Do we really need each other? Why do we get along better with some more than others? And what makes the ultimate connection?
I had a bad break up with the first guy I loved.
Well three break ups, to be exact. And a lot of back and forth for a year afterwards although we knew it wouldn’t work. As you do.
Don’t depend on anyone, I told myself afterwards.
It’s easier that way. Less chance of getting hurt. I could shut out the hurt of the past and made sure it never happened again.
I didn’t need anyone else. I was happy in my own company.
I was untouchable. No one could let me down. How could they when I never expected anything of anyone?
I had superficial relationships. If I didn’t dig deep, no-one else could dig deep either.
This was my armour.
To prevent getting hurt.
To keep from shattering.
To never again feel like I didn’t matter.
To avoid feeling like I wasn’t enough.
In his book, ‘Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect’, professor Matthew Lieberman explains why breaking up is so hard: The ‘social pain’ of a broken heart can feel as physically painful as the pain of a broken leg.
That’s not quite true: The pain from heartbreak is as physical as an amputated leg. Not a broken leg.
Do we really need other people?
After that break up, when I didn’t let anyone in for at least 4 years, I only formed superficial connections. Meaningless his, byes and meaningless chit chat about the weather.
All good stuff. But nothing real and raw. Nothing close to the heart.
No expectation. No obligation. No commitment. Fun.
I must have given off a vibe. You know when you can feel someone is closed off?
I didn’t let anyone in. Other people didn’t let me in either.
My version of freedom.
Life in a bubble was sweet.
But I was missing something important: I had so much to do. I had so many people to spend time with. Yet I still felt alone.
There must be more than working, studying, and catching up with friends for dinner and movies.
I thought living abroad and traveling was the answer.
So I spent a year overseas. It was awesome for many months.
Then I got tired. Of living on absurd wages, working 3 or more jobs at once, away from family, having multiple casual flings, and exhausted from a sugar addiction.
I was lonely.
I realised how much I valued and craved deeper, stronger connection.
I knew I was missing out.
Sociobiologist E. O. Wilson describes it well:
“To be kept in solitude is to be kept in pain…and put on the road to madness. A person’s membership in his group — his tribe — is a large part of his identity.”
I had to figure out what mattered
Spending time alone. Doing yoga. Going for walks. Sitting in silence. Sleeping early. Feeling like crap. Slowing down the busy-ness of life.
It forced me to work out what mattered to me. I didn’t have the energy — or will — to keep up with everyone, and so many activities, all the time.
Carefully choosing how you spend your time — and with who — helps you get clearer, very quickly about what’s really important in your life.
I realized I wasn’t weak and wouldn’t lose my independence if I let people in.
Whether we realize it or not, we all want to connect. To be understood. To feel less alone in this world.
The missing piece
When we connect with another, it’s like a puzzle that fits perfectly. Sometimes we don’t realize we were even looking for that piece.
But when it fits, it feels right. It feels easy. It feels good.
Professor Matthew Lieberman explains:
“Being socially connected is our brain’s lifelong passion…It’s been baked into our operating system for tens of millions of years.”
Lieberman cites more than 1,000 published and unpublished studies — he found our need for social connection is a survival instinct as important as food, water, and shelter. He spoke about this at TEDx : The social brain and it’s superpowers (YouTube video).
Why do we connect quickly to some people more than others?
Here’s what I put it down to.
There’s a vibe, an aura, surrounding each of us. It’s not physical. It’s on another level.
It’s the essence of who we are. What we are. And the journeys that have brought us here.
And someone with the same aura instantly knows. It sounds a bit fluffy I realize. But you get it, don’t you?
There’s something so special meeting someone else on this same wavelength. Not many words need to be spoken. It’s felt. And when words are spoken, each word confirms the connection is real.
Like when I met my husband.
As soon as we began talking, I felt it. I didn’t know what his hobbies were. What he liked eating. Who his friends were.
But I knew him. I felt who he was without having to spend years getting to know him.
I could tell he was honest. Kind. Gracious. Gentle. Strong. Caring. Filled with integrity.
That was what emanated from his being. And this is what he is more than a decade later.
Sharing your soul is the ultimate connection
Namaste: The Spirit in me bows to the Spirit in you.
Now the most fulfiling part of my life is people. I live for Namaste moments, when my soul sees and connects with another soul.
Letting people in has given life a 3- dimensional perspective instead of a 1-dimensional one.
I am humbled when strangers share intimate stories they rarely share. Like the bus driver who drove me from LA to Vegas, who used to be a prison officer — but changed careers after he got held up at gun point in a juvenile detention centre.
Or the kind security guard at a pub in Montreal, who’s girlfriend is a redhead — everywhere! (too much detail mate!)
I am humbled to know my friend once spent 6 months in her room, just sleeping. Not eating. Only leaving her room to go to the bathroom.
She didn’t know a state other than sadness. She believed this way of living and feeling was normal — until she got diagnosed with depression. And realized her thoughts didn’t have to be her reality.
Another woman shared that she felt unwanted most of her life because her dad didn’t know if she was really his. Now she seeks constant validation by needing recognition. For everyone to think she’s good at everything.
I admire the courage, resilience, and strength of these people. Once strangers. Less so after we share.
To have people open up to me about their vulnerabilities. Their failures. Their journeys. Their fears. To share stories a writer could only dream of making up.
To have one person trust and feel comfortable enough to lay their heart and soul out to me. Unfiltered.
I feel honoured.
It happens on Medium sometimes.
The realization that if other people can lay themselves out real and raw — and that I feel respect, empathy, and love for them… well that changed my life.
It’s heightened my awareness of other people. It’s boosted my intuition. My ability to listen without judging. It’s helped me bond quickly and strongly to certain people.
When someone has gone through the extreme lows and extreme highs of life, just as you have, you can just tell, can’t you? You feel it. And you connect instantly.
Psychiatrist Daniel Siegel explains that ‘our minds are partly defined by their intersections with other minds’: We’re wired to sync to others.
Slowly, I’m learning to share my soul through writing. Like right now, sharing this post with you. My writing tribe.
It’s damn scary. But unbelievably liberating. And so rewarding when I know it connects with just one person.
Summary: The power of human connection
Being deeply connected with others is one of the most beautiful parts of living. It’s also a survival instinct.
So talk less. And judge less.
Listen more. Understand more. And connect more.
What connection has recently had an impact on you? Please share, I’d love to hear about it.