Andrej Kolář, a therapist and masseuse who works with the human body and touch stands in the city streets of Prague with a "free hugs" sign. And offers people a hug. Will the city's approach to physical contact with others change?
"In my view, hugging is one of the most natural expressions of human contact, when two people transmit their emotions in a few moments and support each other in the sense of shared joy - double joy or shared sadness - half sadness," explains Andrej.
The taboo of physical contact is also something he is hoping to tackle in full force as he situates himself in the centre of the city with a "free hugs" sign, offering hugs to any person who dares to touch a stranger on the street.
"Unfortunately, Prague citizens are rather reserved," he describes his experience. According to Mr. Kolář, it is caused by the thought patterns they have received from their family, or by the possible prudence of the Christian environment, and the combination of hugging the opposite sex could possibly hold sexual connotations.
"Few people, not only in Prague, can connect hugs with brotherly, sister, parental and neighbourly love. Yet over the three years, I've been embracing people, I see a certain shift towards greater openness and understanding of the importance of hugging," he revealed.
The results have not been disappointing. He added "the phenomenon of feeling like a failure is, in my view, again a common phenomenon in our regions, not just for people without a partner but also for those with a long-term partner. The need for touch is very strong and gives us a sense of acceptance, security and proximity which are the natural needs of people."
A person with an inadequate level of or lack of touch in their lives can cause someone to close themselves off and fall into depression. This is another way Andrej seeks to help those people. "What I do is more like a symbolic statement, even though we can actually practice it. It is meant to promote self-confidence and self-acceptance, if possible without unnecessary conditions," he adds.
He even added a piece of advice for introverts who are shy, but who feel unhappy. "If they really want to do something about it and change it, it is best to join a group that offers activities in the centre of Prague once a month and hug yourself often. Most of the time, a few natural and beautiful hugs are needed, and one naturally relaxes and will joyfully embrace more and more," said Andrej.
Author: Lilato Madiri