Local News Interview By Christy Lochrie, Record Searchlight

Embracing Hugs

A simple squeeze is loaded with meaning

By Christy Lochrie, Record Searchlight, April 15, 2007

 

Brittny O'Dell is a savvy hugger.

When she hugs a girlfriend, she uses both arms and squeezes tight. When the 19-year-old hugs a guy pal -- sans romance -- it's a looser hug, with just the shoulders touching during the brief embrace.

"We call it butt out, pat on the back," O'Dell said.

"That's like a friend hug," added Tristen Hasbrouch, a Redding 18-year-old.

But when the hug is with a boyfriend, O'Dell gets a little closer -- and let's the embrace linger longer than she would with someone who she considers "just a friend," she said.

"A pat on the back is You're my friend,' but a rub is I want to be more than friends,'" said O'Dell, who lives in Redding.

"It's a whole body language thing," Hasbrouch said.Hugging facts According to Michael Christian, who wrote "The Art of Hugging" and Philip Copitch, a Redding psychologist • Hugs raise endorphin levels and make you feel good• The more bodies touch, the more intimate the hug• Not everyone enjoys hugs. If someone stiffens or straightens their back, they're not enjoying the hug• Children who are not hugged grow up to be untrusting• Huggers can spot emotional insincerity in their partners

And it's complicated, too.

"Hugs are nonverbal communication," said Philip Copitch, a Redding psychologist. "You're able to tell paragraphs, instead of words at a time."

Some hugs can be romantic. Others offer comfort. They're used to greet, show affection, alliance, stress, play and social connections.

For people who enjoy a human embrace -- about 2 percent of people don't, according to Michael Christian, who wrote "The Art of Hugging" under his pen name, William Cane -- it can relieve stress and make you feel better.

"People's endorphin levels rise when they hug," Christian said.

But the feel-good rush only arrives if the hug is safe and wanted, Coptich said, citing insincerity and unwanted advances as hug busters.

"Most men have a hard time distinguishing between affection and sexuality," Copitch said.

To keep a lid on the advance front, women have a subtle hugging technique for embracing men, Copitch said. A woman will most often hug a man with her arms tucked beneath his.

"It allows the woman to protect herself," Copitch said, adding that her arms control how close they get. "And it also has a lot do with women are shorter."

But besides sexuality, hugs share social messages, emotional states and information about relationships.

"A simple hug is not simple. It's powerful," Copitch said.

We asked Christian to help us decode some popular hugs. His suggestion for tax day, which arrives on Tuesday: A comforting hug.

"I think on tax day, we need consolation," Christian said.

Currents reporter Christy Lochrie can be reached at 225-8309 or at clochrie@redding.com

"A simple hug is not simple. It's powerful," Copitch said.

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