Togetherness - Our Need For Human Connection
It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. It is the strangest of times. We have entire conversations without even speaking to each other. Thoughts are communicated with emojis. Life altering news is delivered through text message. Millions of people have hundreds of “friends” whom they have never met. With so many avenues of distanced connectivity available it is easy to lose the human part of human connection.
Togetherness Is Biological
Human connection is a vital need to our physical and mental health. Maslow’s Hierarchy places our need for belonging and social connection as third most important. We are neurologically hardwired for connection with other people. Brene Brown said, “In the absence of connection, love and belonging there is always suffering.” Without connection we spiral into the vicious cycle of isolation, loneliness and depression.
However, when we are connected with people our overall health is greatly affected. Having a strong support system helps people overcome challenges more easily and maintain a state of mental well-being. Human connection also decreases health risks and improves physical well-being and longevity. Strong social connections strengthen the immune system and increase your chances of a longer life by 50%.
Human Connection is energy. It is the energy that flows between people who have known and loved each other for 20 years. It is the energy that flows between you and the check out clerk. It is an invisible energy that exists between people. Each person is in command of the flow of energy. It becomes a valuable connection when that energy is exchanged and both people feel seen, heard and valued. When both people can give and receive without judgment these connections form relationships. Human connection provides sustenance and strength.
Togetherness Takes Courage
Relationships are when our human connections become riskier. This is when we have to put ourselves out there. This is why the digital world feels safer. The desire to be fully known and fully loved is a risk that is weighed on the scale of our self esteem. After all, our connection with other people is only as solid and deep as the connection to oneself. And so here is the rub. It takes courage to fulfill one of our greatest needs–human connection.
Courage is the ability to do something that frightens you. In order to create the absolutely required human connections in your life it requires courage. In order to have courage, you must be willing to face uncertainty. You must expose yourself to risk. In short, you must be vulnerable. I daresay you cannot have authentic, genuine human connection without vulnerability.
Togetherness Starts With You
Putting yourself out there is difficult, especially for some personalities. If this is true for you, the first step would be to stop the comparison game. Comparison never builds confidence. Confidence comes from taking an inventory of your own skill set. Look at what you have done and what you can do. How does this relate to making connections? Why does this matter?
It matters because without confidence your connections may never lead to deeper connections beyond the check out clerk. Without confidence you could potentially have hundreds of friends you never meet in person. Confidence can be practiced. Which is where the term “gaining confidence” came from. If you know what your skills are and strive for mastery, confidence is built. So put yourself out there. In my post To The Lonely I have l included a list of “How To Meet People” which would be a great place to start.
Togetherness Is Hand-In-Hand
The most effective approach to maintaining meaningful connection combines compassion with empathy. This is a very powerful combination of love that deepens connection and relationships. Compassion and empathy allow us to walk alongside each other and create the bonds referred to in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs – Those of Belonging and Social Connection.
Compassion is a form of love. It is lived out daily by recognizing, accepting our shared humanity and treating ourselves and others with loving-kindness. Compassion is also shown by taking action in the face of suffering. Compassion allows for love to be shared on equal terms with each person giving and receiving.
Empathy is a powerful tool and skill set of compassion. It allows us to understand what someone is experiencing and reflect back that understanding. Empathy is not walking in someone else’s shoes for how can we truly understand all of the nuances of someone else's life experience without clouding it with our own prejudice and experience.
Empathy is the practice of understanding others' emotions. It is not trying to experience them. Effective empathy takes an emotional perspective by actively listening without judgment, believing what we are told, and recognizing and communicating emotions.
The greatest treasure of human connection are the stories we share. The stories shared with us and the stories we share with others are gold. We love stories! We share them on social media. We tell them around tables, campfires, and over coffee. We read them in books and watch them on screens. However, the mishandling of a story entrusted to us or that we have entrusted to someone else can sever the bonds of even the deepest connections.
Some stories are easy to tell and some stories it takes a great deal of trust to share. Be a good steward of your story and a good steward of the stories with which you are entrusted. Protect the stories of others. They are treasures to be guarded. Recognize the courage it took for someone to share their story with you.
It requires great reciprocal vulnerability to share stories. The more vulnerable you are with each other the deeper the relationship becomes. This is because it requires more love and trust. Trust is layered and is given and received over time. Be a good steward of your own story. Be vulnerable enough to share with a trusted friend or therapist.
There is a lot of courage involved in creating and maintaining human connection. The courage to have the confidence to strike out to make contact with someone. The courage to walk alongside someone and maintain a relationship. The courage to deepen trust by protecting someone’s story. Human connection is well worth the uncertainty, risk and exposure and it is one of our basic needs. Human connection provides us with a sense of belonging, emotional support and physical health benefits. We Belong Together!