A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we are meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.
From the time I was very young my mother would tell me to gather as many friends as possible and to value them deeply. My friends are my family. ‘No-one can have too many friends’, she would say.
Those whom I have met suffering from depression and deep sadness are often those who have cut themselves off from those around them. Often they believe they are a burden to their friends and families because they are ill or low, but in thinking so, they hurt those who love them and isolate themselves so much that loneliness abounds and a sense of hope is often completely lost. Self-esteem plunges and the meaning to their existence shrinks to bafflement and then ultimately to questioning ‘why exist’? Depression thrives in isolation. I truly believe people die from a lack of love.
In Victor Frankel’s “Man’s Search For Meaning” I recognise this is what he was realising whilst being imprisoned in Auschwitz.
“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which a man can aspire.
Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. His survival depended upon his belonging”.
It breaks my heart to meet people who breathe without truly ‘living’ and who fail to experience this beautiful world and the fabulous people in it. But…we have to make the effort. Summon up courage and mingle! We cannot blossom without being fed and watered.
When we connect we feel valued, heard, seen and strong, not to mention full of joy and excitement. I generally speak to a friend a day ‘to make sure they are ok’, something I have done since I was 11. Something to the chagrin of my father when, as a teenager, I would hog the telephone all night. Now of course I have my own phone and connect with someone, somewhere, daily (face-to-face, or voice-to-voice, not through FB). For what is the point of living if I am not connected to other beings? I can talk to myself and laugh at myself (but it is not as much fun as sharing). I also believe we can drive ourselves mad through loneliness.
And I wonder how many people who are about to leave this world, lie back and wish they had spent more time at work, or worked-out harder? Few I would imagine. I would be fairly sure they had wished they had spent more time with loved ones and more time playing.
In the end I want to be able to lie back and remember and laugh at my library of sweet memories. When I was barely coming out of toddler-hood, my great aunt taught me ‘never to look back and wish I had’. I apply that to my friendships all the time. Ring them now not later. Visit them now not next month. Hug them at every given opportunity. Tell them you love them. Hold hands. And play!
We need our beauty reflected back to us….our friends do that. (Make sure your friends are kind to you though, if they are not, then fire them – they are not your friends).
I am not saying that we have to be dependent upon another being, I am saying, we need to belong to something to connect with those who are like-minded. Play groups like – Book clubs, Movie clubs, Yoga schools, Charities, Dance groups, Tennis clubs, Football clubs, Cooking tours, Art tours, Gallery tours, Cafe societies…whatever….oh it goes on and on!
In Emily Esfahani Smith’s book “The Power of Meaning”, she writes: “In our age of isolation, it is more critical than ever to actively seek out social groups and work hard to build close relationships especially because many forms of community are dissolving. Across society, people are spending less time with friends and neighbours and more time in front of T.V., screens, phones “privatising” our leisure time”.
We need to belong!
And if you think you are too old to play, then you have lost the plot! For the rhythm of life may be unfathomably cruel at times but it is also playful and full of sunshine, delight and adventure.
Thank you Jake Corke for this gorgeous photo that you took in Cambodia. I look at it often and reminisce on the fun we had putting my tour together.