We hug for a wide range of reasons. Whether it’s a quick greeting or a long, comforting hug, have you ever wondered why we ever started hugging in the first place? What is the significance of hugging? Are there detrimental repercussions to not having that quick, intimate physical contact? Here are three major reasons why we hug.
We hug to show relationships are growing
Nowadays, a quick hug between two people is a sign of informality in the relationship. The hug giver tends to be of a higher perceived status, as a parent to a child. That way, it helps the hug recipient feel more comfortable around the hugger, as it means the relationship is beyond simply being acquaintances.
We hug to comfort and nurture
In Romantic paintings, embraces were often depicted between a mother and a young child (often between the ages of 0 to 4). It’s said that physical touch transcends any other connection and helps comfort young children in scary environments. It also helps mother and child bond without saying a word.
An early psychology test performed on monkeys in the 1950s suggests that this physical touch has a long-lasting effect on the individual. Dr. Harlow separated a few young monkeys into two groups: a wire monkey group and a cloth monkey group. Tests indicated that monkeys preferred the cloth surrogate over the wire monkey when given a choice and that those with greater exposure to the cloth monkey were better equipped to navigate and explore their environment.
This shows that the act of embrace helps children adapt to an evolving world while preparing them to handle stressful situations.
We hug to show emotional vulnerability
Another reason why we hug is to connect on an emotional level. Every one of us has gone through a time where we put themselves out there for another’s approval, just simply waiting for their response.
According to theologian Miroslav Volf, he describes hugs as “the drama of embrace” in his book Exclusion & Embrace. At the climax of the hug, there is an act of waiting, where you open your arms and you wait for someone to reciprocate. This emotional vulnerability connects people together, as this is a shared experience compelling the other person to hug back.
Longer hugs are one of the most vulnerable situations anyone can be in. When someone is feeling low, the simple act of a loving embrace means they trust the other person beyond doubt. It shows that the person is comfortable enough to regress to a childlike state of vulnerability.
Although regression might sound bad, it’s actually a sign of two people who trust and love one another enough to be vulnerable. It is a sign of intimacy that connects and strengthens the bond between two people.
Whether it’s to signal a growing relationship or to comfort someone, we should all hug daily! Who are you going to hug today?