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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  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 don’t enter a per­son’s per­sonal space until I’m invited to. Otherwise, it just sends my mind into over­load.

  3. 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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