As a therapist, one of my primary professional responsibilities is to help others see the need for, and to seek out, connection to others. Being in “relationship” with other souls is at the very heart of emotional health. We are social beings and therefore we require a sense of intimacy with others. By using the word intimacy, I am referring to relationships that allow one person to be truly vulnerable with another. This type of connection allows us to put our guards down, be honest and feel understood.
Connection comes in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. My daughter is about to graduate from nursing school and she shared a writing assignment with me that powerfully illustrates the power of connection even when connection appears unwanted. She wrote the following:
“Abraham Lincoln once said “I don’t like that man, I must get to know him better.” Never in a million years did I think I would find that statement truer then on an Oncology floor during my second medical surgical rotation at a large Boston Medical Center. Mike (not his real name) was a middle aged man, with a life I immediately deemed as average. He was married, had three children, and worked as a laborer. Mike was receiving chemotherapy for spinal cancer he had believed was in remission and he did not want a student nurse.
After begging my instructor to change my assignment, many unsuccessful attempts to engage Mike in conversation, and nearly getting my head bitten off when I gave him an injection, I finally used the oldest trick in the book and gave him a foot rub. He slowly dropped the “tough guy act” and started to tell me how angry he was that he was back in the same bed, with the same illness tugging at him. Mike longed for a chance to once again do the simply things, like watch his son playing football. I sat quietly and just listened.
The next week when I returned he had taken a turn for the worse and was very confused, but amazingly remembered me. I spent all my free time during that shift sitting next to him and he told me I had surprised him. A few hours later, he was placed on comfort measures only and died after a brief time. After his death, his family told me that he had spoken all about the student nurse that he didn’t like who ended up being his greatest caregiver in the hospital.”
Laura learned a great deal from her time with Mike. She learned not to be discouraged by seeing someone’s anger and defenses. She came to see that underneath it all, Mike, just like all of us, had a soft and tender need to be cared for, loved, heard, understood, and held. Laura had a life-changing experience with the power of connection.
Consider for a moment what type of connection others may need from you, AND, what connection you may need from others. Don’t be afraid to ask for connection. We all need it…we all require it! Why then, do so many of us sit alone with our suffering? Why do we worry so much about “burdening” others? Why do we think it’s up to us to figure out everything for ourselves? Maybe it’s time to put our fears aside and ask others to listen to us, be patient with us, hold us, and comfort us. That is how we become a part of something larger than ourselves.
“Instant connection! Our teenage daughter had been professionally diagnosed with ADHD at a young age and had been struggling with self esteem and anxiety for years. We met with many different professionals, had team meetings with educational consultants, neuropsychologists, teachers and tutors. They all said that this child was carrying around too much stress and absolutely needed to have someone to talk with, who could help her with this heavy burden. This was easier said than done, she simply did not connect with anyone until she met Walter. He has been an invaluable resource to our daughter and our family ever since.”
Parent of an ADHD Child
Walter Sherburne, Psychotherapist