This Failure To Fulfill A Fundamental Need Is Destroying Us
It’s pretty clear we’re wired for connection.
We’re made to connect and relate to people because it makes us feel less alone, more together and overall happier, and it’s obvious by our constant creation of memes and new-found passion for rallies & marches.
The reason “That moment when…” and “My face when…” and all the other incredibly relatable memes are so funny and share-worthy is because of exactly that quality: they’re incredibly relatable.
We immediately tag or repost content that we connect with because it feels so gosh-darn good to connect. It’s the aim of nearly every artist of every form, from writing to singing to acting to painting: to communicate a message to which someone can connect or relate.
So much of our society and culture points towards our desperate need and desire to connect, to relate, to be sure we’re not alone. That much is obvious. You need only scroll through instagram or take a drive to see evidence of our immense construction of communities that speak to this innate human need.
There’s no way around it: we are deeply wired for connection.
We not only like it, we need it. Without it we are depressed, anxious, fearful, hostile, distrustful, defensive, and we build walls to protect ourselves and our beliefs.
Wait a second — that’s America.
How can it be that we’re so evidently and obviously designed to connect, yet we’re now more disconnected than ever?
We’ve got all the opportunities and platforms in the world to share and relate and build communities, yet we remain distant and defensive, fearful of the impossible possibility that our beliefs will be taken away from us simply because someone else holds different truths.
What’s going on?
On the surface, we seem to be connecting and relating more than ever, as evidence by the memes, rallies and marches, but the surface is not where our problem lies, so it’s not where our attention needs to be focused.
The problem is much deeper.
Yes, we are designed with a need to relate.
Yes, we crave connection.
But we’re doing it wrong.
We’re connecting only when it feels safe, when it’s clear who’s in and who’s out, and when we’re sure we’re “right” (whatever that means.)
Because that’s what we’ve made our culture about: a battle royale of right vs. wrong, and we’ll fight to the death (of our morals and relationships) to be sure “our side” comes out on top.
But that’s why superficial connection doesn’t work.
Because it’s not sustainable. You can gain an Instagram friend or a Facebook “like” from a relatable meme, but those friends and likes are not strong enough to withstand a storm of differing opinions on things that really matter.
Memes, marches and gatherings with “people like us” (churches, gyms, clubs, etc.) are great sources of connection and relation, but in most cases — we’re doing it wrong. We go to these places to safely connect over the same friendship problems, diet excuses, political opinions, religious beliefs, humor and more, but we refuse to attempt to connect on a deeper level.
We’re really good at connecting over shallow things, but those shallow connections do not sustain us when bigger battles arise.
Our suicide rates are higher than ever. Depression and anxiety are almost trendy. Mentally unstable gunmen are making the news almost weekly it seems.
It’s clear we need connection.
It’s clear we’re not getting enough of it.
And it’s clear we’re not okay without it.
So what do we do? How do we go about connecting on a deeper level?
Number 1: We put aside our self-fabricated needs to be right.
We need to end the futile fight of right vs. wrong. It’s beside the point who is and who isn’t, and hiding behind this is preventing us from going deeper into things that actually matter.
We need to quit throwing out phony, easy, defense-mechanisms for our beliefs like “Well I’m a Christian,” or “Well I’m a woman.” Those are all fine and dandy, but stopping there means stopping at the surface. Let’s talk about what those actually mean. We need to quit covering our real, human thoughts and real, human emotions with doctrines and party slogans.
Number 2: We stop talking and start listening.
One of the reasons we’re stuck on the surface is because we’re only concerned with me, me, me. We’re quick to share how we feel, how we think, what we believe and what we would do, and we’re even quicker to let peopel who feel, think, believe and act differently than we do know when they’re “wrong,” and where has that gotten us?
What if, instead of turning it back to ourselves and pointing out why someone else’s views are “wrong” and need to be more like ours, we shut our mouths, laid down our keyboard-warrior hands, and opened our ears? What if, instead of trying to prove someone wrong, we actually tried to understand them first?
While it’s true there are (obviously) tons of people who voted differently than I did, I refuse to believe all of those people are evil-seeking, ignorant scumbags like most of us paint the opposite “team” to be.
If we have any intelligence at all, we should know that everyone believes, thinks, feels, and acts the way they do with some sort of reason, and while those reasons may very well be different than ours, they are still there — and those are the things we need to dig to. We need to dig past the “what” and into the “why.”
But that’s a scary place.
So Number 3 is: We start being brave.
Brene Brown’s book “Braving The Wilderness” is all about this concept. We need to stop being afraid of what will happen when we dig deep, when we show who we really are and come out from behind our comfy labels and team names, and we need to quit armoring up and start just being brave, dangit.
Being brave means risking disagreement (and being okay with that.) It means asking someone “What makes you feel that way?” or “Why do you think that’s okay?” and then shutting up and listening.
Don’t misunderstand me, here.
Voicing your truth is brave.
Speaking out against injustice and intolerance takes immense courage and should most definitely be done.
But you wanna know what else is brave?
Being curious without being judgemental.
Letting your opinions take the backseat for a second — that’s some courageous shit. And that’s how you eventually connect on a deeper and more meaningful level with someone.
We need to brave because we need to drop our fronts and show our real selves.
We need to go beyond our boxes and categories and ask ourselves (and others) why we belong there or don’t. When we have the courage to try to understand someone different than us, we not only build a pathway to connection, but we also learn it’s possible to coexist with people who’s views do not align with ours and on top of that, we get to keep our opinions! No one is taking them away from us! (I know, shocker.)
So let’s de-armor.
Let’s ask why’d you vote instead of who’d you vote for.
Let’s quit hiding in our safe, self-fabricated boxes of religion and politics and just show up as ourselves: people who need to connect meaningfully to survive.
For more of my work and to subscribe to my blog, find me here: www.emilyjordan.me/blog.