Humans thrive with a sense of connection. Without it, we fail to develop cognitively, emotionally or physically. I’ve been fascinated to see a series of videos, posts and writing about human connection on social media this week. Every article I read or video I watched made me think how the positive outcomes of connection play out in CST sessions. With long term clients it’s easy to see how often they start the therapy feeling disconnected and track the changes that happen as they reconnect firstly with themselves and then with others.
The first video on connection that I watched last week was about a photographer in New York who, in the interest of exploring human connection, asked random strangers to pose for him. His asked his subjects to pose with each other in a way that it would appear as if they had an intimate bond. They posed as if they were a couple, or family or good friends. All of the photos are beautiful and the viewer would never guess that the subjects had never met before. The thing that struck me though was how everyone photographed was changed by the experience. They would all be very awkward to start with and by the end of the shoot, they would be relaxed and close. One of them said “I feel like I really care about this person now”. Interesting as 30 minutes previously they’d never met. (watch the video here)
The next video I came across was an educational snippet on why the “war on drugs” is failing. In the 70’s scientists were interested in studying addiction. They put a rat in a cage with two water feeders. The first feeder had heroin in it, the second, plain water. In no time at all the rat had become severely addicted to the point where it ended up overdosing and killing itself. Scientists surmised that heroin was addictive. Apparently a substance containing heroin is given to patients in hospital suffering severe pain. When the patients recover and are sent home, most of them are not addicted to heroin. So another scientist experimented with rats and heroin in a different way and the results were astonishing. This scientist built a cage that he called ‘rat park’. He filled it with colourful bits and pieces to play with. There were tunnels, slides, things to climb and race all over. He filled it with lots of rats. The rats could interact as much as they liked. He put in two water feeders, one with heroin, one with water. Only a small percentage of the rats showed any inclination towards the heroin. The rest it seemed were happy and didn’t need the mood/mind altering substance to get them through. (watch the video here)
I have recently met a young woman who teaches parents and educators how to be “connected” in their roles with children. Skye Munro is passionate about how life changing it is to parent in a connected way. On her website she writes about her journey of becoming a connected parent and in particular about the ongoing challenges with her daughter’s sleep issues. She said after learning about connected parenting “I was able to lovingly listen to my daughter while she cried in my arms, and you know what? She finally started sleeping well.” (find out more about Skye Munro here)
So after a week filled with words on connection, I found myself sitting next to a random stranger on a flight up to Canberra. He was reading his book, I was reading mine. In those economy class seats we sat so close we were almost touching and yet we were able to completely ignore each other.
I wondered about the wiring we all have for connection and I thought I’d do a little social experiment. So I asked him a superficial, not too personal question. He responded. 45 minutes later we’d hardly stopped chatting and the plane was about to land. We’d had a good laugh, I’d talked to him about my social experiment. He shared some of the similar ideas he’d seen. Next thing we know the guy next to him joined in and the three of us were having a laugh about the various social experiments that’d we’d seen especially the one where the guys starts laughing for no reason on a busy commuter train in France and has the whole carriage in hysterics. (watch the video here)
We chatted all the way to the baggage claim. Before we said our goodbyes, he thanked me and said that he was inspired to play with the same experiment himself. Who knows if he will. What I do know though, is that for a moment in time 3 random strangers connected. Instead of feeling like separate beings, we felt connected and the connection was fun and joyful.
Those moments of connection are so vitally important in our lives and they start with the ability to connect and to be present with ourselves. To listen to ourselves and to show compassion and understanding too, if we can do this then fulfilling the need to be more connected with those around becomes a whole lot more effortless.