The comedian George Carlin said “we can put someone on the moon but most of us can’t walk across the street to meet our neighbor”. Like minded Johann Hari, author, said “we have more square footage in our homes than ever but equally less friends”. Hence, is one with less connection to others more likely to have issues such as addiction, anxiety and/or depression? How has our tendency towards less connections to others impacted our lives spiritually, emotionally and socially?
Moreover, has recent technology contributed to inept social skills? Has it become difficult for most of us to be present when someone is trying to engage with us in conversation? It seems that this tendency to not be present in a moment has lessened the quality of our relationships. Call it addiction to our Smartphones and/or a culture of narcissism. Whatever it may be, we need to take back our ability to be present, take risks in terms of reaching out to others, and build our social networks. The benefits include better mental health, less likelihood to abuse alcohol/drugs/prescription medications, longevity, and better quality of life. So how do we create that sense of connection?
Brene Brown, PhD author/professor of Social Work, believes that we do this by becoming vulnerable. This can seem risky in a time when less neighbors are inclined to borrow a cup of sugar. Yet, one can build that sense of connection in their living community by reaching out to a neighbor or inviting a new friend to dinner. If we believe that it can be rewarding to have a plethora of meaningful relationships then it starts with us. We have to be willing to reach out, introduce yourself and take a risk of rejection. So try it, open your mind and heart and do it without expectation. Be open to whatever materializes. It might be that your neighbor waves at you when you drive by, or a new friend invites you to coffee, or you feel safer in your apartment complex. If you are lacking spiritual connection in your life you may want to spend time in your synagoge, church or mosque, or in a place where you can find a high power with whom to connect. In that place you may discover not only human connections but a profound sense of spiritual meaning. This in turn can inevitably serve you in a interpersonal way but also bring you to others who are compassionate and thoughtful.
Before you reach out with the intention of connecting with someone on a genuine level, ask yourself first if you are connected with yourself. All of the above begins with you and how you feel about yourself. If you struggle with self-worth issues seek therapy to reveal why that is and most importantly how to address it so that you can live your best life.
Belina N. Fruitman, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Additions Counselor lll, owner of A Woman’s Way to Recovery in Denver, former Adjunct Professor of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver.