A Sense of Connection is a Core Human Need

Many people have either battled depression themselves or know someone who has. The unfortunate truth is that so much of the hectic, competitive, and isolating culture we live in contributes to depression becoming an all-too-common part of modern life.

Author Johann Hari argues in his new book, “Lost Connections,” that we’ve misunderstood the main causes of depression for far too long. This is partially due to powerful pharmaceutical corporations emphasizing that depression is primarily caused by a so-called “chemical imbalance” in the brain.

However, this isn’t actually the true reason for the everyday depression that so many people experience. The true culprit isn’t biology, but rather unresolved trauma, isolation, misplaced values around status and money, or simply a bad working environment.

But don’t despair – it’s also important to know that each of these factors can be dealt with and improved, and that a life of depression can turn into a prosperous life of hope and goodwill.

The biggest problem in most people’s lives is trauma.

The biggest problem in most people’s lives is trauma, and trauma is what creates a damaged ability to connect with others. “Trauma” is not a term reserved for the most severe and unrelenting atrocities one can experience. Anytime something scares us and we do not get over that tear, trauma is created. When we don’t believe we have the resources or abilities to cope with a certain problem, we create adaptive behaviors to deny or avoid it.

My dad left home when I was 10 years old. I was the only son (three younger sisters). No one would explain to me why dad left — so I made up that it was because of something I did. Something I did that was so awful that my dad left me.

But, of course, I couldn’t say that to any of my friends. I told them my dad traveled for business. I developed an adaptive behavior to protect me, to help me fit in, to make life appear to be normal. I didn’t have any other resources or ability to cope with this problem.

It’s not the trauma itself that causes the most long-term damage; it is how the trauma wreaks havoc on the psyche and prevents reintegration into a normal, healthy life where other people and unknown situations are seen as benevolent.

In my situation, it took 20 years to undo the damage of my dad leaving and to understand that I was really fine; that I had overcome this trauma and was ready to move on.

The foremost pillar of happiness

You might have heard this before in different ways: The opposite of addiction is NOT sobriety, it’s connection. The foremost pillar of happiness (see the pillars) is a sense of belonging and purpose.

No one is an island unto themselves. We are born through connection, and it is through connection with others that we accomplish virtually everything in life. We do not just prefer healthy relationships; we need them!

Suicide prevention workshops

This week I’ll be leading three suicide prevention workshops for educators and mental health professionals. What do I have to offer to these highly-trained and certified professionals?

I want to share with them the power of a circle to quickly establish a sense of connection and belonging. I see this over and over again in our school circles as teens realize they are not the only one who has that problem, or that there are some people with even bigger problems. A sense of belonging and connectedness gets created very quickly.

My job at this conference is to build that sense of connection among 20-30 mental health professionals and educators in 55 minutes as a demonstration of the power of being in a circle.

In order to connect with others, we have to give them our time and honest feelings and ideas and shared experiences and openness. We do not connect with others by trying to earn approval, awe, compliments, appreciation, envy, or superiority.

Connection is based on our willingness to show up just as we are and to trust that we will be accepted. It is the experience of oneness. It’s shared experiences, relatable feelings, or similar ideas. It’s the feeling of belonging to something greater than oneself.

In fact, several studies have shown that a sense of connection and belonging is the strongest and most effective tool in preventing suicide.

Grades 3-12

Get the FEELINGS sheet for your students

Help your students learn the names of different emotions with the FEELINGS sheet. Learning to name what they are feeling is the first skill of building emotional intelligence.
Larry Levenson
Larry Levenson
Larry Levenson is the founder of Circle Dynamics Group and a national leader in training educators in emotional intelligence and the use of genuine listening and curiosity in conversations with students. He has a Master's degree in Human Development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.