Why We Need to Connect With Others Right NowNov 02, 2020
Social distancing is difficult because we were created to be in relationship with others. Pair that with a volatile political climate, and there are myriad reasons for relationships to feel torn apart and broken.
But without a solid, bonded relationship, the human soul becomes mired in psychological and emotional problems. We cannot prosper without being connected to others. We sometimes think, however, that we can supply all our needs without other people. We think that, in a state of emotional isolation, we can still grow. This grave violation of the basic nature of the universe can cause serious problems.
Learning to bond won’t happen overnight. Making human connections takes a good dose of grace, truth and time. Here are some skills that will start you on the long road to making changes that heal.
Move Toward Others
It is wonderful when others move toward you and seek out your heart. Often, though, others cannot see what you need and how emotionally isolated you really are. Therefore, to the best of your ability, actively reach out for help and support.
You can move toward others, get socially involved, and have relationships, but still be isolated. Your isolation may stem from your inability to be open, your inability to show your real self to others. Learn to be vulnerable. The word vulnerable literally means “open to criticism or attack.” You need to be so open with your needs that you are open to attack.
Realization of need is the beginning of growth. Humility and vulnerability are absolutely necessary for bonding to take place at a deep level.
Being vulnerable at a social level may be too threatening at first. Maybe you need to start with a pastor, counselor, or support group. But vulnerability is a skill that opens up the heart for love to take root. When you can admit that you need support and help, and can reveal your hurt and isolation, a dynamic is set into motion that can literally transform your personality and life.
Challenge Distorted Thinking
Distorted thinking blocks you from relating to others. This essentially causes you to repeat what happened in the past. Challenge the distortions that keep you in bondage. To the extent that you continue to see the world through your childhood eyeglasses, your past will be your future.
If you don’t, for example, challenge the belief that “all people will leave me,” you will never form an abiding attachment, and you will recreate the isolation of your past. Distorted thinking was learned in the context of relationship, and that is the only place where it can be unlearned. You need new relationship to undo the learning of the past; there your real self can be connected in grace and truth and thereby be transformed.
To learn new relational skills and the way of attachment, take risks. You have a responsibility to hear the voice and open the door. People will call to you, but if your distorted thinking and your resistance to risk get in the way, you will keep the door closed so that attachment cannot happen. Allow yourself to risk valuing someone emotionally. Risk getting hurt again. This is difficult, but essential.
Allow Dependent Feelings
Whenever you begin to allow someone to matter to your isolated heart, uncomfortable needy and dependent feelings will surface. These are the beginnings of a softening heart. Though uncomfortable, these feelings are a key to attachment. Many times you think you need to “keep a stiff upper lip,” but allowing your tender, needy sides to show to the ones you need will cement the attachment and allow it to grow.
Recognize your own particular defenses against attachment. As soon as you can spot the old familiar patterns, you can begin to notice them in operation and take responsibility for them. You may need to say something life this, “Oh, there I go again, devaluing someone who is trying to love me. I’ll try and let them matter this time.”
Become Comfortable with Anger
Often, people avoid attachment because they fear their anger at the one whom they need and love. As a result, anger leads them into isolation to protect the loved one. It is natural to feel angry toward people you need. The more you can feel comfortable with angry feelings toward “good” people, the more you can integrate those feelings into the relationship and not spoil it. The angry self is an aspect of personhood that many people prefer to leave “un-bonded.” They believe that it is the unlovable aspect of who they are.
Empathy is the ability to share in another’s emotions, thoughts, or feelings. Empathizing with others’ needs, identifying with their hurt, softens your own heart. Many hardened people have melted by getting close to the hurts of others. I’m not implying a “give-to-get” or a “get-your-mind-off-yourself” strategy. I’m talking about identifying with the struggler in order to get in touch with your own hurt and loneliness.
Say “Yes” to Life
The task of bonding to others is one of saying, “yes” to life. It is saying, “yes” to others’ invitation to connect with them. People who struggle with isolation say “no” to relationship in many ways.
When you hide behind defense mechanisms, you are saying “no.” When you avoid intimacy, you are saying “no.” When you make excuses, you are saying “no.” Connection requires that you begin to say “yes” to love when it presents itself. This may mean accepting invitations to be with people instead of always withdrawing. It may mean giving a different answer in safe contexts when you are asked, “How are you doing?” It may mean empathizing with another’s hurt. Whatever the opportunity it means saying, “yes” to relationship.