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Silent Hugs

Once when I was in Holland I stayed with a Dutch family for a few days. One day the mother went to the store and said she would be right back. I didn't expect any dramas, but soon one of her daughters, about 7 years old, came downstairs crying. I was sitting at the computer and knew I should do something, but wasn't sure what that something was, since I couldn't speak a word of Dutch. She sat on the sofa and looked over at me. I decided to go sit next to her.

She moved a bit closer to me and I put my arm around her to comfort her in the only way I could think of. First she put her head into my chest and cried. Then she looked up for a few seconds. Next she started talking. But since it was in Dutch, I understood almost nothing at all. The only thing I did understand was name of her sister, who she had been upstairs with. I assumed they got into some kind of argument and that is why she came down crying. I just held her and gently touched the top of her head, still wondering what else I could or should do, and hoping for her mother to come back to save me! But that didn't happen.

Instead, in about one minute or less, the girl looked up at me and smiled. Then she got up and went back to play. The whole time I had said absolutely nothing.

This showed me the value of a silent hug. It also showed me that you don't need to say anything to comfort someone. You don't need to talk them out of their pain. Just be there for them and the pain will pass right out of them.

S. Hein

Huggiing Judge

The Hugging Judge
Jack Canfield and Mark V. Hansen

Don't bug me! Hug me! - Bumper Sticker

Lee Shapiro is a retired judge. He is also one of the most genuinely loving people we know. At one point in his career, Lee realized that love is the greatest power there is. As a result, Lee became a hugger. He began offering everybody a hug. His colleagues dubbed him "the hugging judge" (as opposed to the hanging judge, we suppose). The bumper sticker on his car reads, "Don't bug me! Hug me!"

About six years ago Lee created what he calls his Hugger Kit. On the outside it reads "A heart for a hug." The inside contains thirty little red embossed hearts with stickum on the back. Lee will take out his Hugger Kit, go around to people and offer them a little red heart in exchange for a hug.

Lee has become so well known for this that he is often invited to keynote conferences and conventions, where he shares his message of unconditional love. At a conference in San Francisco, the local news media challenged him by saying, "It is easy to give out hugs here in the conference to people who self-selected to be here. But this would never work in the real world."

They challenged Lee to give away some hugs on the streets of San Francisco. Followed by a television crew from the local news station, Lee went out onto the street. First he approached a woman walking by. "Hi, I'm Lee Shapiro, the hugging judge. I'm giving out these hearts in exchange for a hug." "Sure," she replied. "Too easy", challenged the local commentator. Lee looked around. He saw a meter maid who was being given a hard time by the owner of a BMW to whom she was giving a ticket. He marched up to her, camera crew in tow, and said, "You look like you could use a hug. I'm the hugging judge and I'm offering you one." She accepted. The television commentator threw down one final challenge. "Look, here comes a bus. San Francisco bus drivers are the toughest, crabbiest, meanest people in the whole town. Let's see you get him to hug you." Lee took the challenge. As the bus pulled up to the curb, Lee said, "Hi, I'm Lee Shapiro, the hugging judge. This has got to be one of the most stressful jobs in the whole world.

I'm offering hugs to people today to lighten the load a little. Would you like one?" The six-foot-two, 230-pound bus driver got out of his seat, stepped down and said, "Why not?" Lee hugged him, gave him a heart and waved goodbye as the bus pulled out. The TV crew was speechless. Finally, the commentator said, "I have to admit, I'm very impressed."

One day Lee's friend Nancy Johnston showed up on his doorstep. Nancy is a professional clown and she was wearing her clown costume, makeup and all. "Lee, grab a bunch of your Hugger Kits and let's go out to the home for the disabled."

When they arrived at the home, they started giving out balloon hats, hearts and hugs to the patients. Lee was uncomfortable. He had never before hugged people who were terminally ill, severely retarded, or quadraplegic. It was definitely a stretch. But after a while it became easier with Nancy and Lee acquiring an entourage of doctors, nurses and orderlies who followed them from ward to ward.

