Is an Absense of Connection the Missing Link for You?
12/7/2010 7:55 AM
Let me share this excerpt from Dr. Kathleen Brehony’s book
Living a Connected Life:
“Larry’s life appears to be entirely successful. He is healthy, handsome, and loaded with money. As a high-level executive with a prosperous technology company, he enjoys the good life: regular travel to exotic locations around the world, expensive cars, flat-screen TVs, digital everything and exquisitely decorated homes on both coasts with astonishing views of the ocean.
But in other parts of his life, Larry is not quite so successful. He’s not particularly close to his parents and sister. Divorced twice, he has no ongoing or meaningful relationships with his ex-wives or his teenage daughter who lives a thousand miles away. Though he regularly sends child support checks and birthday gifts, he is not really connected to her life and couldn’t tell you a thing about her interests, friends, or dreams for the future.
Following an intense business meeting, Larry and I went for coffee at a nearby restaurant to sort through the decisions that had been made. It was mid-November, just a week away from Thanksgiving. As we sipped our coffee, I asked Larry what he was going to do for the holiday.
“Nothing special,” he said. He then explained that he had reservations at a posh restaurant in Santa Barbara. “I’ll drive up in the morning, have a gourmet meal, then head home to get ready for my trip on Monday.”
“Meeting some friends for dinner?” I asked.
“No. Just dinner. Just me.”
An abundance of scientific research shows how we are born biologically predisposed to seek connection with others. The physiological systems of our bodies—brain and nervous system, our heart, and breathing—regulate in close proximity to others.
There is also much scientific data to show how we suffer in body, mind, and spirit when we are unable to feel a solid sense of connection to other human beings. The bad news is that by almost every measure we have become increasingly disconnected from one another. The good news is that when we find our tribe, we live longer and happier and our ordinary lives become extraordinary.” (Used with permission from Kathleen A. Brehony Ph.D., Living a Connected Life: Creating and Maintaining Relationships That Last, Holt Paperbacks 2003.)
Larry—and Eileen and Andy featured in my blog on 9-23-10—seem like typical people but here’s what they have in common: no strong connections in their lives. It makes me wonder if not having close connections is the missing link for developing Alzheimer’s. I don’t mean to imply that Larry or Eileen or Andy are going to have it. I’m asking, what if the absence of strong connections to self and others puts us at risk for developing this devastating disease?
From my research and experience, I’ve learned that individuals at the end stage of Alzheimer’s appear to be in their own “private world.” They can’t let themselves out or let others in. Why is this significant? Because “it is the power of being with others that shapes our brains” as Louis Cozilino wrote in The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment and the Developing Social Brain. He pointed out that neurons by their nature are social; they shun isolation and depend on their neighbors for survival. “If they aren’t sending and receiving messages from other neurons on a constant basis, they literally shrink and die,” he wrote.
So if our neurons are social—if they shun isolation and depend on neighbors for survival or they’ll shrink and die—could that be a metaphor for how people who have no strong connections can shrink and die, too?
That leads to asking these questions:
· Do you live in your own private world or do you easily connect with friends, family, and community? If you’re isolated, how do you find your “tribe” and truly connect? What’s one thing you can do to step out of your own world and start connecting?
· If Alzheimer’s individuals don’t have strong connections outside themselves, do they have a strong connection within their own “self”? Do you find time to “know thyself” and connect with who you are?
· Does society today support the human need for connection? I frequently hear this from my clients: “I’m overworked and overwhelmed. I don’t have the time or the energy to connect.” If that describes you, how do you slow down and take the time to connect with others?
· Living A Connected Life states that “our difficulties in maintaining strong connections and creating new ones in our lives is not really about lack of time: it’s failure to honor our priorities and values.” Do you struggle with honoring the priorities you set?
Dr. Brehony offers a five-step plan for nurturing relationships while living an already overflowing life. If her theory resonates with you—and keeping Alzheimer’s from your door is important—then this may be the plan for you.
My next blog post will detail Dr. Brehony’s five step plan.
I once lived in my own private world without knowing it and finally woke up. Today, I fully treasured what I’ve gained from learning to connect—a rich, rewarding life that’s precious to me and my loved ones.
Can you say that, too? Or is there a missing link for you?