Food For Thought: Why do people have to divulge personal information to avoid hugs?2 min read

I recently watched a video on trauma.  The speaker mentioned that children are generally very loving and affectionate, but that children typically do not have trouble hugging people unless there is a history of trauma or they’re on the spectrum.

I did not know that I was autistic when I was kid.  I always found it incredibly frustrating how my family members would violate my consent by hugging me when I very clearly did not like being hugged.  I understand that my lack in knowledge of my autism at that time does not make me an exception to the rule, because I am autistic. 

But I do not understand why I or any other person should have to justify their decision to not give consent to be touched.  The fact that it is their body should be enough.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with someone wherein I mentioned that I do not like being touched.  I do not like hugs.  I hate holding or shaking hands.  The idea of kissing someone completely repulses me.  After I told this to the person I was talking to, they started to go into this speech about how certain experiences can damage us and it takes a long time to get past those events…

They thought I had experienced trauma.  They thought that there had to have been something wrong with me or some nightmare in my past if I could not enjoy the fundamentals of the human experience (as they perceived it).  I, of course, felt a need to defend myself and my life experiences as I had never been attacked, raped, or abused. 

I am just autistic.

Apparently, the  the fact that I am a living being does not entitle me to turn away hugs or handshakes; instead, it is the fact that I have a neurocognitive difference from everyone else.  Simply saying No, thank-you to a hug is not enough.

I have to divulge personal information for it to be valid.  No, thank-you.  I am refraining from this hug because I am autistic and hugs make me feel uncomfortable.  Would you like a note from my doctor to make sure my claim is valid?

Obviously, that statement is a bit dramatic, but I honestly feel like some people would actually like a doctor’s note.

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3 thoughts

  1. I received a hug from a neighbour once (a neighbour, mind you, not a friend).  I froze and didn’t respond.  She asked what was the matter and I said, I’m not into hugs.  Oh well, she said and flounced off.  Yes, it’s hard.

  2. I am awkward with hugs because I don’t understand what that particular bit of body language means to the other person.  I’m not sure of the message the hugger is sending me.  I know it means that they want to share my time and space but I’m not quite sure of the driving motive behind the action.  Hugs from my wife no problem, my kids and grandkids no problem, anyone else is unfamiliar a bit awkward and potentially damaging to my marriage.  A hug is an emotional commitment that endures long after the hug itself has finished.  I doubt the other party sees a hug in that sort of detail or frame of mind.  The good thing is that hugs are almost exclusively well intended so pushing our boundaries in this area should be reasonably safe.  I regularly test my boundaries but I can still say no any time I choose, I deny the opportunity as politely as possible usually just with my manner and body language.  I don’t complain because in reality I can’t expect others to know any different.  It’s not a big problem for me but it is an issue and I accept it is my issue rather than other peoples.  If someone of good character reaches out to me I don’t devalue or reject them.

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