After several hours they entered the last ward. These were 34 of the worst cases Lee had seen in his life. The feeling was so grim it took his heart away. But out of their commitment to share their love and to make a difference, Nancy and Lee started working their way around the room followed by the entourage of medical staff, all of whom by now had hearts on their collars and balloon hats on their heads.

Finally, Lee came to the last person, Leonard. Leonard was wearing a big white bib which he was drooling on. Lee looked at Leonard dribbling onto his bib and said, "Let's go, Nancy, there's no way we can get through to this person." Nancy replied, "C'mon, Lee. He's a fellow human being, too, isn't he?" Then she placed a funny balloon hat on his head. Lee took one of his little red hearts and placed it on Leonard's bib. He took a deep breath, leaned down and gave Leonard a hug.

All of a sudden Leonard began to squeal, "Eeeeehh! Eeeeeehh!" Some of the other patients in the room began to clang things together. Lee turned to the staff for some sort of explanation only to find that every doctor, nurse, and orderly was crying. Lee asked the head nurse, "What's going on?"

Lee will never forget what she said: "This is the first time in 23 years we've ever seen Leonard smile."

How simple it is to make a difference in the lives of others.

Hugs and Education

One thing I like about South America is that you can still give kids hugs in the schools there. In the USA, England, and I think Australia, it is prohibited to give a child a hug, even a crying child.

Imagine a child is crying and goes to someone for a hug. Then that person rejects them.

What does this to do a child? How does it affect the child's brain chemistry? His or her sense of security? Are there long term effects of not giving children hugs? I believe there are. I believe the countries that have made hugging children illegal are becoming more and more cold and inhumane. The children turn into adults who are more and more insecure on a deep level and they try to compensate in all kinds of ways. But there is nothing that can take the place of a simple hug when it comes to emotional security.

Hugs and Norma Spurlock

Once when I was visiting Norma Spurlock in the experimental school in Florida, a little black girl ran up to her and jumped into her arms. Norma gave her a big hug. As she did so she said, "This is illegal, but I don't care. I will explain later."

Later she told me that it was illegal for her to give hugs to the kids, but she said that this little girl is abused at home and she needs the hugs. She told me that she didn't care if they tried to fire her for giving the girl hugs, she was still going to give them.

I believe we need more people like Norma in the world. And more people who understand the importance of hugs and get the laws prohibiting them reversed so we can make the world a more humane place.

Hugs vs Positive Psychology

There is nothing like a hug to help you feel better. All the positive psychology in the world can't take the place of a hug. Positive thoughts are important, but they still can't take the place of a hug from someone who loves you.

More hugs or more insults?

One day I asked a woman what she got more of in her home while growing up: More hugs or more insults?.

She said "more insults."

She also recently told me that in her whole life her father never gave her a hug. I have heard this from a lot of suicidal teens, by the way

Punished for Hugging in USA Schools

xx get dates

Vienna, Virginia, USA - A rule against physical contact at a Fairfax County middle school is so strict that students can be sent to the principal's office for hugging, holding hands or even high-fiving.

Hugging was Hal Beaulieu's crime when he sat next to his girlfriend at lunch a few months ago and put his arm around her shoulder. He was given a warning, but told that repeat missteps could lead to detention.

"I think hugging is a good thing," said Hal, a seventh-grader. "I put my arm around her. It was like for 15 seconds. I didn't think it would be a big deal."

But at a school of 1,100 students that was meant to accommodate 850, school officials think some touching can turn into a big deal. They've seen pokes lead to fights, gang signs in the form of handshakes or girls who are uncomfortable being hugged but embarrassed to say anything.

"You get into shades of gray," Kilmer Principal Deborah Hernandez said. "The kids say, 'If he can high-five, then I can do this.' "

Hernandez said the no-touching rule is meant to ensure that all students are comfortable and crowded hallways and lunchrooms stay safe. She said school officials are allowed to use their judgment in enforcing the rule. Typically, only repeat offenders are reprimanded.

But such a strict policy doesn't seem necessary to 13-year-old Hal and his parents, who have written a letter to the county school board asking for a review of the rule. Hugging is encouraged in their home, and their son has been taught to greet someone with a handshake.

