Finding our way back again, the cure for isolation and its ills
Massive doses of human connection are needed to counter the alienating influence of technology, disruption of the village and a growing culture of isolation.
I remind myself often how wonderful it is to notice the wealth of resource and intelligence that is all around us. I just left the gym where I watch CNN (while on the treadmill) and I go from the devastation of Puerto Rico to the massacre in Las Vegas and then read an entrepreneurial magazine in the lobby.
Club Business International’s October 2017 publication stated, “When I [the editor of CBI] asked the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy what was the biggest disease in America today, without hesitation, he answered, ‘It’s not cancer, It’s not heart disease, It’s isolation.’”
One of the results of the incessant technological assault, observes Murphy, “is the pronounced isolation that so many people are experiencing that is the great pathology of our lives today.” The Editors note continues, “International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Associate Chairperson Derek Gallup counsels, ‘Certainly, continue your search for technological solutions, but, as you do so, remain constantly focused on the all-important human element. In the final analysis, your members, and how they feel about them selves and the team members- those are the critical factors that, ultimately, will determine whether your business grows and thrives… or doesn’t.’”
The Editorial also points out that Thomas L. Friedman, Pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist with The New York Times, states “How ironic, we are the most technologically connected generation in human history- and yet more people feel more isolated than ever. The connections that matter most and that are most in short supply today are the human-to-human ones.”
Personally, I am hopeful. More and more people globally are waking up and re-connecting with our shared humanity and a shared vision of a peaceful and collaborative world. Currently in the U.S. however, a great divide appears to be growing, where we see an acceleration of the breakdown of our social structure and our community infrastructure.
Unsustainable systems are collapsing and something new, hopeful, empowering and global is in the process of emerging. It seems that we need to collectively burn through some darkness before we collectively see the light. Lately, there seems to be a growing isolation and war-like posturing. Let’s shift gears and focus on a hopeful antidote that everyone can apply.
World peace begins with me
Human beings have been making war for a long time in many cultures, meaning in many minds, because the culture is a reflection of the mind.
I am coming to a clearer understanding that when I am not at peace in my own mind, I am waging an internal war and that war is projected onto others whether I am aware of it or not.
The war in my head can be framed around a variety of battles – it can be framed around the ancient and false belief that I am not good enough or smart enough, or if that other person would do something well or if this condition or that condition were met – then all would be worked out and peaceful. I have constructed a story that tints the lens through which I see myself, others, our relationships, and the world.
If I remain unaware of how I have tinted the lens, and I remain stuck in the story, the conditions for peace will not be met. Peace is revealed in the absence of war – in the absence of isolation, separation, judgments, and conditions.
If we take another step deeper, we can see that the source of this war comes from the belief that we are some thing that is separate from others. This early learning, this sense of separation and human disconnection, is so pervasive and integrated into the threads of our culture that it makes it hard to see.
This experience of human disconnection, a separation of self from self and self from others, is a fundamental concept in both trauma-informed practice and in Emotional CPR (eCPR), www.emotional-cpr.org. The impact of trauma and human disconnection played out in my own early childhood, for example, by my experiencing such a profound lack of safety that it resulted in my clinging to anyone who offered safety and anything that could numb the pain.
Another result of the belief that we are some thing and this thing is separate from each other is that we get focused on protecting this thing. Whatever the thing is – our territory, our home, our family – we protect it and hold on to fear, and anger and revenge, and we wait for someone else to do something differently so that we think we can find peace.
Our tinted lens reinforces the idea that that other person is different – separate from me. And this separation perpetuates conflict and war. It perpetuates the war in my head which perpetuates the war I wage with others. The inner war creates global war.
When I am practicing eCPR or human connecting I am cleaning the lens. By that I mean, I intentionally focus on letting go of my own judgments and labels; there is nothing to protect. I focus on perceiving the other person in their full humanity. The distress the person is expressing is a particular patterned way that this person’s internal war has escalated.
As a supporter or listener or fellow human being I focus on being with her and assisting her in finding peace. I do this by seeing the genuine person underneath her lens, underneath the social conditioning, underneath her story. And when I do this, I am perceiving or ‘being’ underneath my own lens. From this place, where peace is revealed in the deep connection of two people, I mirror back the best I see in her, my great hope for her, my belief in her, my knowing that together, in this moment, we will move through this. For more on this process, see “When the war in our mind ends, peace emerges” (http://www.mentalhealthexcellence.org/war-mind-ends-peace-emerges/)
Connection as a preventative of violence
Shortly after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and 17 others were assaulted with a firearm in Tucson, Arizona in 2011 and six people died from their wounds, the mayor of Tucson, Arizona asked for a meeting with the Administrator of the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
I recall being hopeful that some federal action step might be taken to move forward in a collective and positive direction after this tragedy. About 45 of us from around the country met at SAMHSA in Rockville, Maryland, the Tucson mayor and his wife joined us via phone.
There was much talk around what some communities have done in response to similar attacks, how we might be able to prevent such attacks and where we go from here, such as community dialogues, town meetings, etc.
I listened for a long while and then spoke and I would say the same thing today: People don’t act out in desperate acts of rage – be it homicide, massacre or suicide – when they know they are connected and belong to something bigger than themselves – be it family, community or some entity that gives their life meaning and purpose. I don’t believe this behavior occurs when people know that they belong in community, that they have a safety net, a place where they are being well thought of, cared about.
If people have somewhere safe to go when they feel big feelings, whatever those feelings are – anger, rage, isolation, anxiety, sadness, etc., they would not act out so desperately, at least they would be less likely to. The invitation is to think creatively and strategize about how we rebuild our communities so they everyone knows they belong, everyone is valued and has a place.
We can and must do a better job of connecting to our own hearts and to the hearts, minds and spirits of others.
I end with two simple and eloquent quotes from Albert Einstein, “We can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” and “The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth.