If I’ve ever worked for you, you may or may not remember that I’m a hugger. If there was an opportunity for me to hug you, I probably took it. Outside of my suit, I’m about as standoffish as the next guy.
In life, we don’t hug.
In death, we hug.
There’s something wrong about that. Actually, there’s something very wrong about it.
You need to touch … you need to hug. And here’s why from a TED TAlk from Neuroeconomist Paul Zak. I’ve copied about one-third of the transcripts, while leaving the (rather long) explanation of the labs out.
From Paul Zak:
After 10 years of experiments, I found the chemistry of morality. Would you like to see it? I brought some with me.This little syringe contains the moral molecule. (Laughter) It’s called oxytocin. So oxytocin is a simple and ancient molecule found only in mammals. In rodents, it was known to make mothers care for their offspring, and in some creatures, allowed for toleration of burrowmates. But in humans, it was only known to facilitate birth and breastfeeding in women, and is released by both sexes during sex.
So oxytocin is the trust molecule, but is it the moral molecule? Using the oxytocin inhaler,we ran more studies. We showed that oxytocin infusion increases generosity in unilateral monetary transfers by 80 percent. We showed it increases donations to charity by 50 percent. We’ve also investigated non-pharmacologic ways to raise oxytocin. These include massage, dancing and praying. Yes, my mom was happy about that last one. And whenever we raise oxytocin, people willingly open up their wallets and share money with strangers.
So you may be wondering: these are beautiful laboratory experiments, do they really apply to real life? Yeah, I’ve been worrying about that too. So I’ve gone out of the lab to see if this really holds in our daily lives. So last summer, I attended a wedding in Southern England. 200 people in this beautiful Victorian mansion. I didn’t know a single person. And I drove up in my rented Vauxhall. And I took out a centrifuge and dry ice and needles and tubes. And I took blood from the bride and the groom and the wedding party and the family and the friends before and immediately after the vows.
And guess what? Weddings cause a release of oxytocin, but they do so in a very particular way. Who is the center of the wedding solar system? The bride. She had the biggest increase in oxytocin. Who loves the wedding almost as much as the bride? Her mother, that’s right. Her mother was number two. Then the groom’s father, then the groom, then the family, then the friends — arrayed around the bride like planets around the Sun. So I think it tells us that we’ve designed this ritual to connect us to this new couple, connect us emotionally. Why? Because we need them to be successful at reproducing to perpetuate the species.
So oxytocin connects us to other people. Oxytocin makes us feel what other people feel. And it’s so easy to cause people’s brains to release oxytocin. I know how to do it, and my favorite way to do it is, in fact, the easiest. Let me show it to you. Come here. Give me a hug. (Laughter) There you go.
So my penchant for hugging other people has earned me the nickname Dr. Love. I’m happy to share a little more love in the world, it’s great, but here’s your prescription from Dr. Love:eight hugs a day. We have found that people who release more oxytocin are happier. And they’re happier because they have better relationships of all types. Dr. Love says eight hugs a day. Eight hugs a day — you’ll be happier and the world will be a better place. Of course, if you don’t like to touch people, I can always shove this up your nose.
And if you want to watch the full video, here all 16 minutes of it:
A facebook and real life friend of mine posted this in his status yesterday. It was so good that I wanted to share it with you.
If you know someone who is grieving, this is probably how they want you to treat them:
Please be patient with me; I need to grieve in my own way and in my own time.
Please don’t take away my grief or try to fix my pain. The best thing you can do is listen to me and let me cry on your shoulder. Don’t be afraid to cry with me. Your tears will tell me how much you care.
Please forgive me if I seem insensitive to your problems. I feel depleted and drained, like an empty vessel, with nothing left to give.
Please let me express my feelings and talk about my memories. Feel free to share your own stories of my loved one with me. I need to hear them.
Please understand why I must turn a deaf ear to criticism or tired clichés. I can’t handle another person telling me that time heals all wounds.
Please don’t try to find the “right” words to say to me. There’s nothing you can say to take away the hurt. What I need are hugs, not words.
Please don’t push me to do things I’m not ready to do, or feel hurt if I seem withdrawn. This is a necessary part of my recovery.
Please don’t stop calling me. You might think you’re respecting my privacy, but to me it feels like abandonment. Please don’t expect me to be the same as I was before. I’ve been through a traumatic experience and I’m a different person.
Please accept me for who I am today. Pray with me and for me. Should I falter in my own faith, let me lean on yours. In return for your loving support I promise that, after I’ve worked through my grief, I will be a more loving, caring, sensitive, and compassionate friend-becauseI have learned from the best.
By Margaret Brownley
In our culture, touch is too often motivated by
1.) Desire. 2.) Demand.
Many don’t know how to touch outside of those two categories.
There’s a rather new interdisciplinary area of study called haptonomy which explores how to touch outside of the desire and demand categories. Haptonomy is the study of psycho-tactile communication. Psychologist and hospice pioneer Marie de Hennezel writes concerning her training in haptonomy:
One develops and tries to ripen one’s human faculties of contact; one learns to ‘dare’ to encounter another human being by touch. It may seem foolish to undergo formal training in order to develop a basic human faculty. Unfortunately, the world in which we all grew up and continue to develop is one that doesn’t encourage spontaneous emotional contact. Certainly we touch other people, but that’s when the intention is erotic. Other times, the context is impersonalizing, as in the medical sphere, when one is most often manipulating ‘bodily objects.’ What is forgotten is what the whole person may feel. “
There’s touching with desire, touching with demand and — here’s a third option — there’s touching with devotion. Touching with devotion is an ardent recognition of the value of people … it’s not forceful or uncomfortable, rather it’s respectful and produces ease.
There’s one place where the humanizing, respectful and relaxing touch of devotion is seen on a regular basis.
That place is death.
We receive the phone call that so-and-so has died at their home. We put on our dress cloth, drive to the house and there awaiting us is so-and-so’s family. We walk in and instead of shaking their hands, we reach for a hug. And they reach back.
At the funeral of so-and-so, family and friends hug and kiss and embrace all day. It’s those hugs and embraces that somehow make a funeral bearable … they somehow relax the otherwise tumultuous experience of death.
The irony is that a human has to die for true humanity to be found.
Mainstream medicine is catching on to the power of devotional touch.
The University of Miami conducted over 100 studies on the power of devotional touch and this is what they found: Devotional touch can: produce faster growth in premature babies
caused reduced pain in children and adults
decrease autoimmune disease symptoms
lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes
improved immune systems in people with cancer.
Other studies have show that devotional touch can
lower stress levels
boost immune systems
Why do we reserve the life giving power of touch only for death and funerals?
What would happen if we would daily interact with our friends and family like we were at a funeral?