Some of you have written to ask me about how to create more connections and relationships.
I have shared some of the research that indicates the difference having social support can make, but I hear back from readers that it is difficult to have good relationships when one doesn’t feel well enough to go out, or talk on the phone.
How do you build a community when your body won’t co-operate?
I have put together some thoughts based on my work with different clients and their different styles and needs. Hopefully these ideas will spark some of your own creative energies about what might work for you.
Quality more than quantity.
Pay attention to how the people you spend time with affect your energy. It is more important that you have a few people (or even just one person) with whom you feel at ease, at home: someone who holds you with warm regard and open curiosity. You know it when you feel it. That is a healing experience all by itself.
There is literature that suggests that more introverted folks prefer and need only a few deep and meaningful connections, and those with a more extraverted energy require more social stimulation and need less depth, but I find those descriptions to be very rough guidelines- again, pay attention to how you feel around someone. Do you feel energized, at ease? Or more anxious, tight, even confused? Put your time and energy where you experience a quality connection. That is of more benefit to you than lots of social contacts.
It doesn’t have to be a person.
We get benefit from other connections that are warm – such as our pets, important landscapes and places in nature where we feel held. You may feel a connection with a special tree, or part of a beach. It is the feeling of being held, and not being alone that sustains us.
It doesn’t have to be in the present tense.
Some of us have strong connections to ancestors, people who loved us who have died, people in history with whom we have a powerful affinity. These folks live in our bodies and imaginations, and they are part of our own personal community or tribe. Call to mind someone who has loved you deeply, or someone about whom you feel great admiration and know they also look at you that way. You can hold a picture in your mind, an actual photo, or something symbolic of that person. One of my clients felt her maternal grandmother was the person in the world who most understood and loved her – even though her grandmother died when she was very young. The memory of that love was so strong. She wore a piece of her grandmother’s jewelry and that connected her to the love and warmth. Another client could not recall a family member treating her warmly, but she was so aware of a historical figure that lived large in her imagination, and she had a framed picture of that person in her home that she checked in with and was connected to.
The quality connections you can make, and deepen are the networks that will help you calm, will give you strength and energy, and from that will flow your creativity and ability to live your life more fully.
These connections are what our brains and nervous systems expect – so when we live in a relational desert, our systems have to work overtime to help us feel safe, deal with pain, take on risks and manage daily life. We use up an enormous amount of energy just getting through daily life. When we are mindful of and cultivate our web of connections, life is not so overwhelming.
I advise my clients to take time every day to connect.
Maybe it is in person, if that’s possible, maybe it is ten minutes to pull up those people and places and animals in our imagination and being mindfully aware of their loving presence that we carry with us. Over time, this practice will help you nest in these connections, and you will experience yourself as less isolated, and with more resources.
Thank you for your questions and for all you do to show up in the world.