blog entry #12

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Human Connection

I find it hard to believe that more than three months have passed since I began writing my weekly blogs. During this time, I have been working hard at following medical advice to keep socially distant, especially with having age and medical factors. As a retired psychologist with 45 years of practice, I am particularly aware of the need to maintain good mental health. I have filled my time with home projects, phone calls to family, zoom classes, writing, reading, photography, studying a new language as well as taking socially isolated nature walks with my wife.

Yet as productive as I try to be, I clearly feel a void with my need for real personal and social human connections. Walking about amongst people I now avoid random conversations. I truly miss meeting with nature groups to walk together chatting while our leader shows us the great wonders that abound us. We have been avoiding dinner out with friends and family. This void feels like an immense silence that is heard very loudly.

Living in quarantine goes against one of the most important aspects of our nature, human connection.

The human connection is processed on an instinctive unconscious level. The depth and meaning our human connection goes beyond mere work relationships or even joining a protest march. This connection is the basis for love and friendships. Friends live with us in a seesaw, yin and yang relationship. We are there to lift each other up sharing positive moments or pick each other up when we are down. As with families we feel closer when we have direct and physical loving touch. Hugs above zoom anytime.

Connectedness is a constant aspect throughout the animal kingdom, of which we belong. Connectedness helps us to fulfil our most basic needs of biology and security. We need sustenance to survive and connectedness to propagate. We form families and groups with parents and leaders. As like a herd, we are ready to be led and hopefully protect each other from predators while supporting our efforts to maintain our existence.

It is natural to find security by joining groups. Unfortunately, there are many of us whose need to feel included is so strong that they are driven to join groups while at the same time forgoing rational thinking and blindly accept values, attitudes and behaviors not grounded in facts. To question the leader is to run the risk of the group rejecting their inclusion. They have been taught to believe that the prospect of being alone or an outcast places them on the fearful and dreaded Failure Road of life.

This conflict of inclusion and human connection was especially evident to me with my work with children who were lacking social acceptance. This human connection need was such a major aspect of their lives. They were excluded by the so called mainstream due to developmental and language delays such as Attention Deficit Disorder, immaturity, and even for ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They presented as loners, depressed, angry and underachieving. These kids were victims of teasing, taunting and bullying. They could not identify where they belonged. They ranged in age from preschoolers to high school students.

My treatment approach was to form social skill development groups. The goal was to teach skills to children to better handle peer pressure and skills to help with inclusion such as conversation skills. They came together as strangers and found an identity of us. It was amazing to see their smiling happy faces when they made this human connection with the other kids in group. The group became their main social club. They laughed together, and even when they had meltdowns and found acceptance. They came to see that their own uniqueness was a strength and source of pride. We are not alone this is us!

Within my groups I based my teachings on learning to look for facts and be less affected by opinions. Over time they expanded to seeing each other outside of group and went to the movies, bowling and celebrated birthdays together. They learned to recognize and find other similar children and brought them into to their growing circle of friendship.

Loneliness and social isolation has been repeatedly demonstrated to be harmful to our human existence. People function better when connected to others. As we try to cope with these times, we need to be mindful that currently there will be this void of sincere direct human contact. It is a time however to fight through this void and remain hopeful knowing that this too shall pass. Use this time to continue to find your new passions. I have been doing alot more creative cooking which is a task I didn’t do for most of my life. When the curtain of quarantine lifts use these passions to connect with others forming the basis for human connections.

As I have been pointing out throughout my previous blog entries, it is important to continue to work at becoming a rational thinker and to live on an Experience Road of life. Always seek truth through facts. Be weary of blindly following opinions not based in real time. When the time comes be open to trying new hobbies as well as meeting new people. Even if one’s efforts are not as fulfilling as we may wish, there will always be something we can learn. The Experience Road of life reminds us that there is no failure. Change is possible with an open mind.

Dr Mike

Clinical psychologist 45 years in practice. Worked with children and adults. Love nature, hiking, photography and drums. Retired living in DC.

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