On the one hand physical contact, hugging included, is basic need of every human being and is essential for survival and development. On the other hand, not everybody likes hugs, not everybody wants to be touched or hugged and we need to somehow navigate between human need for physical contact and human need for boundaries and private space.
There are various emotions and beliefs around touch and hugging. Some people feel all they really need is a simple comforting hug, but they would never ask their friend, co-worker or even parent for that – because maybe it’s improper, or what would people think. Or, you would like to hug somebody: a co-worker in distress, a stranger that seems upset, a not-so-close-friend that needs comfort, or you would like to hug somebody to express your gratitude, happiness and connection. But again – is that okay? Would that not be violating their private space? Is that proper thing to do?
But it might be also like this: you really don’t want to be hugged – for variuos reasons that you have right to. Maybe you don’t like hugs in general, maybe you are not in hugging mood today or maybe you just don’t feel like hugging this particular person. So the question is how to avoid hugging, stay integrated, boundaried and open-hearted? Not an easy thing for some.
Everything I know about hugs and consent I learned thanks to my massage practice and my other job – I work with people with disabilities and the amount of hugs I exchange every day is way above average.
I sometimes hug my clients after the session. Not everybody, not every time, but quite often we exchange warm hugs right after massage ends or when my client leaves. Sometimes it’s the person that I’ve just met, but hugging happens naturally and feels right. And when I am not sure if this is something that person wants, I ASK. I simply ask – would you like a hug? Is it okay if I hug you?
So, is it okay to hug your massage therapist? Or anybody else? I would say: if you feel you would like to hug them but you are NOT SURE if this is okay: JUST ASK. Simply ask, frankly, openly – is it okay to hug you? You may get a yes or a no – this is other’s person decision about their comfort and it has nothing to do with you.