Martin Seligman the author of Flourish and one of the people who coined the term Positive Psychology gave a talk on the aspects of his book on the 6th July 2011 at the RSA. The room was packed and the event was podcast live. The RSA always put on great events, this one is close to my heart. I am familiar with Seligman’s work, his early research into learned helplessness led him to developing learned optimism, and evolving more of a balance within the psychology field more emphasis on flourishing rather than repairing or fixing problems.
Seligman manages to explore human flourishing without actually exploring human touch, this I find disappointing, how can people thrive or flourish without physical contact?
On the 2nd July in Newcastle Under Lyme some first time huggers got busy offering free hugs in the town centre. A new outpost of Guerrilla Huggers has now been formed. I travelled with a friend who has been an observer of our hugs before but had never offered free hugs. She was still unsure as to whether she would hug or not. When we arrived she decided to go for it, what happened had a significant impact on her mood and shifted her well being up a few notches.
As she was offering hugs her confidence grew, she smiled more, her stature was different and everything seemed to flow. Then an older man stopped for a hug, she duly hugged him, he said “I so miss being held, I haven’t had a hug since my wife died”. They stood chatting about the importance of touch and how to find ways of getting more platonic touch in life, it’s the one thing that everyone steers clear of and yet everyone needs touch in their life to thrive. I am writing this here to illustrate the need for positive psychology, policy makers and people in general to start recognising the obvious need to create safe touch in everyday life for people who live alone of any age, for people in care homes and hospitals to receive touch other than medical interventions. Since my friend came hugging she reports a significant shift in her own well being, she feels happier and life feels better for her, could it be that by giving hugs you increase your own well being by intention?
I asked Seligman about the exclusion of touch from the notion of human flourishing, he agreed there is a need for more research into touch – you can listen here I ask it right at the end. Where does touch sit in the notion of human rights? The right to have connections with meaning and purpose not based on fear?