The Psychological Hug

by Lori Rahn, Right Relations Committee

We UU’s are terrific at hugging- physical hugging that is, but are we equally as good at “psychological hugs”?

According to Lawrence J. Bookbinder, PhD, a psychological hug is a feeling that one gets when one has been listened to and has been acknowledged for what was said and for the feelings associated with what was said. This is also called “empathetic acknowledgement.”

Some of the elements of empathetic acknowledgment/listening are: not interrupting, not giving advice, not changing the subject to talk about your own agenda, not voicing disapproval, but instead, tuning into the feelings of the person and stating your understanding of what is being said and felt.

Effective empathy requires being present and thinking about what the other person’s words mean to him/her, not what they mean to you the listener. One of the most important skills of the empathetic listener is to develop the ability to wait, to listen and to encourage the other to talk. Listen with your head AND your heart. This cannot occur without honoring the other person’s experience and allowing for what may be dramatic differences from our own values. “It is a process of mutuality where both people are enriched and relationships can be strengthened.”

The Right Relations Committee is hoping that we at UUCWC can become better at giving and receiving psychological hugs through the practice of empathetic acknowledgment/listening.