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The Road to Wim Hof – Part 2

Lean on Me

“Sometimes in our lives We all have pain We all have sorrow

But if we are wise We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me When you're not strong And I'll be your friend I'll help you carry on...

For it won't be long Till I'm gonna need somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride

If I have things you need to borrow

For no one can fill Those of your needs that you won't let show

You just call on me brother when you need a hand

We all need somebody to lean on

I just might have a problem that you'll understand We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me When you're not strong And I'll be your friend I'll help you carry on...

For it won't be long Till I'm gonna need somebody to lean on

You just call on me brother When you need a hand We all need somebody to lean on

I just might have a problem that you'll understand We all need somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear That you can't carry

I'm right up the road I'll share your load If you just call me”

Lyrics by Bill Withers

It seems like so long ago now since I went to Morillo de Tou and yet the ripple from that time stretches even to now. On my first evening in Spain as we gathered in the hotel, the night before getting the bus to the mountains, I was met by one of the other instructors. He bowled through the door, apologised that he was not going to get to say hello right now as he was going to his room and then enveloped me in a big hug. I went to the bar and met several others, I was hugged by those that were nearest. I have always found hugging difficult and I have often been heard to say that I am not a hugger, in fact, once I got to Morillo de Tou I did say that to a couple of people. Here’s the complication though, this group of people gave the warmest hugs, that made me feel safe and I found myself confused. Since my teenage years hugs have made me feel awkward, as though I am stomping over other peoples boundaries, worried that I may be forcing my needs on to other people, so except for very few people I did not hug, although if someone hugged me I would accept it. Albeit sometimes a little stiffly. Sometimes I would accept it to please them, even though I felt awkward and could feel them in my space.

There are many reasons why I struggle so much with hugs, all of which I have looked at with my own therapist and I work hard to find the balance between my need for closeness and affection, my not wanting to force my physicality into someone elses space and holding the knowledge that I have control and can say no if I don’t want that person to hug me. I know many people who tell me that they are not huggers and the beauty is we each get to choose what we are comfortable accepting and if you’re not, know that you absolutely can say no. Should you want to become more of a hugger let me give you some reasons as to why you might want to consider giving someone a hug:

· Stress reduction – a hug release oxytocin, the bonding hormone. This helps to reduce

stress and increases feelings of well-being

· Mood enhancement – hugs can lead to an increase ins serotonin a dopamine

neurotransmitters associated with happiness and pleasure

· Bonding and connection – this can strengthen emotional bonds, increasing trust and

intimacy and a sense of connection

· Physical health benefits – a hug can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure

· Pain relief – a hug may trigger the release of endorphins which are the bodies natural


· Reduced loneliness – hugs and appropriate and welcomed physical touch can reduce

feelings of loneliness and isolation

The other thing I noticed in Spain was my own “British reserve” when it came to close contact, singing, crying. I heard others from Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, Hawaii and many other places all willing to just (In Elsas words!) let it go and be exactly who they were, showing exactly how they felt from moment to moment and I felt frustration around what felt like a wall holding me back, keeping me quiet, keeping my hands by my side until someone came up to me for a hug. I wasn’t looking to be the complete opposite but wanted to be able to allow myself more self-expression, the funny thing is I didn’t know that until I was with this group of people. Once I recognised it, I worked hard looking for ways to challenge myself to feel more comfortable accepting the hugs that I wanted, saying the compliments and sharing feelings (without over sharing) that I may have held back previously and managing the discomfort that that produced (because i

t was a new pathway for me and that is always uncomfortable) and showing more of my emotions when I wanted to. What I discovered was that it was OK for me to do this, sometimes and I would get it wrong and I could see who I could make a connection with and who I had missed the mark with. I learnt that being uncomfortable was not just about sitting in the ice but also about how we relate to others. Much like when we are uncomfortable during physical activity in order to grow stronger, we need do this in relationship too until we can flex our relationship muscle and see how we have grown.

I went to Spain thinking that I was going to show how I had embraced the Wim Hof Method and taken on everything about the ice baths, the breathwork and the science but I learnt out there the real meaning of what Wim says: “feeling is understanding”.

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