SUNDAY, AUGUST 2
This morning, the show Sunday Morning aired a somewhat funny (but not really) segment in which one of their correspondents suggested a disbelief that the month of August was actually here. “What happened to June and July,” he queried? It immediately brought to mind my opening paragraph of yesterday’s journal entry which alluded to the sameness of every day as tantamount to the loss of ability for one to mark time. This was a reminder to me that we are all in this pandemic together. However widespread our physical locations, even if unknown to one another, we often share the same human emotions and needs.
Another segment of this show reminded me that three weeks ago, I indulged myself in a bit of a rant after being hugged by a person who was pretty much a total stranger. I was horrified! At that time, my question was, “Who still hugs in the social/medical climate of today?” I never did figure that one out. . .but now another question arises, Why still hug in the social/medical climate of today?
This morning that same question was posed. This particular segment was introduced with a film clip, one which had gone viral on the internet. . . but, one that I had not seen. It depicted a quartet of babies, perhaps 12—15 months old, engaged in a hug fest. . .again and again, they turned to each other reaching their arms up to hug. So, what causes this specific behavior, so apparent in these tiny little souls—this seemingly natural response to other humans? I’m sure there are many answers. Adults in the environment modeling that same behavior ranks pretty high with me, but this program looked to another culprit. . .Oxytocin! This is the hormone that is released by the Pituitary gland when a newborn baby breast feeds. Although the main purpose for this hormone speaks to maintaining the survival of the human race (sexual response), it also becomes active when people cuddle and hug. . . because of this, it is often referred to as the “Love” hormone. . .I think of it, in part, as the glue to bonding. Oxytocin is a feel good hormone that gives us the sensation of safety, peace, and well-being. . .of connection and closeness. So, it’s not just a cliché to say, “I need a hug.” It is a genuine human need.
This story went on to point out that the need to stay masked and to stand no closer than six feet away from each other, cannot possibly be emotionally healthy. . .and yet, it is necessary. So what can we do about this? How can our human need for “warm fuzzies” be transmitted in a world without touch?
The experts on the subject had several answers for this question. . .none ideal, but a start. One talked about learning new behaviors that have the potential to provide connection, saying that eye contact would be very important.
In lieu of hugging another person when we meet, as was my modus operandi in greeting in the days of yesteryear, I’ve taken to making eye contact and hugging myself as a symbol of a virtual hug for them. It turns out that even hugging yourself (I would guess especially as a message of warmth to others) can be beneficial in releasing bits of this necessary feel good hormone.
Another way of tapping into this hormone which has of late has been missing in action, is the small talk we engage in with others. Our neighborhood Friday Night Asphalt parties are a good example of this. Although we definitely don’t touch, and we sit so far away from each other that often hearing what the others have to say is a problem. . .there are tremendous feelings of warmth emitted. Folks have told us that Friday has become the day that each of them looks forward to. . .our gatherings have set it apart from every other day of the week.
I also found that I got feelings of warmth and bonded friendship though the text chat group, my girlfriends and I formed early in this pandemic. Sadly, lately it’s dropped off. I guess everything gets old and stale. . .
So why do we still feel the need to hug. . .even when hugging holds a bit of danger? The answer is human connection. . .an element that is even more important in a world where everything seems less stable, secure, and certain than ever before. . .and, sadly, an element which is apparently now only available at a premium.
Another one of the experts, displayed models of safe(r) hug positions. The face-to-face hug is done very quickly with masked faces turned as far away from each other as possible. . . before disengaging and moving away. Then there is the adult/child hug, with no bending down, but hugging the shorter child to the mid-section of your body. And last, is the back-hug, with one person standing behind the other to hug—no face-to-face.
To hug or not to hug is undoubtedly a personal decision for each one of us. Although I do feel the need for a hug, I know that I’m not ready to reengage in this behavior at this point. . .or maybe even ever. But as a step forward, perhaps today is the day I will reengage my friends in daily text exchanges. . .at a distance!
For more, read the full DIARY OF A WORLD PANDEMIC Part IV
Submitted by C. L. Smythe, Orange County – Laguna Beach.