Mascoutah, Illinois, USA - Two hugs were punished by two days of detention for 13-year-old Megan Coulter. Megan was punished for violating a school policy banning "public displays of affection" when she hugged two friends Friday.

"I was just giving them a hug goodbye for the weekend," Megan said.

District Superintendent Sam McGowen said that he thinks the penalty is fair and that administrators in the school east of St. Louis were following policy in the student handbook.

It states: "Displays of affection should not occur on the school campus at any time. It is in poor taste, reflects poor judgment, and brings discredit to the school and to the persons involved."

Megan's parents advised her to serve the time in detention after school because if she disobeyed the school's orders she would be further punished by a full day of suspension from school for each individual act of disobedience, in other words, for each detention she didn't endure.


These are just two of the now many examples of students being punished for hugging in the USA.

Hugs balance brain chemicals

Here is something I found from my journal writing in 2003. I was thinking about the people who say that depressed, self-harming teens have "chemical imbalances". The excuse of "chemical imbalances" is especially popular with parents who don't want to take any responsibility for emotionally harming their own children and teens. But I don't believe the teens have any innate chemical imbalances. I don't think they were born with some kind of brain problem. I think they were born with sensitive brain connections, but not "chemical imbalances."

What I would say is that when their environment causes them pain, they are affected by it more intensely, and their chemicals are temporarily out of balance in moments of pain.

After talking to many teens who tell me their parents don't listen to them and don't give them hugs, I have thought more about the mental health benefits of hugs. This led me to this simple, but powerful thought:

Hugs balance brain chemicals

I believe that if the teens would have consistently received hugs during their moments of emotional pain when they were younger, they would be much less depressed as teenagers. Often, all we need when we are emotionally upset is someone to listen to us and give us a hug.

I also believe this is the most natural way for us to get our brain chemicals back into balance. And it is the most peaceful way. There might be times when violence and aggression helps balance our brain chemicals to some degree, but while violence breeds violence, hugs breed more hugs.

Can Hugs Prevent Suicide?

As I was writing about my belief that hugs balance brain chemicals, I started thinking about hugs and suicide. Since I have met Laura, who has given me hundreds of hugs in the first few months of our being together, I have almost completely stopped feeling suididal. And I think about the suicidal teens who have told me they want a hug so badly, I feel a deep sadness and a type of emptiness as I begin to wonder if something so simple as hugs could prevent suicides.

Is it really this simple? Can listening to someone and giving them a hug when they are in emotional pain really make the difference between life and death? I believe it can. I don't know if there are any studies about hugs and suicide. Maybe someone can help me out if they know of any. But I do know how much better I feel when someone hugs me. And I remember when a friend of mine was in the mental hospital and she told me "I need a hug so badly." I also remember getting text messages from a suicidal teen in England named saying the same thing.

It was always good to have someone listen to me. Like when I would call Sarah and vent. But it is much better to be hugged besides just listened to. Since I met Laura there have been many times when I have cried and she has just held me while I cried. I can safely say there is simply nothing better for my mental health than this.

When we are hugged we feel a close connection to another human being. On the other hand, it is the intenseness of feeling alone which is one of the biggest contributors to feeling suicidal. A hug is nature's way of helping us feel connected. A hug does so much for us that nothing else can do. Besides feeling connected, we feel safe, we feel supported, we feel understood, we feel important, we feel accepted.

I believe hugs can prevent suicide, especially among the teenagers who have lived less years of emotional pain than adults. The teens are still open to getting and giving hugs. (Note) They are still close to their inner nature. They know how important hugs are. Most of the teens I talk to online give each other lots of electronic hugs. I believe that if they could meet each other in person, or if someone could go to their homes and give them hugs, they would feel a lot less suicidal. One of my dreams, in fact, is to have a network of people in countries like the USA, Canada, Australia and England who could give "house calls" to the teens and give them the hugs they so desperately need. I really don't know why the so called mental health authorities and social workers haven't come up with something like this before, but there is a huge need for it. Of course there are some risks in something like this, but there are greater risks in not doing it.

Note - There is a teen who wishes to be called Lizzie she told Jerren she is not comfortable with hugs. .....

Hugs and My Friend in the Mental Hospital

Once I went to visit someone when she was involuntarily put into a mental hospital in the USA after she had taken an overdose of pills. I got there early in the morning after driving most of the night. The hospital staff told me it was too early for visiting hours, but one of the statt let me talk to her on the phone briefly. When we talked one of the first things she said was, "I need a hug so badly."

After we talked I started asking the hospital staff if I could see her just long enough to give her a hug. They said no. I kept asking to talk to someone in higher management and everyone kept telling me "no, it was against the rules."

I felt more and more incredulous at what they were telling me and at the weak explanations they were giving me for why I couldn't give her a simple hug, which she herself had said she needed so badly. At one point they tried to tell me that they didn't know who I was or if it would disturb her to see me, so I suggested they call her and ask her. But they told me, "No, we are not going to do that."

At this point, finding it all nearly impossible to believe, and being afraid no one else would believe me if I told them this later, I asked if I could tape record what they were telling me. I explained I wanted to write about it and wanted to have correct quotes. At this point the two hospital managers left the room to talk. When they came back they had a police officer with them and they asked me to leave the hospital.

When I called later to ask if I could come back to the hospital to visit my friend during their visiting hours, I was told her psychologist did not think it would be "good for her" to see me so I was denied permission -- all because I wanted to give my friend a simple, reassuring, supportive hug.

My friend told me later that in the three weeks she was kept there against her will, she never got even one hug.

xx edit

Hugs, Poverty, Emotional Security

Being in Peru I find myself constantly wondering why this country is so poor. Getting to know some of the poorest families has given me some ideas about the answer to this question. One of the things I have seen recently is that in the poorest families, when a child or adolescent is crying, no one gives any emotional support. Even older sisters don't give their crying younger sisters hugs. In one house of six females I asked who was cried the most. They told me, "Pamela." Pamela is about 10 years old. Then I asked Pamela which sister is most likely to give her a hug when she is crying. She said, "No one." Then I asked her other sisters if this was true and they said yes, no one gives her hugs. They just let her cry alone.

Countries prosper when there are a lot of entrepreneurs starting small businesses. To start your own business you have to take risks. But if you feel insecure, you are less likely to take risks. When you were left there to cry alone as a child, you felt abandoned at a time when you needed emotional support the most. This creates a deep sense of emotional insecurity. A hug on the other hand reassures you that someone is there. Someone cares about you. Someone will help you through the painful and difficult times.

I would have to say people in Peru are some of the most insecure people I have met anywhere in the world. And this is definitely one of the poorest countries I have ever been in. So I ask myself, is there some kind of connection?

I am sure there are a lot of reasons why Peru is so poor and why the people here are so insecure. But I suspect that one of the many reasons, or contributing factors, is the lack of hugs which provide emotional support and security.

S. Hein
Chiclayo, Peru
January 6, 2005

Hugs and the Mental Health System

I have heard several stories from teens in the USA and Canada who have told me that it is not allowed for them to hug other teens while they are kept inside mental health hospitals. Mental health workers, of course, are also not allowed to give the teens hugs. And teens are also not allowed to chose who their visitors are, so they can't ask one of their friends to come give them a hug.

To me this is dificult to believe. There are clear mental health benefits of hugs. I have experienced them first hand. I believe hugs can prevent suicides. But the people who control the mental health hospitals where hugs are not permitted don't seem to understand the importance of hugs as emotional support.


Update - After writing the above I was told by a UK teen that when she was in a psych ward hugs were allowed. She said she also got a few hugs from the staff. In her words....

i got a few hugs off the staff but that was when theyd caught me n they were being like all nice n stuff, some teens were good friends so they hugged and stuff n went round linking arms etc... there was a rule that u wernt allowed relationships with other teens, u know like bf n gf


Hugs vs. Drugs

Written in 2007. S. Hein


I realized this morning that someone I care about is a hug addict. I will call her Patricia. Patricia needs hugs so badly she is hurting two people by using them for getting her "fix" of hugs. One of those two people is me. I also realized why it is dangerous to get dependant on a drug addict. The drugs are more important to them than you are. They need the drugs more than they need you. When they are in pain they will turn to the drugs.

