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Why Do We Withhold Love?

The boys seemed to like my hugs. But the other girls didn’t like it at all. They told me it was weird. They made fun of me. They convinced me it wasn’t cool to hug. So I stopped. For twenty years, I stopped. Until recently. When I said “Why not?” and started hugging strangers again. I don’t do handshakes. I do hugs. Whether you’re a patient, a TV producer, another Mom at school, a magazine editor, a guy at the Buddhist temple, my publisher, someone I meet at a party, a fan who shows up at one of my events, or the CEO of some major corporation. I hug. So sue me.

Offering Free Love

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t sleep around. I’m not talking about that kind of free love (but if that floats your boat, more power to ya).  But I’m committed to offering free love — no strings, no expectations, no concern about whether you want to be loved or not. You may notice it at I call everyone sweetie. I think you’re all rock stars. I dish out love and snuggles and group hugs every single chance I get. Does that mean that nobody is special because I don’t reserve those terms of endearment for my inner circle? No. It means you’re ALL special. Everyone is deserving of love, and I am blessed to have plenty to share.

When Joy and I first started back in April of 2009, Joy asked me, “Is there such a thing as being ‘over the top’ with our readers?” She was longing to refer to readers as “lovie” or “sweetie pie” or “lovemuffin,” but her inner critic was holding her back.

I told Joy there was no such thing as “over-the-top.” Everyone wants to be loved. And everyone deserves it. The ones who have a hard time with it just have trouble receiving. Or they distrust anyone who offers love without strings. If they can’t stand being called “sweetie,” they’ll move on, and that will be just fine. But maybe, somewhere in the back of their mind, they’ll realize how good it feels to be loved on, even if it’s by someone you’ve never met. Maybe, one day, when they’re ready to receive, they’ll come back.

Why Do We Withhold Love?

When almost everyone I know in this world is starved for love, craving hugs and kisses and validation and affection, why do we hold back? As children, we are naturally loving, giving, and snuggly, but what happens to us? Why are we afraid to love when we all want it and we all have so much to give?

What if we decided to change that? What if we started offering free hugs? What if we touched fingers and caressed hair and put our heads on shoulders? What if we called each other terms of endearment? What if we were to bark less and wag more? Would anarchy ensue? Or would the world be a better place?

What do you think? Are you an affectionate person? Do you like being touched? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? Would people misunderstand you? Are you dying to express how you feel to people? Do you wish people would touch and love on your more? Tell us what you think!

Related Links:
The Art of Receiving
How Pets Improve Health and Raise Spirits

Read more: Children, Family, Guidance, Inspiration, Love, Relationships, Spirit, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

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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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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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