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Why Do We Withhold Love?

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Why Do We Withhold Love?

My four year-old just told me that her very liberal, uber-crunchy, 100 percent woo-woo Waldorf kindergarten has a rule — no kissing in school. She’s heartbroken. Siena LOVES to kiss. She kisses everyone — and makes their day. We lip kiss, cheek kiss, butterfly kiss, Eskimo kiss — you name it. She loves kissing so much that last year, when we went to a benefit concert where 100 people were sitting in chairs in neat little rows, she started at the back, climbing on the laps of each person to give them a kiss and a hug, before crawling onto the next chair and kissing and hugging the next person. After they were kissed and hugged by my magical child, people wept. I mean seriously wept. While I watched her, open-mouthed, she finished hugging and kissing the whole audience, and I told her it was time to go. It was past her bedtime. She looked at me with wide eyes and said, “No Mama. They need more.” And she went to the back and started all over again.

I was floored. I’m raising Amma. Holy shit.

But now she can’t kiss at school. Amma is being thwarted. Love is being withheld. The lesson that we need to tone down our natural instinct to express love is being instilled at the delicate age of four. Damn.

I was just like Siena when I was young. Very loving. Very cuddly. Very affectionate. In fact, when I started college at Duke University, I went to fraternity parties and hugged everyone — the girls, the boys — indiscriminately. If you were some new person I had never met before, I hugged you. It’s just who I am.

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at and also created two online communities - and She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


+ add your own
3:07PM PST on Feb 10, 2012

Love is all... in the end!

6:18AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

If a person is not 'huggable' then send them good thoughts. Then there are people that you do not feel comfortable hugging. Go by your 'gut' feelings. There is usually a reason for that. Also, if you don't want a hug from someone you don't feel comfortable around, then DON'T let them!
But-given time, some people that 'bear acquaintance' usually open up to a hug.Be patient. We don't know what their life is/was like!

4:30AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

There is nothing to withold. Love doesn't exist!

7:09AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

Run P., your comment is rather unfair... Not liking to be touched does not make anyone a psychopath. As a victim of childhood abuse, I can vouch for the concept that early trauma = later reluctance.

7:07AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

I dislike being touched when I know it is simply a kneejerk, meaningless reaction - as a college girl, nothing drives me crazier when an arbitrary classmate gives me a hug... but not because of the physical contact, rather because I often feel it is a two-faced action. The Spontaneous Huggers out there today seem to do it because if fits a certain mental image they have of themselves, rather than because they actually feel love. Does that make sense?

I wish more people had your brand of hug-enthusiasm.

8:43PM PST on Dec 31, 2010

Love is all... in the end!

3:21AM PST on Dec 23, 2010

Some people are just psychopaths who can't feel love or be affectionate at all, and hate being touched.

11:45PM PST on Dec 21, 2010

I haven't gotten to all 135 comments but sure hope someone mentioned the worldwide "Free Hugs" campaign! Go to YouTube and search for my favorite, Free Hugs Scotland. It'll warm the cockles of your heart for sure!

7:40PM PST on Dec 19, 2010

what a wonderful article! touch is such a powerful thing and affection is amazing...I am starting to believe in the touches and hugs I receive...there really are some people that are just NICE and LOVING. I hope to become one someday. :)

10:16AM PST on Dec 18, 2010

I admit, I do have trouble with gestures of affection. I have been vandalised and robbed of my feelings, talents, and possessions. It would be such a relief to be able to hug or be hugged without the worry that it will be followed by a loss of some kind.

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