We are social creatures by nature. Some are less social due to personality or temperament, but humans tend toward needing connection and relationships. Being that we are largely social creatures, we will do and say things that are intended to bring about some type of connection with other people. When we feel disconnected we often make little statements and take actions that serve as small invitations to others to connect with us. These “invitations” can be as small as a word or gesture, or as simple and unsophisticated as when a baby cries or reaches hands out to his or her mother and the mother responds by smiling or reaching back. This is what they are needing, to know that she is there for them. This tells them they are safe, and not alone. Another simple request for connection can be as indirect as asking a colleague how their weekend went. These behaviors serve the purpose of making known what we need from others, to feel connected to them somehow.
For most people, feeling disconnected causes distress. Needing or wanting others has been portrayed as weakness in our culture, but the reality is that being alone and independent is contrary to our nature. What we need is safe, secure, loving connection. Even young infants display a clear need for this connection. Like the child mentioned above, they will make gestures and sounds as they interact with their mother to get her to respond. A child feels fear and distress if their parent doesn’t respond, first trying harder to connect with her, then crying and shutting down if the parent doesn’t show interest and connect with them. They really want to know that someone is there for them. Once this happens, they feel that connection. They know they are safe. From this place of safety they can explore their world, strong in the belief that there is a safe place nearby.
The need for that feeling of being safe and secure in a relationship never goes away. It is a part of who we are as human beings. We may become more sophisticated in how we seek out connection from people in our lives, though this doesn’t mean we are always successful or effective at it. As a matter of fact, sometimes we are very ineffective in trying to connect. We fall into destructive patterns that actually drive away those we are wishing to attract. For different reasons we have learned patterns and habits that do not communicate our true intention or desire to be in relationship with others. Like that baby whose mother has turned away, we feel the pain and loneliness that results from disconnection.
Next time we will look at how we seek out that connection, often failing and driving others away from us, and how we can actually find the connection we want.