Human connection is the foundation of two primary human needs: safety/security and love/belongingness. Self connection is correlated with safety and security. Other-centered connection is what brings a sense of love and belongingness to our lives.
This is the root. Where it begins. All other connection is restricted to a superficial state if we do not have true connection to the self. Self connection is knowing your inner being. Many times people come to a realization that “I don’t even know who I am anymore”. This can feel frightening, threatening and unsafe. However, this is also a great opportunity! It is the self knocking at the door saying “Remember me?”. Often when life is lived on autopilot, people go through the motions but do not bring attention or awareness to the self. The beauty in this is that when the self knocks, you can always answer. Answer without fear of the uncertainty or shame for neglecting the self. Answer that door as you would a welcomed friend. “Hello, how are you today? Who are you today?”. Greet yourself as if you are meeting yourself for the first time every time. You will soon find a connection and from there your sense of safety and security will be cemented.
Connections to other human beings happen all of the time and at varying degrees. Unless one is completely off the grid, connection differs from broad universal connection to deep intimate connection. Studies show humans need all connection in order to thrive and even survive. When someone is struggling with difficult emotions such as loneliness, hopelessness, fear, worry, or sadness, connection is often a missing component. Understanding this, bringing intention to connection by spending time exploring connection in one or all of the of the layers of connection often induces feelings of love and belonging which reduces the difficult emotions.
Human connection is the widest form of other people-centered connection. Human connection is recognizing that whether you live in Appleton, Santiago, Tanzania, or Vientiane, we are all human beings walking this earth. This fact alone connects us on a human level. It brings us the opportunity to realize that though we may have different beliefs, experiences, and colors of skin, we are all made up of the same systems of the human body and walk this earth at the same period of time. Much has been written to remind us that we have this human connection. The Dalai Lama writes “As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery”. This simple statement has great depth, reminding us that every human being has the same basic desire. Research psychologist Brene Brown lays the foundation of her writings with her research findings that we are all hard wired for connection. Bringing awareness to the premises that we are all connected as human beings, that we all long for the same overall life desires and that we all long for human connection allows us to feel the connection to others on a very broad level. To deepen your sense of human connection, bring this into your awareness on a daily basis. If someone at your workplace gets under your skin, stop and recognize they too are human and doing what they can to reach their level of happiness for their life. When you hear a story on the news or in the paper about something occuring in a place you are not familiar with or a culture you are not familiar with, take time to consider what it may be like to be living in that area or culture. Use your empathy skills to set down your lens and pick up a completely different lens to view the world from another’s perspective, noting they too are wired for connection and have the need to be free from misery no matter what they are going through.
Social connection has been linked to many life improvements including quality of life: improved immune system, as well as quantity of life. Yes, this means people with strong social connections are expected to live longer. Social connections are the relationships you have with people around you. In general, these are positive connections or have the potential to be positive connections when they are utilized. (If the connection becomes negative, the connection is often broken by one or the other.) Social connections may be very wide such as a particular group or community you belong to or narrowed such as family or group of friends. It does not matter how many people are in your socially connected network, but it is important for you to have social connections. In my first career, I worked at the YMCA (for 9 years!). Over and over again I saw new “transplants” to our area join the Y and connect with others to build their social network. I saw new moms who were looking for support, guidance and camaraderie build their social network at the YMCA. As a young person with a young family, I too built my social connections through the YMCA. When I am out and about, I often run into families I met through this venue, and some of my closest friends began as social connections (co-workers at the Y) and are now some of my deepest connections. To begin/improve/utilize your social connection, consider the people in your life or the hobbies you may have. Do you reach out to connect to people? Do you take the opportunities to engage in social connection? Is there a club, group or organization that may bring more social connection to your life?
Deep connection often begins as a social connection. Deep connections are formed when one is able to be vulnerable as well as hold another’s vulnerability. It is from here that a strong sense of trust is built. Deep connections do not just happen. Deep connections require nurturing, cultivating and truthfully, a lot of work. People who are committed to deep connections ask the hard questions, address the difficult topics and stay invested the relationship even when the going gets tough. Deep connection involves risk and courage. Deep connections are rare, most people having 1-3 deep connections in their lives due to the amount of time, intention and energy they require. Like most things we work to grow, deep connections can be the most rewarding connections. Knowing that another person is there for you no matter what, that they have your back, and if needed, will pick you up is a connection like no other. I encourage you to reflect on the deep connections you have in your life. For many, this brings up deficits…. "I wish I felt that deep connection with my ____ (fill in the blank)". This can lead to great exploration and great growth in relationships.
This month, I encourage you to allow yourself a few moments to take stock of the connections in your life. Offer gratitude for the areas you see satisfying connection, and I encourage you to make space for areas you yearn for more connection. As simple a concept as connection may seem, there are many barriers to connection which can be overlooked. This may include something simple to adjust - such as lack of intention or awareness. Deeper barriers to connection are often uncovered in therapy where we explore each of these connections in detail and look to improve these connections for a more authentic and satisfying life.