Give Yourself a Hug

What’s one thing we all want when we’re sad, scared, sick, or happy to see someone? A hug. Why? From what I can tell, we want it because it makes us feel good. It’s an act of reassurance, reminding us that we’re safe and loved. Yet, SO many of us do not offer it up to ourselves. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you, what went through your mind when you read the title of this post? When was the last time you actually hugged yourself? How often do you turn people down when they ask for a hug? Trust me, there is no finger pointing going on here; I am just as guilty of this as anyone. On the other hand, I am asking for good reason.

You see, the tragedy in Manchester, England earlier this week, brought this to the forefront for me. I can’t help but wonder why such awful things happen?! I’m pretty sure a lot of us do; yet, for some strange reason, I am consistently dissatisfied with the explanations given! They aren’t beneficial reasons … they don’t offer any level of empathy for the criminals …. they simply point fingers and blame the activity on religious affiliations and beliefs, racial disparity, drugs, mental illness and / or domestic problems … you know all the things defined as bad and wrong. Now before you just give up on me and quit reading, hang in there … please. I am, in no way, advocating for any form of violence. Nor am I suggesting that we feel sorry for the offenders. Everything comes with repercussions albeit positive or negative; so, as far as I’m concerned, if you do the crime, you do the time.

On the other hand, there is a deeper perspective that I believe deserves exploration and it first came to mind several years ago while talking with one of my older sons. At the time, there was a disturbance within the family. His father’s family has never appreciated me, let alone liked me (no exaggeration here) and apparently I was the topic of discussion this particular evening. Without going into great detail, my oldest son became distraught over their disrespect for me and proceeded to leave the gathering, when he fell and broke his foot. Needless to say, things became quite messy. Eventually, my second oldest and I sat down to discuss the questions he had about various situations throughout his childhood. I probably don’t have to say this, but I was a defensive, nervous wreck. The more we spoke, the higher my anxiety and shame …. that was until I took a DEEP breath and quietly reminded myself that I had done the very best I could, knowing the shit I had been handed at that time in my life.  It was in that moment that I heard myself say: ‘I am sorry for the way things went. I am also very sorry for the way you feel; however, I didn’t know what else to do at the time. What I mean by this is, I was harder on myself than anyone could ever be. My life, up until that time had been riddled with stressful events and I blamed myself. All I knew to do was react. Those reactions left you feeling unsafe, and that’s because I was never safe with myself. I was SO full of fear of what could happen and love for you guys, but it was the fear that influenced my thoughts, feelings, words and actions. And for that, I am truly sorry.’ That’s when the tone of the entire conversation changed as well as my view of the world. I began to wonder if this is what’s really turning our world upside down.

Again, this is not an excuse for bad behavior. Furthermore, I am not suggesting that this, in anyway, is the only reason people get themselves into trouble. Absolutely not, I believe there is a bit more involved than lack of personal safety which I will address shortly. In the meantime, I bring up the idea because we rarely, if ever, separate a person from his or her behavior. Think about it; culturally we define people whether they are our friends, children, family members, neighbors, co-workers or a person we’re totally unfamiliar with …. we observe, interpret and attach a label i.e. bad, bossy, violent, abusive, great, obnoxious, rude and so on. In fact, our identity becomes SO enmeshed with these adjectives that to extricate ourselves from them is not unlike separating Siamese twins … painful, if not, fatal … because who are we if we’re not everything everyone has ever called us? Clearly, they see something we don’t … right? What I find interesting are the internal objections we have to anything contrary to what we’ve previously been told and it’s this attachment that I see influencing our decisions throughout life.

In my mind, if a child does something inappropriate, it’s without question, important to correct them. At the same time, I think they are better served with the reassurance that improper choices do not make him or her a bad person …. not even close! We can still cherish and honor their presence while teaching them how to make better, safer decisions. Essentially, it’s a verbal and energetic hug accompanied with guidance. For some reason, a good number of us can’t seem to bring ourselves to operate like this. We get upset and want to make sure the other person knows just how much we disapprove of their behavior.  I witness this type of interaction countless times a day because of where I live and wonder about the extent of damage the upset is causing within the body; both child(ren) and adult. Remember, I have spent a great deal of time researching and unraveling the stress response and allow me to say, ‘getting into trouble’ is emotionally stressful for everyone involved. The way I see it, if we’re NOT reminding our kids to feel good about themselves in spite of the situation, then we are unknowingly setting them up for struggle as well as derogatory judgment of themselves and others. Obviously, this differs between people due to the range of life’s circumstances; however, I think you get the point. And, I believe it’s a good idea to mention that under no circumstance am I blaming or accusing anyone of being a ‘bad role model’. What I am saying, though, is that a VERY long time ago, we collectively became deceived by our humanity and started recognizing tiers for achieving approval .... why this is the case is not something I care to discuss right now (let’s leave that for some other time). On the other hand, I will sum it with the word ‘fear’. Fear of the unknown; fear of not being able to control something or someone; fear of being honest …… in other words ….FEAR

Therefore, unless a person deliberately divorces him or herself from the stress inducing narrative, their health is more than likely going to suffer as a result …. mentally, emotionally as well as physically. They’ll make choices stemming from the entangled identity which is truly only good for aggravating something, somewhere on some level, influencing the continual search for systemic balance a.k.a. homeostasis. At the risk of ‘saying it again’, I do not believe that we have to repeat our family medical history and to be honest, we’re not; we’re experiencing different health problems at younger ages. Why? Because we are not only passing the stress generated genetic adaptations on to our children, they’re coming into a world that is riddled with both environmental and emotional stress. How this plays out is determined by their lifestyle and choices. What’s great is a lot of people are realizing the impact of stress and doing what they can to relieve it; yet, it’s the inner dialogue and relationship to themselves and others that becomes the deciding factor. With that, hug yourself. Give yourself permission to enjoy, breathe and realize that your behavior does not define you. Oh sure, we can and do, do things that are inappropriate, disruptive and even harmful at times; that doesn’t make us bad OR evil people. It’s the perpetuation of negativity a.k.a. stress that creates fluctuations within us. With years and years of ongoing instability comes genetic variations which then influences systemic chemical imbalance …. these chemicals are what regulate our moods, emotions and mental health along with every other physical function. In order to turn this around, we must separate who we are from our behaviors and be forgiving. We must extend this to others and encourage them to be kind to themselves. Only then, will we see a shift in our current trend of mental, emotional and physical dysfunction.

If you’re wondering how to hug yourself, may I suggest small rewards for being you. Who you are brings value … the challenge is to stop focusing on how others react to you and noticing how you feel about the interaction. If your actions and / or words are well-intentioned and offered in a positive light, then take comfort in that. If the other person acts like there is a problem, consider that interacting with you provided an opportunity for them to learn and grow. Whether they do or don’t is on them, not you. Regardless, give yourself kudos for being wholeheartedly you because both stress and pleasure stimulate chemical production; so why not choose in favor of what’s going to serve your highest good (which probably should include small amounts of essential oils) and ultimately ripple out into the world.