After another year of patient care – listening to life stories, bearing witness, helping suffering, and offering empowerment, I leave 2015 with the feeling that we all need to make a conscious effort to connect more with each other. The vast majority of my patients feel alone, separated from others in their joys and their sorrows. Our nuclear culture is no longer working. Most of us feel isolated in our life’s journey and afraid to express our feelings. We are conditioned to swallow our sadness and joy for fear that no one will want to bear witness. We are living in a kind of ‘solitary confinement’ of our own making.
Numerous studies have shown that isolation is bad for our health. When babies are isolated, they fail to thrive. When women with breast cancer are part of a support group, they live longer. When victims of trauma feel validated, they heal faster. Four decades ago when we adopted the ‘nuclear’ framework, it was a cry for freedom of expression, for having the courage to leave our roots and venture into the world away from family and find our independent calling. It was a call for individuation. This part of becoming ‘nuclear’ was healthy. It was time for a change, for transformation, for a generational individuation. But we threw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. We swung the pendulum a bit too far in the opposite direction. Individuation was not intended to isolate us from each other or to create the track we are on now, where progress is more important than process, separation has replaced community, and where competition has replaced collaboration. This track has been bad for our health. Our culture is hurting from normalizing this ‘corporate mindset’. It lacks humanness and feeling. We adapted to this way of being for two decades. It has worked against us and created the disconnected society we live in today. We have become disconnected from our feelings, covering them up with addictive substances and behaviors, as well as pharmaceuticals. We need to reclaim our ability to connect with one another, to express how we feel, to collaborate and form
Our culture is hurting from normalizing this ‘corporate mindset’. It lacks humanness and feeling. We adapted to this way of being for two decades. It has worked against us and created the disconnected society we live in today. We have become disconnected from our feelings, covering them up with addictive substances and behaviors, as well as pharmaceuticals. We need to reclaim our ability to connect with one another, to express how we feel, to collaborate and form community, and to behave authentically and with consciousness to heal the collective illness that has overshadowed our sense of meaning.
We have lived out the consequences of the ‘nuclear’ age. So far this experiment has failed. Humans are communal beings. We need one another to stay healthy and happy. We need to be witnessed by one another. We need to know that we matter. Social support sustains us and makes us resilient. Isolation has been shown to be lethal. It is bad for our health. It increases our stress and perpetuates our feeling of being in solitary confinement.
I suggest we make a collective New Year’s Resolution to heal our society by making a valiant attempt to connect with one another. I suggest we make a commitment to reclaim our health, embody self-care, and empower each other to live authentically. With this resolution, I am certain we can create a society where we can feel loved and cared for, and joy and meaning can return to our experience of being alive.
This would be a really good step towards reclaiming our health.
If each of us does our part, we can create a society that is healthy and sustainable. I know this is possible if we all do our part. This would be a win-win for all.
Links: Failure to thrive: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/5/1234
Support group: https://www.theconnection.tv/dr-david-spiegel-ph-d/
Social support: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2729718/
©January, 2016 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press.