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People who Need People

...are the luckiest people in the world...
broken image
I met a young family new to Portland. They arrived here eager to shed all that wasn't working in their old city and create a calmer, more satisfying life here in the Pacific Northwest. After all, what's not to love -- nature and beauty and cool restaurants and creativity and not too much (at least not yet) traffic, pollution, noise and craziness that infects so many other places.
Three months here, they are miserable.
They have a job, a house, a new baby, but what they are missing is people, connections, a social life. No family. No friends yet. No feeling of community and belonging. What they really have is a disease that is spreading like a virus---crossing all age, gender and cultural lines. We are a country of wanderers, uprooted and restless. We are working longer hours, disconnected from family, too tired to make friendships except on Facebook, frazzled, anxious and yearning. We are lonely. 
And yet, we are surrounded by people and lots of ways to stay in touch. There is so much coming at us--things to do, learn, read, absorb, process. I wonder, though, if what we really need is the deep connectedness of sitting with another person who hears our problems, who knows who we are, who really sees us. According to one survey, in 1985, only 10 percent of Americans say they had no one they could share important topics with and 15 percent said they had only one such good friend. By 2004, 25 percent had nobody to
talk to, and 20 percent had only one confidant. Other studies have shown similar patterns--not only are we more isolated, we are also more lonely.
We humans are tribal creatures; we need each other and we need the emotional/physical/social/neurological/spiritual exchange we get from being with people to whom we feel close. Monks in a monastery need other humans (as well as a relationship with a spiritual being), deep introverts need less social interaction but they still need to connect. How else do we know we are alive and that we matter?
I have been told repeatedly, "I have no one else to tell this to," or "You are the only person I can share this with." What that says to me is that a therapist can be useful, but it's not enough for emotional health. A therapist can't go out with you hiking in the Columbia Gorge or hang out for books and coffee at Powell's. A therapist doesn't share her secrets, after all, and a good friend does. A therapist should be in addition to at least one close friend/family member--just like a doctor should be in addition to you getting lots of good sleep, nutrition and exercise.
People who have close connections live longer and live happier. We need each other.
The Atlantic, "Is Facebook Making us Lonely?"
"People who Need People," sung by Barbra Streisand.