It’s Psychology Week!
From November 11 – 17 2018, the Australian Psychological Society is promoting the theme of Connect to Thrive for this annual public awareness initiative.
The Importance of Interpersonal Connections
Human connection is imperative for our mental health. Like many animals, we are social beings and our wellbeing depends strongly on our connections with other humans.
In an age where we are becoming more disconnected from each other, loneliness and isolation are proving to be insidious contributors to the rise of mental illness, even correlating strongly with the presence of negative physiological effects such as inflammation.
Human Connection Starts by Connecting to Our Own Inner World and Feelings
What does it even mean to connect to yourself?
Aren’t I already connected? How can I not be connected?
When we talk of connection to self we are really talking about being fully conscious and aware of the feelings we experience throughout a day or a moment, during a difficult period in our lives, or a fabulous life milestone or achievement.
When we are connected to ourselves, we:
- acknowledge our emotions
- know where our emotions are coming from and what they relate to
- understand how our emotions correspond to a personal value that’s honoured or neglected.
This is meta-emotion – thinking about our feelings. This is what all the noise about mindfulness is – getting in touch with how we are thinking and feeling, knowing why we feel that way, and what we can do or not do about it.
On the flipside, when we’re disconnected from our self, we still experience emotions but we don’t understand where they’re coming from or why they’re here. Often we become reactive, even acting out in ways that are hurtful to others.
Being disconnected from ourselves leads to us making decisions we are unhappy with, or being unable to make a decision because we don’t know what we want. We make choices that ultimately make us feel unhappy, ashamed, disappointed, or trapped.
How to connect to self via your values
The only way to rectify this is to go back to who you are at heart – what your values are.
How can we do this?
A quick way is to imagine you are 100 years old. You are tired and ready to leave this life. Everyone you love is by your side and they are saying how wonderful you are. They are really singing your praises.
What you hear is music to your ears.
What are they saying? What are the words they are using to describe how you were in their lives and what you contributed to their happiness?
Remember, this is not what you think they might actually say, but what you most hope would be said about you. This is a good indicator of how you want to move through your life, and tells you what you value most.
This gets you connected to your values. Once you get more familiar with these values, you can then start to recognise emotions that arise when these values are upheld, or are dishonoured. This is what connection to self is all about – knowing what you feel and why you feel it.
Human Connection in the Family
Amongst family members who are disconnected, we see a disjointedness, a lack of cohesion and an apartness that is more than individuation. It tends toward estrangement in proximity.
Miscommunications will be high in such a family, where meanings are interpreted incorrectly and not adjusted for, where needs of the members are unnoticed, and where values are not honoured.
From this disconnection we get souls who feel un-nurtured and unloved. This can play out in an individual who lacks the ability to connect with others in the wider community. It can have a negative impact ranging from unfriendliness to outright hostility, depressive symptomatology and self-harm – even suicide.
Disconnection is the idea of being alone in a crowded place, where you do not feel you belong. It is possibly the loneliest feeling of all.
If you feel this describes your family, consider consulting with a family therapist or Psychologist.
Connecting With Your Partner
Similar to within a family, in a romantic relationship where there is a lack of connection we have people feeling awfully isolated. They feel unheard and misunderstood, their needs are not acknowledged and certainly are not met.
People who have extra-marital affairs often cite disconnection from their partner (and hence connection to another) as a reason for their straying. Infidelity is rarely about sex (though lack of physical intimacy is another way we can become disconnected).
A disconnected couple is usually what I see in my practise. But please take heart that there are many highly effective, proven approaches we can take to help you heal. Learn more about our relationship counselling here.
Human Connection is Essential For Us All
For successful human connection, we must first be connected to ourselves. When we know what our values are, and can readily identify our feelings, we are better placed to connect with others – be they colleagues, partners, family members, anyone at all.
So how do you figure out your values? At The Bondi Psychologist, we focus strongly on identifying your core values and we then show you how to use them as your guiding light throughout your life.
Enjoy the rest of Psychology Week 2018!
Are you experiencing loneliness? Therapy can help. Book a Psychologist online at our Bondi Beach clinic, or book a Skype appointment with our virtual Psychologist from anywhere in the world.