There is a good argument to be made that the lack of personal connection–and thus feelings of disconnection–are playing a large role in the anger, desperation, and addictions that seem so prevalent throughout the United States.
This social disconnection and feelings of loneliness is not confined to just one socio-economic group.
It’s found on every level of society.
Could it be possible that although intellectually we understand that a lot of people feel disconnected, on a personal level we assume it’s not the people we know?
And in our embarrassment about our own situation, we don’t mention it to anyone?
Or perhaps we put on an act and try to advertise how much fun we are having in our lives, particularly through social media, so nobody suspects our dirty secret?
I’m pretty sure there is some truth to this.
Some of my best conversations, and personal connections, have started with me revealing a perceived vulnerability that someone else can identify with, something that will always make them exclaim “I never would have imagined that about you”.
That gives them the opening, and feelings of safety, to discuss the pain in their own lives.
And they automatically feel better because they realize they aren’t alone.
And I feel better because I just helped someone.
That’s connection right there!
Strength is Weakness, Weakness is Strength
A friend of mine once stated her belief that I was a strong person due to how open and honest I am about dealing with pain and adversity.
But my strength, if you want to call it that, is only because I gave up the belief that pain is a sign of weakness.
I never talked about my struggles until four years ago because I was embarrassed by them.
Now I accept myself. I laugh at myself. I know what makes me sad. I know why I hurt. I know my temptations. I see reality more clearly.
I know that happiness is never found externally and I’m not as easily fooled by appearances as I used to be.
Most importantly, I stay curious about my experiences, rather than condemn them.
Those things that embarrass us, those things that we think are weaknesses, those aspects of our personality that we are ashamed of: that’s what people respond to.
We all tend to think that we are the only ones going through something, or the only ones feeling pain.
We stumble blindly through our lives not recognizing that the people around us are struggling, too.
Accepting Pain So That You Don’t Suffer
We humans have a tragic misunderstanding of pain.
Pain is not a personal failing on your part, or something only some of us experience.
Pain is natural and normal. It spares no one and does no harm in the long run.
On the other hand, pain turns into prolonged anxiety and suffering if you think pain is a personal reflection of your self-worth, or if you think it’s a punishment for who you are.
I held that misconception for about 25 years!
Lots of depression and bodily pain accompanied that misguided belief.
There is a brilliant scene from “Band of Brothers” that sums up my thinking on this subject.
Captain Ronald Speirs to Private Blithe:
We’re all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier’s supposed to function. Without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends on it.
The only way to live a happy life is give up hope; to give up hope that you’ll be spared the normal pains that every human experiences.
When you can do that, you realize that pain isn’t a bad thing.
It’s just pain. You can identify it as such without condemnation or judgement.
It’s not something to hide or be embarrassed of.
It’s actually something you can use to make your life happier.
Your “failings” and “weaknesses”, the pain you feel about them, are what will actually connect you with others.
Here is the irony:
Your feelings of pain and disconnection from other people, that’s actually your connection with other people!