Mother Theresa is said to have been convinced that the greatest of all sorrows was to feel alone, unwanted, and to be without human affection. She saw loneliness to be a greater sorrow than being hungry or homeless or suffering from illness. To be a social being without friends is to be deprived of some of the most valuable of life’s experiences.
The connectedness, seen in resilient adults, involves a mutual give and take in relationships paired with high levels of trust, caring and openness as well as a sense of security and safety. These relationships are not those involving negative qualities like excessive neediness, manipulation, or a lack of empathy and compassion.
Make positive connections a priority in your life. Connections to other people are vital. However, connections may also involve connectedness to causes, towns, schools, religions, jobs, volunteer endeavors, pets, sports teams, etc. In fact, participation in any of these activities allows you to meet people with similar interests.
As in many other areas it is necessary to take charge of your life when it comes to fostering relationships. Do not wait for someone else to make the first move. Reach out in a positive manner to others. While opening oneself up to other people involves a certain degree of risk of getting hurt, not having a social network has far greater consequences.
Throughout our lives our resilience and our connections are enhanced whenever we act to help other people. Connections continuously change. Children are born and grow up, jobs and interests may change.
Resiliency involves the wisdom to modify goals and expectations and to continually improve our ever-changing relationships and connections. The important thing is to be proactive to ensure the maintenance of vital relationships when changes occur. An example is a couple finding special time for the two of them after they have children. Even small gestures such as telephone calls and emails help maintain a certain level of connection.
Self vs. others
Our world grows very small when we focus primarily on ourselves. Not only is our view of the world distorted by not having feed back from other people about errors in our perceptions and thinking, but we also remove ourselves from having the joys of doing things for others. Sometimes we find ourselves alone because of fear that we might be hurt if we let people get too close, or we think we are too busy to waste time on socializing. We may also become self-focused if we feel sad or depressed. A depressed person tends to lose the joie de vivre. Eating and sleeping patterns are disrupted and minor irritations seem like mountains. Activities that are usually enjoyable lose their appeal and most often the saddened person turns away from friends and love ones depriving themselves of social support that might help to alleviate some of their pain. They focus more and more on themselves and the pain they are feeling. It is very easy to see how they can become pessimistic about things getting brighter in the future.
On the other hand, when we are enthusiastically involved with work and home activities, when we cultivate our friendships and nurture many interests, when we take time to show empathy and compassion for other people our emotional life is enriched and we are fortified and made stronger and more resilient.
Value of empathy
Probably the most important “people skill” of all is empathy. Empathy is the ability to notice subtle verbal and non-verbal signals from other people that let you know what other people feel, i.e., what they need or want. People who do recognize these subtle cues are at a very great social disadvantage personally. On the other hand, people who are empathetic receive both physical and emotional benefits from their concern for others.
Becoming more compassionate
Compassion is vital to strengthening not only our emotional well-being but our physical well-being as well. When a person act with compassion toward other people they experience a “helpers high” with is a type of exhilaration based on both physical and psychological elements. The Dalai Lama in The Art of Living commented that the greater the strength of your compassion the greater your resilience in life when you must confront hardships and the more likely you are to transform challenges into opportunities. Furthermore, the greater your compassion the greater your own courage will become. The more courageous you are the greater your inner strength and your ability to be determined. The greater your determination the more likely you are to be successful in spite of obstacles. In essence, a person’s hope, optimism, resilience and since of self-worth are bound up with their being able to feel connected to others and demonstrating care and concern for other people.