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Joe Eames for Thinkster

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Disconnecting Into Pain

As humans, we have a hardwired need to connect with other people. No matter your personal preferences, your brain (assuming you are human) has a hardwired need to connect with other humans in meaningful ways. A lack of healthy connections will lead to deteriorating emotional health.

This connection comes in many forms, from friends we make time for, to coworkers we get along with, to family members we love, to romantic partners, to surprisingly deep conversations with a stranger on a train. Each of these situations can create meaningful connections in our lives. These connections bring joy, happiness, and health to us, fulfilling not only a desire, but due to brain chemistry, an actual physical need.

Yet if these connections are so healthy for us, why do we so often choose to disconnect from these very people during difficult times? Why do we push away the very thing that creates emotional health when we need it the most?

Today I had a phone conversation with a good friend who is in the middle of a very difficult time. This person is experiencing some pretty severe depression as a result of a family crisis, and has become unable to work or spend time doing activities they once enjoyed. Even eating has become a burden. As I spoke to them and learned what they were going through, I asked about interaction with friends who live near them. They revealed that they have not been spending any time with them because this person doesn't want to burden their friends.

I felt my heart melting in empathetic pain. I recalled many of the times I felt pain and decided to isolate myself from those who care for me.

It is so tempting to hide when we are in pain. Maybe we don't want to be a burden. Maybe we are ashamed of our weaknesses. Maybe we don't feel worthy of their time and energy. Whatever our excuse for isolating, what is going on is ultimately an attempt to hide from the pain. We know that the act of letting others into our situation requires us to open up to the pain, and so we think we can avoid it by just avoiding those people.

The tragedy here is that our very efforts to hide from this pain only results in an increase in suffering. It can seem almost pathetically comical how often we cause ourselves an increase in pain while trying to avoid it.

So it is when we isolate. We are trying to reduce our pain by hiding from the people who care enough that they will notice our pain and willingly carry that pain with us and for us.

And then we begin to seek relief in self-destructive behaviors such as addiction, self-harm, or emotional shut-down.

No matter if it's a severe depression or just a bad day, we MUST connect, and let others hold our pain. Isolating only damages us. A connection is an important part of the path of emotional health, along with the guidance of qualified professionals based on your circumstances.

A connection is not always a cure by itself, but isolation is always detrimental.

No matter the pain you're feeling, no matter your circumstance, no matter what you are feeling, no matter what has been inflicted on you, you are not alone. There are people in your life who will gladly hold your pain with you. 

Happy coding!

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