Once I met a girl from Turkey who told me that usually, all women met on Sunday to groom each other. They talk and laugh while fixing their hair and putting on make-up. She said that she missed this in Norway; People come together mostly on Friday nights to drink and then go out. The rest of the week was dedicated to work or studies, and the social life was just a fraction of what it was for her in Turkey. That reminded me of how I felt when I traveled to Turkey myself. People sat in restaurants and talked between meals. They drank, but not so much as in Norway. There was no hurry, just a lot of smiles and love sent back and forth. They touched each other more: On the shoulders, on the small of the back when they went home and often warm embraces while they said their goodbyes for the night. In France they kiss each other on the cheek two times, and in Italy the people behave much the same way. People in the south of Europe simply are more social, and I love that. We need it in Norway too, but in my opinion, there are far too many lonely people out there. Maybe this is due to the distances in our country. I grew up in a little place myself, so it wasn`t just to visit whoever you want (even though I really tried).
Oxytocin is a hormone we need to interact with others. It calms our nervous system and makes us feel at peace with the world. Mothers feeding their babies, have a lot of oxytocin in their systems, and so do happy couples. Oxytocin levels varies from person to person, and there are also huge differences in the animal kingdom. The animals with the highest levels of oxytocin are also the most «faithful» of them. Swans keep their mate for life, and their levels are sky-rocket. In the world today, the divorce rate is high. I don`t mean to advocate a view where we should`t get a divorce when necessary, because real freedom is to work out what works best for each and every one of us. But I do think that relationships is important for most of us. People with Asperger or autism are known for being less able to connect with others in a meaningful way, but that doesn`t mean that they don`t have a need to connect in any way they can. Some get engrossed in objects, and if you think about it, that is a relationship too. Who are we to judge what kind of relationships they should have? Another thing that strikes me, is the fact that some of them love to be wrapped in a «hug machine». They get calmer and don`t need to bang their heads, as some autists do. It might be safer to them, to have something nonliving touching them, than unpredictable humans that they don`t understand. But they still need to get their oxytocin shots from somewhere. We should not scold them for not wanting a hug from the primary caregiver, because they have their reasons. By accepting and trying to understand variations, we are able to be where others are and give them good lives and feel good in return. Nothing makes us happier than doing the right thing.
For me, being social has swung back and forth like a pendulum. Sometimes I isolate myself, but when the need comes, I call a friend. When I had 5-6 patients a day, I could not see more people that day, as I had to refuel my energy with books or other activities. In the summer I am often more social, as I have more time to do both. That is also when I love to meet new people. To have time to talk and understand even more about how other minds work. I also love hugging and touching, and have realized that even if I`m single, I can get my dose of oxytocin without feeling very lonely. I know I will be very happy and content in a good relationship but there are so many ways to be happy, and as long as I get my dose of warm embraces, I feel calm and at peace with myself and my life.
So, no matter where you`r from or what your cultural etiquette is, try to get what your body craves and needs. Even if some people slap instead of touch gently, there are still a major percentage of the population who wants to see others grow and feel good about themselves. It`s much easier to spot those people if you get experience and try to get closer to others again. Fear has an important function, but we need to tame it when it steals away moments of potential happiness. Because, in the end, we all need a hug when we feel alone.