“Loneliness is the most common ailment in the modern world.”
If you could change anything in the world, what would it be?
Creating world peace, stopping child abuse, ending human trafficking, and obliterating poverty are all high on many people’s lists.
If you could teach everyone how to have bonded, joyful connections with others, you would go a long way to changing all of those things. Mother Teresa says, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
Mara is married with 3 young children. She rarely has 3 minutes to gather her thoughts, constantly occupied with the needs of her family. Almost never alone, Mara has this gnawing ache for something more.
Jim is single. He keeps himself busy with work and the gym. He has a great theater system in his living room and often invites the guys over for football parties. But at night when he goes to bed, in the morning as he takes a shower, and on the drive to work there is an uncomfortable feeling inside that he can’t put words to.
Randi has been in and out of relationships. Right now, she is alone by choice. She loves the time to do what she wants to do without having to consult someone else. She likes to explore new places and try daring things. She wants companionship sometimes, but enjoys having peace and quiet too. But there are times that she just feels, well, lonely.
Loneliness. It’s the great ache of the 21st century.
With all of the opportunity to “connect” online through social media, texting, skype, and cell phone calls, you’d think people would have more vital and life-giving relationships than ever before. But just the opposite is true.
Secure, healthy, intimate relationships are a rare commodity in our society. While people are sending more words than ever through the cloud, they are communicating in ways that do not result in bonded relationships.
Kendra Cheri writes in her article, Loneliness: Causes, Effects, and Treatments of Loneliness, “While common definitions of loneliness describe it as a state of solitude or being alone, loneliness is actually a state of mind. Loneliness causes people to feel empty, alone and unwanted. People who are lonely often crave human contact, but their state of mind makes it more difficult to form connections with other people.”
The problem is not about being able to say or type words but about being able to communicate from the heart in appropriately vulnerable ways. It is about not being able to live in a community of securely attached relationships.
So what is getting in the way of creating authentic, healthy bonds? There is a litany of answers, all competing for our time, attention, and money, but few seem to deliver long-term results.
There are many things that keep people from feeling vitally connected to other people. Genetics can be an issue as depression, isolation, and other emotional struggles do have a cellular influence. Sometimes people develop fears of becoming vulnerable and are unable to risk being known because they do not have the strength to deal with possible rejection. Child abuse is a common precursor to depression and isolation along with many mental disorders. Addictions play into the mix, whether the source is chemicals, sex, relationships, internet, work, food, or other things.
The ability to create healthy, intimate bonds with others is supposed to be developed in early childhood. When parents know how to meet the needs of their children in the first years of their lives, those children grow up with the brain skills that allow them to share joy, soothe themselves, rest, and return to joy after being upset. They are able to trust and know when it is safe to be vulnerable. Their emotions do not overwhelm them because they have been taught how to feel them and then contain them in healthy ways.
Instead of receiving those important skills, most children are left to themselves to try to figure out the challenging stuff of relationships. They develop survival skills to help them deal with less than ideal circumstances. Often, they unconsciously embrace false beliefs about themselves, others, and the world around them. These beliefs very often keep them from being able to interact with others in ways that allow them to create joyful bonds. Fear of abandonment and rejection and lack of self-acceptance fuel the thought patterns that prevent appropriate trust and vulnerability.
The ability to create life-giving joy bonds is becoming a lost art. Whatever the reasons that these skills have not been developed, the fact is that we cannot afford to lose them as a society. The ability to attach securely to safe others around us is vital to our survival, personally and on a global level.
Many may sense that they are wired to live in community and have a desire for healthy, intimate relationships. The good news is that these skills can be learned! They can be taught to find new ways of connecting; ways that bring life and joy. They can become aware of the patterns that are not working and step out courageously to learn appropriate vulnerability. They can start to let go of the ways that have not worked and set and receive healthy boundaries with others. New skills can be learned for creating secure attachments and new communication techniques can be forged to support those attachments. Most importantly, people can learn how to give and receive love and embrace all of themselves unconditionally.
While it doesn’t happen in a day or even a month, the outcome is well worth the work. Living in securely bonded, joyful relationships is the stuff of our deepest longings. Perhaps it is time to begin the journey.
Misa Leonessa Garavaglia is a Transformation Life Coach, Spiritual Director, author, and speaker specializing in relationships, spiritual growth, and trauma recovery. She is the producer and host of Beyond Abuse Radio and creator and facilitator of Living from the Heart, a nine month program focused on building authentic relationships. She will be conducting a four-hour workshop on Creating Healthy Connections August 2nd in Scotts Valley, California.