Why We Need Connection
I suppose in order to answer that question, we need to look at what connection is. This is my own view but it is one that has been derived from my experience of working with people who are disconnected and my own personal journey of understanding my own disconnection with humanity.
Connection is multi-layered. It is feeling part of something, feeling wanted and wanting to be with another. It is the feeling of being vulnerable, as you expose your true self and are accepted when it is revealed. It is allowing yourself to be cared for and know that you will care for others in return. It is the being seen and being heard, that you feel significant.
But I think it starts with being truly connected to ourselves and our own humanity, for all our flaws and imperfections.
Humans need others, it is the only way we have survived. If we think of a new born child, they need their mothers for immunity and sustenance. If we don’t have mothers, we need to rely on others who will feed us and keep us warm. Without these care givers, we know instinctively that we will die. There is a theory that women’s breasts are where they are as they give the child the best opportunity for eye contact when feeding, therefore, making a non verbal connection between mother and child. The child has to make the mother bond in order for it to be loved. If this connection with our care givers is either missing or gets disrupted some way down the line in our childhood, we feel disconnected. For humans, this can be one of the most devastating feelings we can experience, like annihilation.
When you read this you could be forgiven for assuming that this disconnection would only appear through something significant, like the death of a parent, or through sexual abuse, where all trust would be broken. However, this is not actually the case. If you consider what connection is, the absolute feeling of being wanted and of being able to be vulnerable with others, to truly be yourself, this disconnection can happen quite easily to a child. How common is it in our society to be smacked for “misbehaving”. The people who are supposed to protect us have just caused us physical harm. This is extremely confusing for us as children as we assume we must be really bad to make someone do that to us. Or what about the children who are seen and not heard, punished for being upset or angry? Again, we must be wrong, it’s not OK to be us, it’s not OK to be our true selves. We feel shame for having emotions that are not acceptable. So, in order for us to survive being bad and in order for others to continue to love us and take care of us, we disconnect from those emotions or behaviours that are causing the problem. If we do happen to feel any of those “bad” things, we feel a deep sense of shame. John Bradshaw brilliantly describes the affect of being disconnected from ourselves as being fractured, like there is a fracture down the middle of us.
One of the things I’ve observed as a therapist is that people seem to see their childhood as happening to another entity. Like events in childhood could have no impact on them as adults, as the events happened in a different time or place. Or, if they have no memory of something, then it can’t possibly affect them. Obviously, this is not true. We are not separate from our childhoods. Our body never forgets, even if our memory stores do. This means that if we experience the devastation and annihilation of disconnection as children, we will most certainly be seeking connection as adults if that disruption was never repaired.
We often go through life thinking that what will fix us and make us better is a relationship. That will make us whole again and take away an emptiness inside. That is what we need to fix the fracture. This would make sense when we consider it was a broken relationship that created this in the first place. However, subsequent result of that is disillusionment and resentment. The relationship is not going to fix us like it was supposed to, so we look for the next one. Or we stay where we are and become more and more bitter.
It is only when we realise that actually, we have disconnected from ourselves that we can begin to heal from our past. We are the only ones who can put us back together, to join ourselves back up, to end the shame of just being us. When we are able to do that, we are able to truly feel authentically connected to others, to have fulfilling relationships, to allow ourselves to feel part of something, to feel wanted and wanting to be with another. To be vulnerable, to expose our true self and feel accepted when it is revealed, to be cared for and know that we will care for others in return, to be seen and being heard and feel that we are significant.