Connection is a nutrient
I was having a hard day.
Nothing big; I’d been in a meeting and had a conflict. I couldn’t really tell you what the issue was; these days I have a filter where I pretty much reduce any interaction happening outside of Creative Brain to the single focus of whether there’s a power struggle going on. In this instance, I flashed onto how I wanted to do some chest-bumping about who was right (Power Over); then I went Power Under, trying to back out of the interaction. When that was unsuccessful, I took a break.
After the meeting, I went through my list of ways to shift back Above the Line to get out of Reactive Brain: Breathe deeply. Tell a new story. Play with my personas that were triggered. Move my body; sing out loud, ask for help from unseen beings. It’s a good, robust list! But nothing really worked. Until I talked to my great friend, Julianna.
Now, Julianna is the kind of friend to treasure, to thank one’s lucky stars for. She listens exquisitely, with a loving attention that creates such a wide-open space that any contraction has no hope but to naturally revert to its original state of expansion. We didn’t waste energy rehashing what happened, gossiping, or assigning blame. Julianna didn’t fix anything or offer suggestions. She listened.
I described my sensation, connected emotions and what I really wanted.
And that did it—I could feel myself float back into Creative Brain. Phew.
That simple, profound interaction showed me—once again—the power of connection. Strangely, this is a rather cutting-edge concept in the world of psychological transformation, to stress the healing power of relationship. It seems so rudimentary, that basic idea that humans need each other. Somehow—(how??)—the classic American “rugged individualism” elbowed its way past our collective common sense, and seared some idea of the lonesome cowboy on our consciousness as our ideal.*
We somehow accepted that our high rates of anxiety, depression, and ongoing loneliness were the price to be paid for the nobility of our striving for this archetypal compulsion of self-determination and freedom.
The isolation of Covid has taken us to the extremes of our focus on separation, to the point that our country is having a mental health emergency, with rates of addiction, suicidal ideation, anxiety and depression continuing to climb.
Theorists have been catching on, with Gabor Mate consistently positing that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but connection, and Johann Hari beautifully describing how he healed from his depression not through medication but by cultivating depth in relationship.
Surprised? Yeah, me neither.
As someone who has studied, written, and swam around in the wild waters of relationship for my whole career, I understand both the fundamental necessity of connection, and its challenge. Relationships can be so darn complicated. And difficult. It turns out that one of the most essential ingredients that make up our very wellbeing–connection– can also be one of the toughest to procure. It’s as if a main nutrient comes from a cactus. We know that the vitamin or mineral is in there, we just have to find our way around all of those needly spines to get to the juicy meat within. It sure can be easier to withdraw, be it into alcohol or Netflix or whatever other safe cave we can erect so that we don’t have to feel all of that sharp pain of interaction.
What are we to do, then?
Solving this connection dilemma is my passion. I do the work to cultivate ongoing and authentic relationship with my beloved Kath, my pals, my EPI community. I watch when, once again, I prick myself on my own spiny patterns of power struggles that lead to the precipitous break of connection, with myself and with the one I loved just a moment before. And–my freedom now lies in my faith in the tools I can use, over and over and over: Take the break, do my shift moves. Connect with another human. Let my body find the comfort of others’ presence so that it can return to its natural state of Creative Brain.
I’m guessing you’re like me. You probably have some nutritional deficiency in your connection requirements.
So I’m passing on a few tips:
- Let yourself off the hook. You don’t have to be out there, alone on the range. You get to need others.
- If the idea of connection brings up anxiety—well, me too.
- There are relationship skills. They are learnable. You CAN learn them.
- Remember “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”? Belonging is close to the bottom, one of the most basic of human needs. Of course you want to belong. You’re part of the pack, part of our, my human pack. I’m so glad you’re here!
- And that means: find a community. One where they know your name, and are happy to see you, and are especially fascinated by your authentic self.
- Finally, when you have one of those tough interactions (how many in a day??), take a breath, take a break. Look for one of your fellow humans who are able to sit and listen with loving attention, who can create that wide open field that buoys you right back up to your true self.
I am truly honored that you are part of my community, whether I’ve ever met you or not. I know that we’re cultivating those abilities that allow healing of wounds, simply through our loving attention.
If you want to find out more about these tools and how to be part of the EPI community, please check out our upcoming “Essential Tools for Creating the Life You Want” weekend retreat.
*I’ve wondered why we don’t remember that the cowboy always had a horse whilst out there on the prairie–talk about the perfect listener!
Blessings to you, as you discover how to have your biggest, most powerful life!