It seems that lately I am hearing many people talk about feeling disconnected. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I believe there is a deep sense of disconnection running through our nation and people truly are feeling disconnected. Disconnected from family, jobs, friends, relationships, and church just to name a few places people feel disconnected from and the reasons are many and varied. And all the reasons given don’t fit into a few categories but are flung wide across all spectrums. In some respects it stems from having conflicting values with the people you are close to which can lead to feeling as if you can’t talk to them about what you think or believe. The one thing this feeling disconnected seems to have in common, at least from my perspective, is that when people feel this way they also begin pulling away and in many cases I have seen people leave family systems, relationships, jobs, and the churches they have called home for years and move on to forming their own networks, which is not always a healthy response. These networks are typically formed through social media where they don’t have to have face to face personal relationships. This gives them the so called benefit of not getting as hurt when things get tough or when they find out they don’t have the same values in this new network either and they move on repeating the cycle all over. That repetition will eventually lead to feeling more and more disconnected.
Unfortunately, pulling away, disconnecting… is probably the worst thing any one of us could possibly do. You see we are hardwired for connections. We are hardwired to be in relationships. We need social interactions. Our feelings of disconnection tend to stem from our sense of being lonely and our sense of being lonely stems from our pulling away from our many and varied relationships. And folks, I am sure I don’t need to tell you that loneliness is as bad as it sounds.
In fact according to research, social isolation and loneliness are risk factors that increase early mortality by up to 45%. That is a pretty high increase! The sad thing is that we are afraid to admit out loud; to anyone that we are lonely, or even that we are feeling lonely. So our sense of disconnection grows and when it grows too large, we make choices that are not healthy, that isolate us even further, and only lead to more dissatisfaction, disconnection, and even despair if left to go on. And then we blame…we blame our families for not understanding us, we blame our relationships for not being fulfilling, we blame our friendships for being too critical or judgmental, we blame our jobs for not inspiring us, and we blame our churches for not giving us lives of significance or connecting us to our creator in ways that are meaningful. And all that blame just disconnects us further.
The truth is: we are created to connect. We have a desire deep in our souls to share our lives, to be in relationships with others and the thing is all of that can be messy which also means we will get hurt. But it can also be absolutely wonderful. I mean honestly…do you really think every family, relationship, marriage, job, church, etc….is perfect or should be perfect? I certainly hope not! Because it is in the messiness that we find love, joy, hope, happiness, even faith. Perfection can look a little unreal…a little plastic. I’ll take the messiness of real life over perfection any day even if it means there will be times I feel lonely, or disconnected. It is important that we realize, those are my feelings to work through and it is not for me to blame my family, my friends, my job, or my church.
My humble and very imperfect advice to anyone reading this is to not give up or give in to those feelings of disconnection…but instead take the time to work through them. Ask yourself why you feel that way and how you are contributing to your feelings of disconnect. And believe me, we all contribute to those feelings we have. So admit when you feel lonely. And please know that you are not alone. We all feel lonely at times and loneliness is not something shameful. It is just a feeling.
If you would like to read an excellent article about disconnection and loneliness I highly recommend this article by Brene Brown:
In fact, I highly recommend any book, article, or TED Talk by Brene Brown. Her insights into shame and the phenomenon of feeling disconnected are very helpful as we all work toward living a whole life.
A quick note: In the above post, please know that I am not speaking about any relationship that is abusive. If you are in an abusive relationship, I urge you to seek help. No one has the right to abuse anyone in any way for any reason.