Traditionally, we have been conditioned to believe that the ideal human is self-reliant and fully independent. By extension, we have perhaps falsely believed that the ideal human stands tall through adversity and challenges, resolutely sucking it up during the tough times and persevering on to the victory without asking for help. Society says, “Be a winner, be a standout, be in it to win it.” Routinely, we have been celebrated for being the most independent, extroverted, self-confident, and winningest cat on the block. However, based on the True (yes with a capital T) human condition, we are actually wired for interdependence, rather than truly independent. Some might even say that the traditional ideal of the staunchly independent, self reliant individual may in fact be a big fat lie we have told ourselves.
We Are Hard-Wired For Connection
Research shows us again and again that we are hard wired to be connected, to be neighborly, to be kind and, dare I say it, to love one another. Connected is what we must be from birth. Studies have shown that infants who are not touched or held from birth become developmentally delayed and exhibit numerous social and psychological issues as they grow into adulthood. We MUST be a part of a kindred or connected group of others of our species else we wither on the vine. Yes, society tells us to stand tall and alone on the top of the success heap but at the end of the day, we need each other to survive and thrive.
During current world events we are being separated, socially and physically. Travel is limited, group events are cancelled, meetings are rescheduled, and we can be left with a feeling of anxiety and isolation. Even churches, a bastion of connectedness for many around the world, are being asked to limit services and meetings. For those who worship at the secular temple of the coffee shop, gathering is also being curtailed, while only allowing take out service. Our connections are being snipped away day by day; and, we are left feeling disconnected, anxious and out of sorts. We are not able to interact in a way that is an essential life-giving tonic.
The New Reality Of Virtual Connection
Communicating virtually is a help. Emails, texts, Facebook and Instagram posts are communications, but it is important to check the feelings we are left with following our virtual interactions. Do these activities give us the warm and fuzzies that we need in order to cement the belief that we are ONE with our brothers and sisters? With electronic communication, there are no handshakes, no hugs, no touches, no heartfelt conversations that we able to experience face to face. Likewise, working from home when we are used to 40 hours of one on one interactions can be isolating. Individuals of all generations and life experiences are struggling to maintain connection.
What can we do during anxious times, especially when we are feeling isolated or disconnected? Although we all do our best to follow guidelines that keep us healthy and safe, such as not congregating in large groups, social distancing (which sadly equates to emotional distancing), hand washing and stepped up cleaning, we can also continue looking for additional ways to maintain connection. In the past few days, I have spent and increased amount of time on the telephone-much more than I have since email/texting became a way of life. Sharing with others how we are feeling and asking for support, assistance, prayers, errands, etc. seems to alleviate feelings of isolation.
Reaching Out To Virtually Touch Someone
So, although we cannot literally follow the old 1987 AT&T marketing directive of “reach out and touch someone” we can reach out and give a phone call of support, encouragement, or offer of assistance. Zoom and Skype calls help also. Any opportunity for a virtual meeting should be grabbed. For each meeting and planned event that is cancelled, I am making several phone calls to friends or family. I will continue to participate in several group chats where we check in on each other daily.
Church groups, business meetings, neighborhood chat rooms and social groups can be maintained in different ways. We just need to get creative. Remember we are not islands working best in solo mode. No matter how introverted, how independent, how self-sufficient we might believe we are, we cannot survive and thrive without meaningful connections with others.