Do you know that we are wired for connection? That is to say that we are literally created to have connection with others in this world. If we were hooked up to a brain scan, you would actually see the reward centers of our brain light up when we are connecting with others. It’s that important to us. It is that engrained into our DNA, to connect with others. Genetically, our DNA is predisposed to connect; to find someone we care about and who cares for us.
Then, why are so many of us lonely? Do we just not know how to connect? Are we unsure of what steps to take to really connect with someone else?
Join us today as we look at the A, B, Cs of connection...
And let's break it down into something very straightforward!
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Hello, thanks for coming back to connect here with us today. And that’s exactly what we are talking about this episode – connection. We are actually going to look at the A, B, C’s of connection, which I know might make it seem too simple for such an important topic, but I happen to think simplicity is the way to go. We are making way too much, way too complicated in what is already a complicating world. So, let’s break it down a bit.
We talked about how important connection is, at the end of our episode on Listening. We said it was vitally essential to our ability to maintain health, heal, grow, succeed, and have good relationships – with ourselves and others. It is crucial to life itself.
Do you know that we are wired for connection? That is to say that we are literally created to have connection with others in this world. If we were hooked up to a brain scan, you would actually see the reward centers of our brain light up when we are connecting with others.
It’s that important to us. It is that engrained into our DNA, to connect with others.
Genetically, our DNA is predisposed to connect; to find someone we care about and who cares for us.
If I just type in the word “connection”, the words that come up as synonyms are bond, link, join, unite, combine. Essentially, they are all meaning to bring together some manner of union. And this is not just on a romantic level, but on every level. We all need to feel connected to someone.
I wonder then, if we could say that we are not lonely, as long as we have the ability to connect. Or at least that we don’t have to accept loneliness if we have the ability to connect.
Where in the world would we start, though, if we knew that we aren’t connected but need to be?
That takes us to the A, of our A, B, C’s of connection.
A is for awareness and acceptance, and that pertains to us. Let me explain why we need to be self-aware and accepting of ourselves first if we want to have successful connections with others.
We looked at the substitute words for connection and saw that it’s about uniting and joining and bonding with another, right? So, my question is, how would we do that well, and comfortably if we aren’t ok with what they might be joining up with and finding in us and realizing about us?
We wouldn’t really be open to connecting at all. We’d be guarded and very careful about what we let them see and know about us, and what we worked to keep hidden. And that isn’t connecting – that’s just offering a version of who you hope they think you are. We tend to only want to offer our good side when meeting others. We call this making a good impression. But that’s exactly what it is. An impression or an idea of who we are. Not our true selves.
There can be no genuine connection there.
But if we started with ourselves and became self-aware and accepting of who we are, then we are more freely going to be open and available for others to connect with… aren’t we? Because we won’t be scared of what they may find out about us. We already knew that about ourselves. And we have accepted it in us. There is no threat in what they may find.
When we talk about being self-aware, we are just saying that we understand what we like, and what we dislike. We recognize what and how we think and react and feel about certain things. We know what we don’t like about ourselves and what we want to be working on and changing. Self-acceptance doesn’t mean we excuse and approve of the things we need to work on, it just means we recognize it and love ourselves while we are still committed to growing.
It's seeing ALL of who we are and allowing for our whole selves in that moment, in that season, in that developmental stage… even our weaknesses.
And really, being able to recognize our weaknesses and struggles and imperfections is how we remain balanced and strong and grounded. If we can’t see our own struggles, and we try to connect and others see them, and maybe even mention them, well, that’s where we can get easily offended, angry and then guarded. Connections don’t last very long with people who are defensive and mad.
Let’s take even the basics of a physical scar. If I can’t accept that I have a scar on my neck and that people are going to see it and maybe even ask me about it, I’ll be offended and defensive every time they do.
But if I know I have a scar, where it came from, why, and I’m ok with all of this, then there is no offence when someone mentions it. I actually make quite a connection sharing my story about it. Because I’ve accepted this as part of me, part of my life, and I have a story that goes along with it.
If we know all about ourselves, and have allowed for who we are, we don’t have to be apprehensive and hide, hindering our availability to connect. We can use our truth about ourselves as a tool to connect.
If you are still thinking that this doesn’t quite sound right. That making a good impression and offering someone the best pieces of you only is the way to go, just take a minute and think of the person you feel most connected to. Close your eyes and picture them in front of you. Can you see them?
What do you know about them? Is it all great stuff? Nothing negative? No struggles? No problems at all? They don’t possess one less-than-ideal quality within them?
What do they know about you? Only your good side? Nothing about what you struggle with or are working on? They’ve never been witness to anything about you than was anything less than perfection?
I bet you know more about each other than just the good stuff. And I bet trusting each other with that information, is part of your bond.
It is when we know all about ourselves, even our weaknesses, and accept them – that we invite others to know all about us and accept us too. And that’s where connection can occur. In the accepting back and forth. We have to know though, that connecting is not just as easy as accepting who we are and who someone else is. It will still take time, effort, commitment, and courage.
And again, accepting is not the same as excusing. It’s just understanding and allowing for what it is, as you are both continuing to grow. It’s meeting someone right where they are, while still encouraging for continued development.
And to meet someone, right where they are at, takes us to B of the A, B, C’s of connection.
And B is to build a bridge.
Relationship-wise, we are productive people. We are builders. We are. And if you are picturing certain people in your mind right now and thinking they are not someone who is working on having healthy relationships… well, I would take a guess and say they are still building. But perhaps it isn’t a bridge they are working on. Maybe they are busy building walls.
And perhaps that is because they haven’t yet been able to really get to know and accept themselves, so they are making sure you aren’t able to either.
