When I was growing up in America, my family often hugged each other. Hugging was a way for us to show our love for each other. Whenever I wanted something special from my father, I would always first ask, "Dad, can I have a hug?" I knew that with these words I could melt his heart. After a hug, he was willing to do just about anything for me.

What is it about hugging that is so powerful? Somehow simply having another person's arms around us can make us feel unconditionally accepted.
When I moved to Asia, I learned that not all families hug each other as much as mine. In fact, many of my Asian friends confided that hugging rarely occurs in their homes.

A few years ago, I accompanied a friend to his parents' home in Japan. He hadn't seen his parents for two years. When we entered his home, I expected his parents to immediately embrace him. Instead, his father just raised his hand and said hello. His mother happily welcomed him home, but she did it from across the room.

 

Why hug?

 

In the West, people hug for many different reasons. Family and friends sometimes hug just to show the other person they care. They may hug a loved one that they haven't seen for a while. Or hug someone who will be leaving for a long period of time.

Hugs are also given to comfort someone who is sad or to congratulate someone who has good news.
Hugging reduces tension and raises self-esteem. Scientists even found that hugging can have a positive effect on a person's IQ!

Some of my Chinese friends think all Westerners love to hug. But some Western cultures encourage hugging more than others. The French, for example, are some of the most affectionate people in the world. Researchers have observed that the French touch each other more than 100 times during a 30-minute conversation. Americans, however, typically only touch each other twice during the same time period.

Italians and Greeks are known for giving lots of hugs. But British people, like Americans, tend to be a little more reserved about hugging.

 

Hope for non-huggers
If you live in a culture that doesn't hug, don't despair. Hugging is a behavior that can be learned over time. Take Americans, for example. In the past, many American families refrained from hugging. But over the last 20 years, American society has become more open to the idea. Now, nine out of 10 Americans say they use hugs to show their love.

 


Similarly, Chinese people have started to embrace the idea of hugging. Mary, one of my Chinese friends from Taipei, recently told me her story about hugging.

Mary learned about hugging when she studied abroad 20 years ago. Before that, her traditional Chinese family never hugged. But when she returned from overseas, her parents enjoyed it when she started giving them hugs.

During her last visit home, she was in a hurry to leave. As she was leaving, her 80-year-old mother called out to her. "Don't go yet; you forgot something," her mother said. Mary turned around and saw her mother with her arms opened wide. Mary went over and gave her an enormous hug.

擁抱的力量
                                                     ◎鄔美嘉 譯

當我在美國長大的時候,我的家人常常會彼此互相擁抱。擁抱是我們對彼此表達愛意的方式。每次我想要從我父親那兒得到某件東西的時候,我總是會先問:「爸爸,你可以抱一抱我嗎?」我知道說了這句話,就可以融化他的心。而擁抱之後,他幾乎願意為我做任何事。

 

為什麼擁抱具有如此的威力呢?不知為何,不過單單是讓別人的手臂圍繞在我們身上,就可以讓我們感受到無條件地被接納。

 

當我搬到亞洲之後,我發現到不是所有的家庭都像我的家人那樣,那麼經常地相互擁抱。事實上,許多我亞洲的朋友們透露,在他們家很少彼此擁抱。

 

數年前,我在日本陪同一位朋友回到他家,他已經有兩年沒看到他的父母親了。當我們進到他家時,我期待著他的雙親會立刻擁抱他;然而,他的父親只是舉起手來打聲招呼;而他的母親很高興地歡迎他回家—但她是待在房間的另一端。

 

 

 

為何要擁抱?

 

在西方,人們會因為不同的原因而擁抱,家人和朋友有時只是為了告訴另一個人他們關心,而擁抱。他們或許會擁抱許久未曾見面的人,或是擁抱一位可能要離開很長時間的人。

 

擁抱是為了安慰傷心的人,或是祝賀有好事臨到的人。

 

擁抱能減少緊張,並提昇自尊心。科學家甚至發現擁抱可以對一個人的智商,產生正面的影響呢!

 

我有些華人朋友認為所有的西方人都喜歡擁抱。但有某些西方文化較其他西方文化更加鼓勵擁抱。例如,法國是世界上最多情的民族之一。研究者觀察到法國人在一段三十分鐘的對話中,會觸摸彼此多達一百次以上。然而一般而言,美國人在同一段時間內,只會觸摸彼此兩次。

 

義大利人和希臘人也是眾所皆知地會擁抱人,但英國人,就像美國人一樣,對擁抱是比較保守的。

 

 

 

不擁抱者的希望

 

如果你居住在一個不擁抱的文化中,可別絕望。擁抱是可以靠時間累積學習而得的。就拿美國人來看好了,在過去,許多美國家庭抑制擁抱。但過去二十年來,美國社會變得比較能夠接受這種觀念。如今,每十個美國人中就有九個聲稱,他們藉由擁抱來表達他們的愛。

 

同樣地,華人已經開始接受擁抱這個觀念了。我一位來自台北的朋友馬勵,最近告訴我有關她自己擁抱的故事。

 

馬勵是在她二十年前在國外讀書時,學到擁抱這件事。在那之前,她的傳統華人家庭從來沒擁抱過。但當她從海外回國,她開始擁抱她的父母親時,他們都很高興。

 

馬勵上次回家的時候,她急著離開。當她正要離去時,她八十歲的老媽媽叫住她:「先別走,妳忘了一件事了,」她媽媽說。馬勵回過頭看見她母親張開了雙臂,馬勵隨即走過去,將媽媽抱了個滿懷。

>>>>2004.7月號 空中英語教室


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