Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


Healing Power of Connection

One of the best parts of being a counselor is developing a therapeutic relationship with each of my clients.  In our ever-growing technological culture, I see an almost ‘learned helplessness’ in knowing how to actually interact  

genuinely face-to-face with family, friends, or even strangers.  We’ve cocooned ourselves and become so self-sufficient and have acquiesced to sending virtual greeting cards, posting words of encouragement on Facebook, or texting one- or two-liners, instead of coming into live contact with others.  So to have someone sit with you, without any distractions and fully listen to you and connect, is worth its weight in gold.  Do this on a regular, weekly basis, and you are well on your way to improving your mental health by simply feeling like you, your thoughts, and your feelings matter.

Carl Rogers, the father of Person-Centered Therapy, coined the phrase “Relationship.  Relationship.  Relationship” when it came to the key to helping all clients. He was convinced that human connection was one of the most healing gifts you could offer to another.

My grandmother used to shake her head, when I was a kid, and say what a shame it was that our generation was so self-centered.  She talked about all the benefits of people knowing and relying upon their neighbors, back in “her day,” which was during The Great Depression.  People were interdependent, sharing not just material items with each other, but emotionally supporting one another in order to survive.  She’s right — it is a shame, and I’m a full-bred member of the Me Generation, too.  I don’t go over and see how my elderly neighbors are doing.  I don’t ask the family behind us to water our plants if we go on vacation.  And I’d feel too shy to cross the street to borrow a cup of sugar from the people with the nice landscaping (whoever they are)!

But this is what a lot of us have become — so socially awkward that we no longer recognize the essential need for human connection until we’re in the midst of a tidal wave of grief, or a roller coaster of anxiety or worry.  We look around for help and no one is physically there because we haven’t nurtured those types of relationships.  Instead, we turn to posting a feeble status on Facebook or Twitter, hopeful for responses of support.  And we may, in fact, get that support — but we may not.  I think we could benefit greatly from bringing back the simple effort to periodically get together with a close friend, to make a pot of coffee, curl up on a couch and share what’s really going on in our lives.

The point is, I’m struck by how much angst is relieved by simply giving my clients 100% of my attention for an hour a week.  Listening is becoming a lost virtue, in our relationships.  I actually have to teach couples how to listen to each other, which is really hard for some!  But whether you’re single, dating, or married — every human being has a need to be heard and accepted.  It fosters our inherent need for emotional safety, which then builds intimacy in our lives.

Most of the time, we don’t feel emotionally safe to be that vulnerable with our loved ones.  So we edit what we say (or not say), what we do (or not do), and become overly concerned about how they’d judge us or somehow hurt us.  It leaves us with few outlets for the stress that swirls in our bellies and keeps us up at night, or the pain and anger that lies just below the surface of our social facade.

This is why talk therapy works.  Having a trusted, nonjudgmental, and confidential relationship to talk to openly is a gift and human salve for the soul.  I truly recommend that we climb out of our cocoons and take the time to nurture our relationships so that we have strong alliances if Life presents prickly paths. Humans are wired to be nurtured and enjoy intimacy with others.  If it isn’t there, then we will certainly wither, in some way, shape or form.

Relationship, Relationship. Relationship.   It heals.

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