By Rev. Jim Inness
“I’d rather starve in Newfoundland than live anywhere else”. This is a well-articulated sentiment from a contributing writer to CBC, Sarah Smellie, who further affirms, “No jobs, no plan, but at least we’re home”.
The article speaks to financial hardship, but more importantly, it is about feeling connected. And it speaks of the innate need to feel safely attached.
Smellie shares that though she found a few friends while away, “it was nothing like running into Nan’s house with the window steamed up from the salt beef boiling on the stove.”
Being connected is being rooted. It is feeling deeply grounded in safe satisfaction. And as Smellie notes, it is moist, warm, and familiar. It is irreplaceable. Enduring deep in memory.
A research professor at the University of Houston, Dr. Brene Brown, writes, “We may think we want money, power, fame, beauty, eternal youth or a new car, but at the root of most of these desires is a need to belong, to be accepted, to connect with others, to be loved.” Which accounts for Smellie’s decision to remain in a province that is not fully supporting her financially. And perhaps it accounts for many choices we all make?
Psychologists agree that any lack of connection leads to some degree of loneliness, isolation, or alienation. And studies point to loneliness as a leading reason in the decision to seek counselling. Even introverts need to know that connection is within arm’s reach when needed.
One may get used to living with some disconnection, may even think it is ‘normal’, but a connection once made, then broken, is an experience of being torn apart. Whether it be a loved one dying, or losing a parent to Alzheimer’s, or facing a divorce, or unresolved fighting with your family, disconnection takes one into grief. And such sorrow can be difficult to manage, even in regards to less traumatic events like having a friend or a child move away, or a need to change jobs, or an unexpected change in church or social activities.
The need for connection runs deep, so deep that it can mean life and death to a newborn. Nonetheless, many suffer a lack, and consciously or unconsciously have a thirst for greater attachment. This thirst leads to variations of social contact (not all healthy). Yet healthy or not, we are wired to take it in from wherever it will come.
Such is this need that according to a study conducted at Purdue University, a simple acknowledgement, as minor as eye contact from a stranger, increases one’s feelings of connection. All of which points to how susceptible we are, for better or worse, to those who appear accepting. It also speaks to why someone may stay in situations they know are not good for them, or, fight to remain connected to those who reject them over and again.
It has definitely been my journey to learn how and when to make connections at more than a superficial level. I, like many, manage trust issues, and the innate drive to find connection, deepen that connection, and ever-hold that connection close to heart, is a courageous act of vulnerability. As I see it, we may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but, as they say everywhere, ‘the facts are the facts’.
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the regional Ministry of South Huron.