An addictions rehabilitation program used the quote, “the opposite of addiction is connection” in an ad I recently saw on television. Brilliant, I thought. The answer to most of our emotional, mental, or relational problems is connection. Children need connection; adults need connection; and spouses need connection. Therapy rooms are filled with people with a lack of strong and healthy connections. Couples often say that their problem is a lack of communication. However, most couples’ problem is a lack of connection.
Why is connection so important?
From the moment were are born, we are forming emotional bonds. The bond a baby has with its mother is necessary for survival. After birth, before a baby even nurses, it is bonding with its mother. Because this bonding process is so important, according to Clinton & Sibcy (2002) you can’t spoil a child in their first year by being too responsive to them.
Throughout the lifespan, this need for connection continues. Clinton & Sibcy (2002) go so far as to say that “our need for relationship is even more powerful than our need for food” (p. 5). Attachment theorists believe that all human beings, young and old, need strong emotional attachments, or connection. Attachment injuries, or damage to these connections can lead to loneliness and marital strife.
The first step in recovery always involves connection. A support system is crucial for finding freedom, joy, and healing. As hard as I have tried in my life to be a happy, healthy, and well rounded person on my own, I have yet to succeed. According to Larry Crabb (1999) “our determination to fully trust no one must die and an eager willingness to receive what is best from others and to give what is best from within ourselves must take its place” (p. 47).
As an introvert, I value space and quiet. However, introverts and extroverts alike both need connection and relationship. In times of pain, every soul longs for connection. It aches for another human being to hear and validate the deep longings inside of them. These deep longings involve such questions as, Are you there for me? Can I count on you? Do you really care about me? Am I worthy of your love and protection? (Clinton & Sibcy, 2002).
“Quite simply, human relationship is as essential to our well-being as food and water. Just as hunger and thirst are our body’s ways of telling us we need to eat and drink, loneliness is the natural signal that reminds us when we need to connect with other people.” –Vivek Murthy (p. 11)
In Vivek Murthy’s book, Together, The Healing Power of Human Connection in a sometimes Lonely World, he speaks of a doctor in the UK advocating for focusing on connection in medical patients. Helen Stokes-Lampard, M.D., a practicing physician and chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, one of the largest medical associations in the UK, spoke on the topic of loneliness in patients during her inaugural speech. “Social isolation and loneliness are akin to a chronic long-term condition in terms of the impact they have on our patients’ health and well-being” (Stokes-Lampard, via Murthy, 2020, p. 16). She practices what is referred to as social prescribing. Clinicians who use this practice prioritize the relational aspect of their patients by recommending or prescribing resources and activities in the community that can lead to forming healthy social connections. Doctors are beginning to realized that there is a link between social and emotional health that often shows up in patients’ physical health (Murthy, 2020).
“If neglected, loneliness can have long-term health implications, yet it is not a state that can be fixed with a pill or a procedure. It is a human condition that reminds us of our need for the love, compassion, and companionship of fellow human beings.” –Vivek Murthy (p. 16)
We were created for connection. Recent research indicates that connection is a primal need. When looking through the lens of biology and history, researchers found that “the need for social connection is more than a simple feeling or convenience–it’s a biological and social imperative rooted in thousands of years of human evolution” (Murthy, 2020, p. 29). Understanding this foundational need can form the basis of our care of one another. It also gives us a place to start when things aren’t quite right in own life. Just as we occasionally get on the scale or go to the doctor, we must ask ourselves how we are doing in the area of connection.
Clinton, T. & Sibcy, G., 2002. Attachments, why you love, feel and act the way you do. Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Crabb, L., 1999. The safest place on earth, where people connect, and are forever changed. W Publishing Group.
Murthy, V., 2020. Together, the healing power of human connection in a sometimes lonely world. HarperCollins Publishers.