Patricia needs hugs from me and from another man. I know about him, but he does not know about me. He only suspects. When Patricia is with this other man, I feel a lot of pain. She knows this and feels very bad about it. She doesn't want to hurt me any more than an alcoholic wants to hurt someone who feels pain from being close to the addiction. But the alcoholic still takes the drink and the hug addict still goes to someone else for more hugs. For Patricia the hugs represent the physical sign of security and connection that she seeks and needs. She was physically abused and emotionally neglected in her home and she has felt alone and afraid most of her life.

I have also realized that it is good to love an addict, because that is what they need so desperately, but it is not healthy for you to need them. In other words, it is not healthy for you to depend on them or get addicted to them. That would then be classic codependency.

I am a hug addict, too. So I decided to start this page and list some reasons hugs are better than drugs.

- Hugs are cheaper than drugs.

- No one gets killed or jailed for being a hug dealer. In fact, hug dealers don't exist The hugs are just between the two people who are hugging. There is no middle man. No distribution network.

- Hugs are not illegal or prohibited - with some exceptions for young people in certain countries (see xx link)

- You can't overdose on hugs.

I *need* a hug - An email from a young reader

I got this email the other day from someone I used to talk to when she was 16 or 17. She is around 21 or 22 now.

I sent an email to your other address but I dunno if you're more likely to check this account.

At this point I'm wondering if you still remember me? lol ...I'm sorry.

My life is so going to hell right now. Going to hell fast and I'm just inches away from getting sent away to a hospital for 'treatment'. I'm a legal adult so they can't do that...but I'm still scared of it happening because they can declare me a danger to myself.

When I think back to those years of misery when I was cutting so much, I think of you and how you were able to make things suck less for me. I mean, you stand out so much because as I've gotten older, everything you told me and taught me and showed me has proven to be so much more accurate and helpful than anything else. I thought therapy was helping for a while but that was all bullshit. Yeah, the guy got me to stop cutting and I rarely have urges to cut now, but I'm slowly starving myself to death with an eating disorder now. As soon as I stopped cutting I just shifted to an eating disorder so I never really got better. And I hate myself so much. I really truly hate myself with such a deep disgust that I can't even tell you...and the other night I broke down crying in front of the mirror because I hated what I saw so much. But as I fell to the floor and just let go, I started screaming, "I *need* a hug. I want a hug. Why the fuck won't anyone hug me?" ...And that's when I thought of you.

Please write me back to just let me know that you're still out there. I would so love to talk to you again. -- Jan 2, 2005

Hug First, Talk Later

(I was going to call this entry "I need a hug" but I changed it as you will understand as you read it)

This is from my personal writing in 2005 in Peru

I am afraid that there is something wrong now in Laura's house. I am in Cajamarca and Laura is afraid to tell her mother I am here. She is afraid to go out of the house. She has to lie when she wants to go out. I am afraid now that Laura's mother found out that I am in town, or that Laura has a cell phone (which I gave her yesterday) or that Laura has talked to her ex-bf and she has changed her mind again. Yesterday Laura and I were talking about getting married. But she changes her mind so often. It is really hard to be with a person so emotionally unstable, so insecure. So jealous. Anyhow, right now I want a hug from someone, a female. I need some reassurance that if I can't be with Laura, someone will want me, someone will be with me, stay with me, not abandon me. I feel this huge need for a hug from a girl in Lima who I met. I hardly know her but I she seems understanding, affectionate, caring. I am sure that all of my life I have needed hugs. The lack of them is painful now. It is hard to describe this pain. It seems to be all over my body. Each minute is dragging on now. I am wondering what happened? Why hasn't Laura called or sent me a text message? It hurts also that she doesn't think of my feelings. She is so wrapped up in her problems, she is so afraid of her mother and of her ex-boyfriend. She gives me so much of what I need, but right now this isn't what I need. I wish so badly there were someone I could go to and say "I need a hug." And they would just give me one. No questions asked, or if they asked I could just say "It's Laura" and they would understand enough that they wouldn't have to ask anything else. They would know that if I wanted to, I would tell them. They would know that first I need the hug, then I could start to talk. So we might call this entry "Hug first, talk later."





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