By Caroline Smith, MA, LPC, CSAT-S, CMAT, CIP, EMDR
The Power of Connection
God, in his infinite wisdom, created humans with an instinctual, hardwired desire for meaningful relationship connection—with Himself and with others. Studies show a strong correlation between wellness and social bonding aptitude. To put it simply, as humans we truly do need each other.
Every cell in our body is designed for love. From the moment of birth and until life’s final breath, it’s imperative that one is seen, safe, and soothed, and accepted, respected, and beloved. The ability to achieve and maintain secure loving relationships is the most important ingredient required to satisfy our heart’s longing and deepest desires. It is the inability to do this successfully that creates great human suffering.
Research shows that people with the ability to establish and maintain satisfying relationships will, on average, live longer than those who don’t. This is one reason solitary confinement is so punishing. In terms of longevity, healthy connection with others is found to be more important than a healthy diet or routine exercise. This proves that it’s better to eat Twinkies with friends than broccoli alone.
It is my belief the two most important relationships in anyone’s life are these—one’s relationship with Christ and one’s relationship with self. If either of these two relationships becomes insecure, hostile, or neglected, then all relationships suffer. Ignoring the significance of nurturing these relationships makes as much sense as putting duct tape over the dashboard indicator lights in a car.
Significant change takes time and tenacity. Success isn’t owned; it’s leased to us and the rent comes due every day. The journey into authentic personal growth includes the daring process of self-discovery, unconditional self-acceptance, and radical self-compassion. In a society that profits from our self-doubt, self-acceptance can be quite an act of rebellion.
It’s quite empowering to realize that healthy relationship tools can be acquired and implemented at any point in one’s life, yet this very task is often resisted. Since change happens at the end of our comfort zone, stepping into new territory can feel as foreign as walking on the ceiling. New ground calls us to summon our inner gladiator to forge new declarations of commitment and courage. Unfortunately, courage and comfort rarely show up at the same time. Author and recovery coach Nathan Kruse summed it up this way: “Love yourself so you can teach others how to love you.”
The ability to successfully bond externally with others begins with meaningful internal connection. Making a passionate commitment to personal responsibility for change is powerful medicine. Since inspiration to change can be unreliable; at times we have to go after it with a club.
Author Michael de Montaigne is quoted as saying, “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” So if you find yourself in frequent bouts of verbal knife throwing or choking on the inhaled smoke of burning bridges, accessing professional support helps. Broken hearts don’t just grow back on their own; hearts aren’t like lizard tails. Minimizing, rationalizing, and ignoring past heartbreak only increase the chance for greater suffering.
Self-abandonment invites relationship abandonment. Self-abandonment is like going through life as a declawed cat with little ability to protect oneself. Know who you are, cherish who you are, share who you are.
Inviting God, the ultimate counselor and almighty physician into our healing journey alone determines our value and decreases reliance on external validation from other people.
Caroline Smith is the Director of Pine Grove’s Intensive Workshops and works with Pine Grove’s Women’s Center, facilitating the Breaking Free workshop, She frequently speaks at professional conferences throughout the U.S. and internationally.