But since we have just talked about that needing to be the first thing we have done, what we are ready to do next is tear down walls we have built in the past and start working on building bridges.
What does it mean to build a bridge? What’s the purpose of a bridge? Well, at its most basic understanding, it’s to allow us easy passage over an obstacle by providing a route that would otherwise be uneven or impossible.
And in this context, the obstacles we are wanting to pass over, are all the antonyms for connection – disconnect, gap, detachment, disengagement. That’s what we are building over top of to reach and meet our need for connection.
Where there could be, or even used to be a wall, we are laying the foundation to make our way across the gap of disconnect, to connection.
What do these foundational bridge pieces look like? Well, I think we can lay them out from one end of the spectrum being from where the walled off feelings of yours gradually learn to outstretch and join with the heart of another.
What if you’ve just torn down your protective wall and everyone just annoys you? I mean, it’s not a legitimate annoyance. It’s you just actually scared to be out and exposed in the real world. Fear is not a good reason not to connect, but it is still a strong and very real feeling.
Your aversion to connecting here is valid. But not a good reason to stop you.
So, you do the courageous next step and lay another piece.
This one may look like indifference, or apathy. How is this better, you might be asking?
Actually, apathy is a step forward from aversion. It’s the difference between being angry and annoyed and feeling negative, to not feeling anything at all. Sure, you’re not full of great feelings, but not full of terrible ones either.
This is way better. So, you take the time and make the effort of laying the next piece.
This portion could look like sympathy. Sympathy is being able to say “I see you; I notice you, even the hard parts of you that are suffering. And it bothers me that you are suffering”. You’re still not connected at this stage. It’s just another piece that has brought you closer to joining, but you are closer. You are noticing another, and feeling for them, even though you are not connected with them.
And this far in you make the commitment to continuing and you add another part to your bridge. It’s a step out further from sympathy… it’s called empathy.
You are so close to uniting and connecting at this stage, that you can feel not just for this person anymore, but with them. Their suffering is your suffering too. Their hardships are your hardships too. Their joys are your joys too. You are able to say I feel what you are feeling. My heart is open to experience your experiences.
This is a scary piece of the bridge to be on. Remember, you used to be behind a wall. You didn’t have to feel all of this. The wall may even look like it was mush safer than this feels. You might think of turning and running from this spot – taking your bridge pieces up and with you as you go so they can’t follow you.
That’s why the next part is so important to get laid from here. And this next section is compassion.
Compassion is your ability to keep the empathetic attributes, without becoming overwhelmed, engulfed, and exhausted. Because you still feel for the other person in their experience, but you are moved to wanting to help, or see them relieved of it. There is action here to accompany the feelings.
And it is this action that brings us to our C, in the A, B, C’s of connection.
C is about having courageous conversations with curiosity.
Well, there’s a mouthful. But it’s all just to say that when we have laid our bridge and united with another, we are in a new place, one that will require us to be conscious of what we do here.
We are now connected with another human being. A precious thing. A beautiful thing. Something to protect and cherish and treat with care. And that we will do by honoring our relationship.
Honoring and protecting a relationship will require us to be genuine and vulnerable, still offering all of who we are, who we have already come to know and accept, while we do the same for others.
We do the same for others by continually having courageous conversations, getting to know each other, asking questions, being interested, and staying curious.
And we say courageous conversations because it involves getting to know them past their good impression. Past their good side. Past the version of them that we wish they were, only.
It’s talking about the hard stuff, the suffering, their disappointments, and fears. It’s being honest about yours. It takes so much courage to do this.
It’s staying curious so that we understand them more and more. And not just to know them as best as we can, but because we are operating out of compassion now and that includes action.
Tell me all about you and everything to do with you. Tell me about your needs. Tell me about how I could possible help meet them. And I will take a leap and do the same.
You know something else that being curious does? It helps keep us from being critical.
Knowing and understanding, suddenly changes our attitudes to want to help. Just observing and assuming, well, that where we will want to correct someone.
Nothing changes a connection between people, like critically correcting.
That’s why we stay open to being curious, to know and understand. We remain courageous in our quest to learn all we can. In the name of genuinely and compassionately connecting.
Because really, loneliness is destroying people in our world. The isolation and disconnect that has happened and is continuing to happen is causing suffering at the level of crisis.
Our ability to connect is directly related to our ability to alleviate loneliness.
It can be scary. But it is also a simple as A, B, C. And simple doesn’t mean easy. It just means straightforward.
We need to get to know ourselves and accept who we find there when we do.
We need to put in the time, effort, and courage to build a bridge.
We first destroy the wall that has been keeping us isolated and then see where we are. If we are annoyed by the world and mad that we are standing here with no wall, that’s ok. It only takes one more piece to move from there to a place where maybe we don’t feel great, but at least we are miserable.
From annoyed to apathy, we then move on to sympathy. Almost connected, I am starting to feel for you. And with one more piece laid, I feel with you.
And I feel it all. It’s actually too much to handle but being able to feel is great so I lay the final piece and connect with you and my feelings turn into action.
I am here with you, and I’m here for you. Let’s together get to know all about each other. The good, the bad, and the ugly. What we don’t like, we encourage each other to grow through, and we help each other do it.
Because we are in this together. We are connected. And together we can do so much more than loneliness could ever destroy.
Friends, we cannot accept loneliness in our lives any longer. We can’t let it destroy all that we have waiting for us on the other side of that wall. I know it is scary. But I also know that it is totally possible.
It will take time and commitment and effort and courage. But I already know you possess all of those traits. It’s taken all of that to survive loneliness.
But let’s stop surviving and start living. Let’s knock down our walls and build bridges and connect with one another.
And let’s start today.
I love you guys and can’t wait to meet back here with you again. Until then, good-bye for now, and we’ll speak again soon.