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As a survivor of child sexual abuse I felt really uncomfortable with hugs for some years. A hug would set my alarms off and was poised by the thought: "I have to be cautious or otherwise this person will take advantage of me". I wasn't used to setting boundaries so it never occurred to me that saying "no thanks" would have been an option.
Until one day when receiving a hug from a soon-to-become-friend, in a rare moment of enlightenment I realized it was his usual way of treating people so the hug was just a hug, no strings attached: "Someone's offering you something good. Why won't you take it?" And I realized most people would see a hug as a hug too. While in his arms it felt suddenly as if a heavy burden was lifted and I relaxed. That moment changed a lot and made me also terribly sad for all the opportunities to give and receive affection in the past. I was starved for touch and I suddenly was able to feel that hunger again. Since then I started to trust other people and got gradually able to enjoy more and more affection and intimacy. Now hugs are quite ok for me, but depending on who's the huggee.
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