What It Means To Be Human
There’s a lot I could write about this, fundamentally though I believe a big part of being human lies in understanding our need to make authentic connection and contact with others.
Every day I speak with people who have a yearning for connection.
You see we’re wired for connection. We value relationships so much that our neuro-biology can even cause us to feel pain when we experience social disconnect and isolation. Naomi Eisenberger, PhD, at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kipling Williams, PhD, at Purdue University, and colleagues even found that social rejection activates many of the same brain regions involved in physical pain (Science, 2003).
The good news is that I can feel there is a shift in our culture that is seeking out community, a longing to find each other and know our tribe, a calling out for connection. Slowly people are beginning to recognise the effects of an individualistic culture. A return to connection is gaining momentum.
I’m not talking about the superficial connection, like asking how your day is or what your plans are for the weekend (of course we also need this type of connection too). I’m talking about REAL HARD CORE connection. The point where we recognise the humanness in each other, that moment we are reminded that at our core, we are not separate but are in fact are all connected.
I think Einstein sums it up beautifully:
"A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security." - Albert Einstein
So what’s stopping us from striving for this type of connection?
Granted our lives have become a lot busier. You might say we have become more like human doings than human beings. With our mobile phones ever present, we have Facebook, Instagram, snap chat, the latest form of social media or the newest app, at our finger tips. We have all the virtual toys we could ask for to keep us wrapped up and amused, only to later be left wondering, hey where did the time go?
Instead of connecting with people we’ve settled on connecting with things or through things. We’ve found ourselves leaving behind our ability to REALLY see each other.
OR If we do get the opportunity to connect with others we settle for a surface connection, where we never get to the depths of what’s possible, because after all a real connection is too scary.
So here’s your reminder, true connection is experienced at the boundary (AKA in the presence) of another person. Embracing our humanness and experiencing authentic connection is a relational approach. It means having the ability to be aware of yourself, your experience and others so that relating or connection is deeply embodied and felt.
When this happens we get in touch with our humanness, and only at this point are we able to fully come to know ourselves and experience connection that is genuine. It is this quality of our contact or the level of engagement we have with others is what brings us the most satisfaction in our relationships.
“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja-vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…” - Timothy Leary
Being human and recognising our need for connection means we can also recognise our interdependence not only to each other but to our environment, the world.
We need more focus on awareness, connection and collaboration to achieve this. It’s through this experience of resonance, that I believe we can embrace our humanness and experience more authentic contact with one another and a reflection of our humanity.
Unfortunately, there is not always space created to sit and do this in groups as we once did. Sometimes it’s because we don’t talk about our yearning, there’s not enough interest or support in our environment for us to pursue it, it feels uncomfortable or we get into a room full of people and we don’t really know how to relate.
We find were not only disconnected from others, but were disconnected from ourselves, were not in touch our bodies or what we actually feel or think.
Individuals, groups and communities need to continue to carve out these spaces. Today as our social relations extend due to the ever growing pool of people we interact with and the diversity of those people, we need a collaborative effort to continue to create these spaces along with strategies for co-existence and connection.
Spaces where people can come together to do the real relational work, to get back to the basics of connecting with each other, experiencing themselves and others in safe and supportive environments that on awareness, communication, growth and development not only for individuals but for the well being and ultimate growth of the human race.
Natajsa Wagner is a Masters qualified Psychotherapist based in Brisbane, Australia. Natajsa blends relational Gestlat methods, contemporary Psychotherapy and neuroscience practices in her work. Natajsa guides and mentors professionals in understanding themselves and their behaviour patterns so they can make more aligned choices in their life. Natajsa is thought leader and advocate for authentic human conversations and connection. She works experientially with individuals and groups to teach, that in a moment, we can create and experience more deeply satisfying connections with each other.
Her work offers an antidote to the modern day disease of disconnection.She invites others to create a ripple of connection in the world, so that we might all feel more intimacy, belonging and aliveness. Natajsa has been featured as an expert both locally and internationally and has contributed to a number of print and online media outlets including: Womens Health and Fitness Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine & ABC Online.