Monday, 3 August 2015

Hard Wired for We

I'm considering going to Taste of The Danforth next weekend with about fifty thousand other people. I'm not much for big crowds and I'm pretty sure I heard the food calling me. Still, it's pretty cool being with a bunch of similar minded people even if it is only about feta cheese and chicken souvlaki.
Anyone who knows me, even superficially, knows I like to spend time outdoors. Whether alone or with a gaggle of other geese, I'll find ways to get outside into nature. It's one of the principal reasons I gave up the corporate cubicle hamster farm. Clawing my way to the lower-middle was about the best I could expect, due primarily to my oral cavity, which has an innate proclivity for flapping whenever my brain has a moderately relevant thought regarding whatever topic may be on the table.
Yes... I just admitted I have a big mouth.
Last Wednesday I invested an evening with a group of people I've strayed far too far from. Most of those in the room I had never met before yet there is an immediate connection regardless of where we came from or where we are going. We have all gone through a similar shift of consciousness. We have all found barriers in our lives and found ways to break them apart. We all know how to shut up and listen when it's important. We all know how to share... well... shit. More importantly, we all know how to celebrate each other.
This group of people have all decided to work on ourselves... within a group dynamic.
Similarly, as my friend C and I were talking about tonight, I could go kayaking and hiking on my own all of the time. There's no need to make it into a group sport. I can go whenever and wherever I want. Nonetheless, what I need is connection and what better way than to laze about in a kayak or hiking a trail taking pictures and generally goofing around with people I genuinely like and admire (mud baths and bumper boats not withstanding).
This isn't about them. It's about me... sort of. For them it's about them and not me... and I get it. It's getting out for ourselves in a group dynamic.
Catching on?
Some recent studies are beginning to bear out the group connection theme and why it is so important to our well being. More and more studies are showing the clinical healing process happens much more quickly in a group dynamic. One of those studies suggests yoga (practised individually), meditation and solo walks in the woods are great for working out your feelings and collecting your thoughts. The real healing, however, begins with connection with other humans. That is, we heal when we open up to someone who hears us.
To me, this means releasing whatever it is I'm holding in behind fictitious, self constructed iron bars. It's akin to leaving the barn door open so the skunk can depart of it's own volition. No need to chase the little blighter.
As Dr Sue Johnson states in her critically acclaimed book, “Hold Me Tight”, we have an intrinsic need for connection. And not simply connection but understanding. Lack of connection at a fundamental level is the cause of virtually all marital angst. Becoming reconnected can save a relationship while continuing to “drift apart” and ignore the problem is a deafeningly silent death knell. (Accept, of course, abusive relationships when the best course of action is to pack lightly and get a ride to the nearest hostel.)
For the record, Dr Johnson's book is a must read for any couple. It explains a lot of shit. We're not all so unique as we might like to believe. Different... yes. Unique... no. (A synonym for unique is “alone”.)
Does this mean there is no value to alone time? Of course not. It is as much a part of the healing process as beating the tar out of a pillow with a tennis racket... or a nine iron... or a Toyota. What I am saying is using alone time to get your thoughts together is important. The healing, though, really begins when we connect with those around us.
If you really want to help someone heal, shut up and listen. They didn't ask to be fixed. They asked to be heard.
We, as a species, are hard wired for connection. It's how we stayed safe in our past and it's when we feel most safe in the present. It's why we form “tribes”. It's why we hang out with people who see our idiosyncratic behaviours and still love us. It's why we feel better around people who see us and like us anyway.
Of course, there is the food thing at the shin-dig next week. It might be nice to burp and fart and blame it on someone else. ~laugh~