Our Innate Need For Connection

Connection: Brene Brown, Ph.D, L.M.S.W

I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

We are wired for connection. It’s in our biology. From the time we are born, we need connection to thrive emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. A decade ago, the idea that we’re “wired for connection” might have been perceived as touchy-feely or New Age. Today, we know that the need for connection is more than a feeling or a hunch. It’s hard science. Neuroscience to be exact.

In his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, Daniel Goleman explores how the latest findings in biology and neuroscience confirm that we are hardwired for connection and that our relationships shape our biology as well as our experiences. Goleman writes, “Even our most routine encounters act as regulators in the brain, priming our emotions, some desirable, others not. The more strongly connected we are with someone emotionally, the greater the mutual force.” It’s amazing- yet perhaps not surprising -that the connectedness we experience in our relationships impacts the way our brain develops and performs.

Our innate need for connection makes the consequences of disconnection that much more real and dangerous. Sometimes, we only think we are connected. Technology, for instance, has become a kind of imposter for connection, making us believe we are connected when we’re really not-at least not in the ways we need to be. In our technology crazed world, we’ve confused being communicative with feeling connected. Just because we’re plugged in, doesn’t mean we feel seen and heard. In fact, hyper-communication can mean we spend more time on Facebook than we do face-to-face with the people we care about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a restaurant and seen two parents on their cell phones while their kids are busy texting or playing video games. What’s the point in even sitting together?

As we think about the definition of connection and how easy it is to mistake technology for connecting, we also need to consider letting go of the myth of self-sufficiency. One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on “going it alone.” Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.”

The truth is that we are both

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