Connectedness From The Viewpoint Of A Chicago Therapist

Written by: Angela Derrick, Ph.D. & Susan McClanahan, Ph.D.

Date Posted: June 23, 2024 2:38 pm

Connectedness From The Viewpoint Of A Chicago Therapist

Connectedness From The Viewpoint Of A Chicago Therapist

Featuring special guest writer SpringSource’s own Sarah Elfman, LSW.

As humans, we have a basic need to feel connected. However, we are also inclined to avoid emotions, experiences, people, places, and things that we perceive as uncomfortable. When an individual has uncomfortable experiences that result in connection feeling unsafe, they may pull away to avoid re-experiencing similar feelings. 

“Pain is inevitable and suffering is optional”

—Dalai Lama, Haruki Murakami, and M. Kathleen Casey 

Pain is an inevitable and useful human experience. Without the sensation of pain, we could not know when to make doctor appointments, when to ask for help, or even when we are in emotional or physical pain. Pain is a warning sign for the body that something does not feel right and needs attention.

When we avoid our pain, we enter into suffering or efforts to keep the pain at bay.  These avoidant efforts may look like putting emotional energy into denial, using substances or distractions to numb the pain, and feeling more and more afraid of ever approaching the thing that brought pain initially.  Avoidance may result in a lack of connectedness and an invalidation of human experiences or emotions. It can literally make us sick, physically and psychologically!

Steps to build a connection

  1. Attend individual therapy or group therapy to discuss life stressors, including but not limited to grief, relationship conflicts, and depression. Validation from peers and professionals can assist in building safety for human connection.
  2. Explore the activities that make you feel safe and confident. Part of building connections is finding valued activities that may introduce you to others with similar interests. 
  3. Explore your values. What truly makes you feel connected to others, and what do you need in order to foster authentic and meaningful connections?  
  4. Routine. Build a daily routine that assists you in connecting with others and with yourself (such as yoga, art groups, therapy groups, etc.).
  5. Build self-compassion. Self-compassion for the human experience and validation of your own and others’ pain can help build connectedness with others. The more isolated we are, the more isolated we become due to feeling different from others. 

ALL HUMANS EXPERIENCE PAIN.  A popular expression is that pain shared is pain halved.  We are healthier when we are connected and can share our pain with others.