There are hugs — and then there are hugs. In other words, there are genuine loving and giving hugs, and there are needy hugs and inappropriately sexual hugs. There is a world of difference between these. While I knew this as a child — as most children do — I didn't have words for the difference. I just knew that I loved hugging and being hugged by some people and I hated being hugged by others. Loving hugs felt nurturing and safe to me, while needy and sexual hugs felt yucky.
My mother's hugs never felt good to me. My mother was narcissistic and her hugs were needy. When she hugged me — which fortunately wasn't very often, I felt like the life was being sucked right out of me. My mother was never a person I would go to for love or comfort. Until I was twelve, my father's hugs were wonderful — filled with love and nurturing. I felt so safe in the arms of my father. All that changed when I was twelve and my father became sexually abusive, which, of course, meant that he was no longer safe for me. I was confused and scared and crushed to no longer be able to go to my father for hugs. I protected myself by staying away from him as much as I could.
I'm a very affection person, and by the time I started dating, I was so starved for hugs that I often found myself in difficult situations. While what I wanted was loving and caring hugs, what I mostly got was needy and/or sexual hugs from the boys I dated. It took me many more years before I could articulate the energetic difference between loving, healing, nurturing hugs, and needy or inappropriately sexual hugs.
- Needy Hugs: When a person is abandoning themselves in various ways, they create an emptiness inside. The emptiness is like a vacuum trying to suck the love out of others — trying to get the love that they are not giving to themselves. While the hugger might have a warm smile on his or her face, the energy of the hug doesn't feel good. If you tune into the energy and feeling of it, you will know instantly that the person hugging you is trying to take from you rather than give to you or share with you. Before I understood this, I allowed myself to be taken from and it felt awful. Now I deal with this totally differently. I understand that the pull is from the other person's abandoned little child, and I feel compassion for that child. Instead of allowing myself to be taken from, I generally freely give my love to that child. This feels much better to me than pulling away, and when I decide to give my love to someone, I don't end up feeling used. I even reached a place where I was able to hug my mother and give her needy little girl my love.
- Sexual Hugs: There is also a neediness in inappropriately sexual hugs. The hugger is trying to get filled through sexual energy. I experience this a lot with many of the men I meet, but not all of them. Occasionally, I meet a man who hugs from his heart full of love. What a gift it is to me to be hugged by a truly loving man — as well as by a truly loving woman. Perhaps this is why many women love to have gay men as friends — they don't hug women with sexual energy.
- Loving Hugs: There is much healing power in loving hugs. When two people hug each other with hearts full of love, the energy that passes between them is a healing energy. I believe we all need these loving hugs — frequently. I encourage you to seek them in your life — with a partner, a friend, a child or a relative. Loving, healing hugs are a balm for the soul.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Relationships Course: "Loving Relationships: A 30-Day At-Home Experience with Dr. Margaret Paul — For people who are partnered and people who want to be partnered."
To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with your partner and others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week home study eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" — the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
More about affection on YourTango: