The idea of connection (or our lack thereof) is a very current topic. New studies are showing how the increase of loneliness in our modern society is having a negative effect on our health. I personally believe that connection is one of our most fundamental needs as human beings and I even chose the words True Connection as my business name to convey how the concept of connection is at the heart of my work and underpins everything I do.
“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.”
― Brené Brown
Our need for connection starts when we a are born. As newborn babies we are completely helpless and fully reliant on those around us for our very survival. A lack of connection with others is literally life threatening to us. This knowledge (although not conscious in newborns) becomes imprinted in our psyche and we carry it through our childhood, as we continue to rely on our caregivers for our basic needs.
As we grow we come to learn that our caregivers approve of certain things that we do and not of others. The feeling of being disconnected from our caregivers when they don’t approve of us is too painful to bear. So we learn to adapt our behaviour to best please those who we rely on. This is called conditioning, a smart way to survive childhood. But as we grow up we may begin to realise that these patterns of behaviour learned in childhood are holding us back, some more than others. All the behaviours that we have internalised to please our caregivers may not work with other people. The rules that got us the results we wanted at home may not work at school, university or in the work place. Again we feel disconnected, alone and on a primal level we still associate this feeling with being at risk of death.
As human beings of any age we survive in groups. The way that we have evolved as a species is not through being the strongest, the fastest or the most enduring. We evolved through using our intelligence to communicate with each other and work as teams. As hunter gatherers we were able to catch larger prey when we worked together and in our complex modern society we are completely interlinked and dependent on one another.
It’s easy to see why connection is so important to us, but I feel that sometimes we fail to acknowledge that the underlying reason why we don’t feel as connected as we would like is because we have lost our connection with ourselves. When we learned to adapt our behaviour to please those around us, we shut down parts of ourselves. All the parts of us we assumed were wrong, bad, unacceptable or unlovable, we buried deep down and tried to disown.
It may seem crazy but in our desperate attempts to feel connected with others we actually sometimes disconnect from ourselves! Now, when we try to connect with people from our conditioned selves, our ego minds, we’re not all there. We’re hiding parts of us, often even from ourselves and this is creating huge dissonance in our lives and relationships.
“We’re only as sick as our secrets. These secrets make it impossible for us to be our authentic selves. But when you make peace with yourself, the world will mirror back that same level of peace. When you’re in harmony with yourself, you’re in harmony with everyone else.”
– Debbie Ford
As a therapist I believe that the connection we have with ourselves is fundamental to how we then show up in the world and connect with others. If we are hiding and denying parts of ourselves (even from ourselves) we are not fully available for connection. As we foster our ability to accept all parts of ourselves, we feel more authentic and more connected.
The way that I help facilitate this deeper connection in my work with clients is through resolving such inner conflicts and helping people to come to a place of self acceptance. I also help people to find a way to connect with themselves inwardly, through some sort of inner practice, like mindfulness, meditation or breathing techniques. We spend so much of our time being pulled in every direction with our attention always focused outwardly, we need to come into a place of stillness so that we can check in with ourselves and start to connect with our deeper truth inside.