to stretch the facial muscles, erase age lines and slow
    the aging process. Hugs balances out the nervous system. The galvanic skin
    response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin
    conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more
    balanced state in the nervous system – parasympathetic. Hugging is very similar
    to meditation and laughter, teaches to
    let go and be present in the moment. Hugging encourages to flow with the energy
    of life. Hugging helps to get out of circular thinking patterns and connect
    with the heart, feelings and the breath.

  • Stephanie Stevens

    It has been the way I grew up, I come from a family that is not real affectionate, especially my mother. I did want hugs and reassurance when I was younger, but I have got to the point since I became and adult I’m so use to no human affection that I have become very awkward toward it. I do hug people and sometimes it’s not so bad but other times I feel uncomfortable.

  • Fred

    Why do people insist that you have intimacy issues just because you simply aren’t a hugger? I hug people I know all the time if they’re friends of mine, but this garbage about having to hug people you don’t know particularly well or don’t care about just so you feel validated or have a need to connect is pure B.S. Ever think that some of us don’t have a need to hug everyone/everything in sight and that there’s nothing WRONG with us? I don’t need to analyze myself, be analyzed, have someone ELSE tell me I have issues. There’s nothing wrong with me.

    I just came from a party the other night where we sat in a circle and had to “share a Christmas story” with the “group”. I felt like I was in some 12-step rehab group therapy/Spanish Inquisition/confessional. Reminded me of an AA meeting I attended with a recovering alcoholic friend years ago. “I’m so & so and I’m an alcoholic.” I refused several times before someone said, “Well, we’re just going to sit here and stare at you til you do….” I smiled at her like, “You’re gonna’ be staring a LONG effing time, then….” One woman cried because she didn’t want to talk. LEAVE IT ALONE, PEOPLE.

    Why can’t people wake up to the fact that not EVERYONE who chooses NOT to hug and NOT to share every intimate detail of their lives to total strangers–or even friendly acquaintences–has a problem with intimacy/doesn’t love themselves??? I have NO problem whatsoever hugging/sharing with my friends and family. I have a REAL healthy self esteem. Everyone needs to stop psychoanalyzing everything and just let people be. There’s nothing wrong with not being touchy-feely with people you barely know. It doesn’t mean you have issues—it just means your boundaries are different than people who have to hug everyone in sight. Deal with it. I don’t have intimacy issues—I just don’t like you. I DO spontaneously hug everyone I’m friendly with, but that’s because I know & like them and vice-versa. Get over it. I’d say that people who insist on hugging people who don’t want to be hugged the one with issues and self esteem problems because you NEED to have complete strangers hug you to validate you. I don’t need validation from anyone. Stop trying to label everyone–not everyone has issues.

  • truth_inBeauty

    This is so great, thank you for sharing. :) It felt like I was reading my own hugging-phobia story. And thankfully it is possible for us all to open up to embrace ourselves and love from others. <3!

  • myranda

    I have never been a touchy person. The germ issue pops up but deep down i really just don’t want someone to hug me uninvited. i love myself and want to point out for me it comea down to there are other ways to show affection and appreciation then hugging.
    i was raised by my father who is not by aby means a touchy person, sp it could be a learned behavior. it bothered my boyfriend of 2 years a lot until he met my father. he has also come to understand that instead of making me agitated by forcing hugging, a hand on my leg or offering his arm as we walked was my version of hugging and expressing my affection for him.

  • Melanie

    Ok this is creepy, I was reading this and thinking it sounded just like my life, other than the shy child thing and then unsaid your name was Melanie and I thought…. Did I write this???? Hahaha I had to scroll down to check the author :p anyways I’m going to keep reading now

  • Michael McVey

    There was a much easier solution: tell all those lesbian-but-don’t-want-to-admit-it girls at your school that you were really a boy. They wouldn’t have wanted your hugs after that!

  • Andi Gomez

    It never dawned on me that my lack in need for human touch was because I felt undeserving of it. I, like you, grew up with unaffectionite parents. I’ve opened up through the years and hug my family members to congradulate them or when I vist them. It feels genuine and I’m happy for that. But I can’t be one of those “hug you every time I see you” folk. I can’t stand so much affection. But now I understand, it’s on me. I have to learn to love. It’s hard. I’m ever so selfish an only care for myself and siblings. And starving children… Anywho, Im glad I read this. Thanks.

  • acergirl

    It’s wrong to touch people in any way without their consent full stop. You don’t have to accept any hugs and kisses that you don’t want to. Whether you want therapy or not is up to you because ppl shouldn’t be doing this to you anyway. In fact they are the ones who need therapy to understand that it is not ok. Nobody has the right to force others to doing things they don’t want to or makes them uncomfortable. It’s against their human rights & it’s disgusting.

    But you’re article was still really sweet & so touching to read.

  • kavin paker

    here’s room for introverted types and extroverted ones too in the world! I wrote a post on hugs a couple months ago:
    Hotel Munchen

  • ALEXco

    Could it be the past of my parents divorced well anyway im always the one getting hugged for no reason or just unexpectedly but slowly getting used to

  • Sophie

    I am not a ‘Hugger’ everytime anyone even attempts to hug me who is not my Dad or my Mum, I feel as if I am being choked. My friends know I can’t stand contact but they always say to me “We aren’t going to hurt you!” and most commonly “Come on Sophie, all we want is a hug. It gets really offensive when you push us away”. Everytime I tell them that it isn’t them it is me. The other day a teacher tried to give me a hug as I was worried about my GCSES but all I did was jump up out of my chair and rush to the other side of the classroom. I am a quiet person and doing this really embarrassed me.
    I had never known anyone who shares the dislike of hugs, I thought I was alone so hearing other people are in the same situation is so reassuring and next time one of my friends or brothers trys to hug me I will try to hug them back!