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meerkat-huggingHugging is good medicine, and like all medicine it needs to be taken in doses and not assumed to be good for everyone all the time.

A hug. Such a nice thing. We wrap our arms around one another, and squeeze. Informing the relationship that we both care and want to be close. So nice. Who wouldn’t want a hug? This blog post is going to be about boundaries with hugging. This should is especially relevant for Massage Therapists.

Are you a Hug Person? A person who likes to hug anyone and everyone because you feel free with your ability to hug the whole world? That’s great! Not everyone is on board with you. Different cultures, life history, the way the person feels for you and the way the person is feeling in general is going to determine how comfortable one is with being hugged or hugging.

I’m a Mindful Hugger and I’m sure I still get it wrong on occasion. Hugging is a risk that not many people consider. I like to hug some people at some times.  I may want to hug Person A, and I may NOT want to hug Person B. I may not want to hug Person B for a variety of reasons such as:

  • They are wearing a bunch of AXE, or hairspray, or patchouli or amber oil or some other neurotoxin or natural smell including body odor and once I hug them I’m going to smell like them all day. I don’t want to hug them let alone stand next to them because I’m going to get a migraine.
  • Maybe I just don’t feel like being that close to Person B due to the level of intimacy we have shared to date, or the role they are playing in my life.
  • The timing is bad because my bladder is full, I have a sunburn, I just got a parking ticket, or someone is going to witness the hug that I don’t want to witness the hug. Perhaps a later time for the hug is better for me.
  • I’ve got a feeling that Person B has sexual or needy energy and I’m not willing to feed that.
  • Perhaps I want a professional relationship with Person B and that much physical intimacy is not working for the relationship that I want to have and the boundaries that describe that type of relationship for me.
  • Maybe I hugged Person B before, and they held on too long, or pressed their crotch against me.
  • I’m pissed off at Person B for some reason.
  • I don’t have a reason, I just don’t want to.

As you can see there can be a multitude of reasons that I don’t want to hug Person B. I hope that person B does not judge me for not wanting this exchange, but chances are if they came in for the hug, and I somehow managed to refuse it, confusion and judgement is going to happen. Too bad. This is a good reason to look into MINDFUL HUGGING.

What about Person A? I WANT to hug Person A, and I don’t see any obstacles to hugging Person A, but does Person A want to hug me? This is where Mindfulness comes in. Does Person A have a multitude of reasons NOT to want to hug me? Maybe! Who am I to assume Person A wants to hug me back? I’m not in Person A’s head.

I’m not trying to be a wet diaper here and squash your desire to hug and show affection to the people that you care about. I am suggesting a more mindful approach. If you want to be a Mindful Hugger, this deserves some thought, awareness, and requires on the spot adaptability to the present opportunity for the hug.

Have you ever received a hug that you did not want to receive before? There is not much worse than an unwanted hug. It’s icky. It can even feel violating. As children, many of us were taught that we have to hug people our parents want us to, such as a Great Aunt who you had never met before.  We were told to do it so, we grit our teeth, turned our heads and gave the reluctant hug. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to hug anyone you don’t want to ever again.

I believe a hug should really include 2 consenting huggers. If you determine that a hug is appropriate and wanted from both of the people, then bring on the hugging bliss!

How do you know if the other person is wanting the hug? If you have never hugged the person before, you may want to say “ are you comfortable with a hug”? I know that sounds weird, so come up with your own way of communicating and getting consent. If you are open for the hug and the person initiates the hug…awesome! Hugging is ON! Read body language and facial expression. If you are paying attention at all (being mindful), you are going to get the signal that the hug is ON or the hug is not on. I just caution you that if you are the hugging, touchy feely type, you can become numb to the subtle signals due to your hugging agenda and hugging lifestyle. Pay attention, and try not to assume.

The not let go: This hug is icky. It’s the one where you have the two consenting huggers, and then one does not let go. LET GO ALREADY!

The pat pat pat: The pat pat pat on the back is a great way to indicate that the hug is over. Be sure this does not turn into a slap slap slap.

The long never ending sway: This is for lovers my friends. If you hold on and sway this is not a hug. It’s a dance.

The crotch rub or press hug: This is such a drag. Someone comes in for the hug and they press their crotch against you. This is now a sexual exchange, and if both people are into it…yay you! If both people are not into it and you do it, you have just alienated a person from your life.  Please control your “stuff”.

Should Massage Therapists Hug Clients, and if so HOW?

Massage Therapists will often hug their clients. We are sharing a very special professional intimacy that often warrants a hug. Here are the guidelines that we teach at my school The Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy that you are welcome to consider, as follows:

  1. A hug at the initial meeting prior to bodywork is rarely appropriate. If the client initiates it and you are okay with it, a brief professional type hug is okay.
  2. Never Never NEVER hug the client when they are on the table, and they are not wearing clothes.
  3. Once the client is dressed, standing up, and they initiate the hug, this would be an appropriate time to exchange a professional type of hug.
  4. When you hug, turn your pelvis to the side and do not engage in any long swaying, never let go hugs. Brief with the pat pat on the back is appropriate.

I hope you have enjoyed my opinion on hugging. Remember, everyone is coming from a different history and culture, even if they come from the same home town, were born the same year as you, and went to the same church. We all should be vigilant in our efforts to avoid assumption and be respectful at all times with all people. Mindfulness is the key.