hugging the hug


Photo from “Your Dog Hates Hugs.”

I made an FB rant in response to handsome TV celebrity vet Chris Brown’s post refuting the recent news going around that dogs actually do not like being hugged.

A hug is not the same as soft cuddling, stroking, snuggling.

A handsome TV celebrity vet may be attractive but he is not always right.

It is dangerous and yes, even harmful, to push personal agenda over that of our animals and indeed even the neurologically differently wired.

Chris Brown says very wisely, “If you see wide eyes, ears that are down… etc…” Yes, agree… but when you are hugging (remember hugging is not the same as cuddling, stroking, snuggling) how can you see any accurate signs of these? Besides, you will be too emotionally centred to want to be observing, wouldn’t you? Isn’t that the whole basis of hugging?

Is it not time to consider – yes, just merely stop a moment and consider – the paradigm of the other Being that we say we so adore and love, to find out whether their modalities for affection are being properly recognised, alongside our own?

I hate hugging humans, but they make me hug them anyway – they even have ABA ‘scientifically proven methods’ that make people like me learn to appear normal and like hugging etc, and we comply because why? We wish to please and we don’t want to be beaten down anymore, that is all. BUT… I would LOVE for this so-called ‘non-scientific’ observation to be wrong, because I love to hug my Lucy, she’s the only one I want to hug. But I know there is grave truth in the concept that dogs do not really like being hugged. Because I can feel her muscles. And I have hugged many of my family dogs. Enough to know that I have made a practice of ignoring them since age 5. Luckily, I was not bitten. Just because one celebrity vet tells you it is ok, then it is science? What about the many many non-celebrity vets who tell you otherwise, from their own experiences?

How does your dog like to show affection, without prompting? Lucy likes to lick me. I do not like it much, but there is some comfortable compromise to be made. Lucy likes to paw at me, and ask me to stroke her ears, while looking at me intently. I am not keen on looking in the eye much, so I look away after some time. I want to hug her, and she endures it for my sake, but I now minimise it because I can feel her muscles subtly tightening, even though I cannot literally see those things that Chris Brown says to look out for – because when you are hugging someone/dog/cat you just cannot see those things, can you? Anyway…. long rant…

All I am saying is, please, people, try to look at those you profess to love from their native modality. Try. Just try. I still get it wrong. Lucy is a patient teacher. I am not a very good learner. But I want to keep trying with an open mind. That is ALL I am saying. That there are possible paradigms that are not our own, and I just want to explore those from within Otherness, rather than insisting on my own needs and my own concepts. If that is pushing my own agenda, then it is true. My agenda is to try and learn from the modalities of the neurologically differently wired from myself, while at the same time persuading the normative social community to try and step into my different paradigm.

This was on my own FB space. But the Bunny had previously offered a frank opinion on a friend’s repost, and got promptly accused of pushing my own barrow, and then the thread was deleted. I respect my friend’s right to do so. It is, after all, a personal FB wall and he is entitled to his opinion. I actually thought we were having a nice intellectual debate, I failed to see how intensely he disliked it, and I guess I was being insensitive in that instance.

No, I will not stop being honest with my thoughts, but I will from henceforth try to be more sensitive about dishing my thoughts out in this way to this particular friend’s personal FB space. The lesson I learned (and continue to learn with each new experience) is exactly the same lesson that I am trying to convey: let’s make effort to empathise with Other from their native framework, instead of our own. So, now I realise my friend does not like this kind of disagreement and does not see my intellectual discourse as what it is intended to be, I am responsible for putting a lid on it, after all, it is his space. I will refrain – cease and desist – henceforth. (Different scenario if it were my space.)

We do need to keep wanting to learn. Empathy is an Endeavour. That was my whole point where it came to my comments re. the dog-hugging argument anyway – but people who are too emotionally heated up tend not to perceive logic in a … well… logical way. And yes, fact is, in this framework of emotionality or emotion-focusing, the babbling autistic does indeed come across as irritating, annoying and “pushing our own barrows” (steamrolling really). How do we strike a good compromise? I do not know for sure, but I am learning from Lucy. She is a patient teacher. Maybe I will learn enough to apply it better to my human interactions? Go, Lucy Angel!

The Haptic HugShrug (2012)

Somehow, despite deliberate intentions to the contrary, things often just go one full circle and settle down happily like a contented doggy on his own rug, back where one just feels is the ‘right’ place to be.

So the workshop was intended as a collaborative effort. A miss-mash of different creative people coming together to do creative stuff. Well, I tried. Nobody wanted to or was able to get outside their social-brained operational mode to even be marginally interested in collaborating with me. And I guess I lacked the social engineering-navigational-manipulation skills nor did I have the energy anyway to drum up interest in myself where there is none at the outset. The tiny workshop about sensory and cognitive anomalies in Autism Spectrum Condition and their influence on creative process, which I had devised, and which had only 3 registered attendees, didn’t even happen. I was happy for a small group, even though I did ask both organisers if I should cancel due to lack of interest. I was told not to cancel. But in the end, nobody turned up at the designated time, and they didn’t bother to inform me. When the people in question finally appeared, they acted as if nothing was amiss. No mention of it at all. My workshop just didn’t exist. And neither did I, really. (Except to one or two in the entire grand scheme of things, but that is another story to be told.)

But I am not upset. Not in the way most normal folks would be at being flippantly marginalised and ignored. It was amusing to me, actually. What upset me was the time I wasted being there, when I could’ve been elsewhere and working on my own stuff. And the sensory pain I put myself through to get there and back.

Anyhow, here is what I created from out of the madness – a solo work, all mine, from conceptualisation to execution. I am happy. I like what I achieved. It didn’t matter to me so much that things didn’t unfold as promised, nor did it matter in the end that organisation was a bit of a messy affair. It mattered more to me that I learned a great deal, observed a whole lot about humanity, and pushed the limits of my own frames till they expanded.

The Haptic HugShrug (prototype) – by Dawn-joy Leong.

(Created for the Haptic InterFace exhibition – HKBU, Koo Ming Kown Exhibition Gallery, 21Nov-16Dec.)

Many with Autism Spectrum Condition suffer from sensory anomalies and are averse to human touch. However, just like everyone else, we crave the sensation of warm embrace. Studies have revealed that deep pressure haptic stimulation, especially that which enwraps, relaxes and calms panic and sensory alarm that are common features in Autism and other sensory-cognitive idiosyncratic conditions (ADHD, PTSD etc).

Temple Grandin, world famous autism advocate and animal behaviorist, developed the renowned “Squeeze Machine,” for the above purpose. In this machine, the user is able to regulate the intensity of pressure by activating a lever.

My “Haptic Hug-Shrug” is a response to Grandin’s “Squeeze Machine,” but was created to deliberately eschew technology, and address sensory-sympathetic need at its basic, primal level. Made from wool top, using crochet technique, the Hug-Shrug can be ‘worn’ or used as a blanket, and even gentle sensory mat to lie on. It’s weight provides the sensation of deep pressure, while the softness and warmth of fine Merino wool serves as supportive comfort to the wearer, who will regulate the intensity of the ‘hug’ by pulling at the edges.

Explanatory text by Dawn-joy Leong.