Freud was wrong. Sex and aggression are not the most powerful human instincts. The most powerful human instinct is your need to connect with another human being. Calling out into the darkness, and asking “Are you there?” and hearing the answer, “Yes, I am here. You are not alone” is a universal human need. This answer changes everything because it is meeting your attachment need. The need to be loved, cared for, accepted, belonged, and safe are your universal attachment needs. Looking back at this past year, all I can say is wow! Your attachment needs were being triggered countless times. I know I felt unsafe and disconnected numerous times, didn’t you?
What happens to us when we are under a threat? This question was particularly relevant to our lives due to the pandemic. Ironically, at the time when we probably need each other the most, we are told to socially distance which left many of us massively isolated. But how did you handle isolation, frustration, anxiety, fear, loneliness, and many other emotional vulnerabilities? How you handle your emotions translates how you interact with others, and how you interact with others translates how you handle your emotions. You probably focused on your coping skills, distraction skills, stress reducing activities, your daily routines, and rituals. They are helpful in short-term. But in long-term, what we need is to connect; to build, nurture, and maintain emotionally safe relationships.
Here is the existential dilemma: We all know that we are vulnerable in love, and nothing can hurt us like love and that people will let us down. This is scary. So, we want to protect ourselves and we all know that protection becomes a prison, and the most awful thing is to feel completely alone. But we need to connect, and love is wonderful and amazing feeling, it’s what we need. We need to find it to thrive and grow, and it can also be terrible, devastating, and create more vulnerability than anything in the world.
It’s time to heal from these pandemic blues – isolation and loneliness, through our current and future/potential relationships. If you read a book or learned a new skill in quarantine, that’s great. They definitely contributed your personal growth. But personal growth also means being able to handle emotional vulnerabilities and relationships in a way that enables you to maintain your emotional balance, have a coherent and positive sense of self and be willing to engage with the world.
In Western cultures, we are taught that dependency is bad, and independency is great. In the US culture, self-sufficiency and being independent are valued. However, self-sufficiency also comes with unhelpful beliefs about our own sense of self. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) calls them core beliefs. Here are few core beliefs that we tell ourselves when it comes to self-sufficiency:
“Don’t ask for help, you are not needy”
“You need to take care of everything by yourself, otherwise you are a weak person”
“Don’t reach out to your friends, you’ll bother them. You are a burden”
The reality is dependency can be positive and healthy. We are told that a healthy adult is a separate adult. What I am offering you is the idea that a healthy adult is a connected adult.
Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) provides this amazing metaphor to highlight the importance of our emotional relationships: “If we talk about the fish in the sea, for us as the fish, the sea that we swim in is our emotional relationships. When you take the fish out of water, it’s very difficult to understand the fish. If you take the fish out of water, the things that the fish was doing to cope with being out of water may look strange. You start to understand that the fish can only thrive and survive in the water. People are relational beings and self is an ongoing process that you are constantly creating your sense of self”.
Therapy helps you to change the emotional music that plays in your mind and body. This changes the dance that you do with others, because how you put this music together defines the signals you send to other people. And those signals pull responses from other people. So, changing the emotional music, changes the dance you do with others and the dance with yourself. When we change the dance, the new dance grows our sense of self, our ability to deal with our emotions. The new dance changes the dancer.
Let’s explore your emotional music. Let’s change the dance and the dancer together and help you recover from the pandemic blues. Contact us for more information.