“I’m starved of connection, not attention.”
Take a few moments to reflect on this question:
How many people do you feel truly connected to?
An emotional connection isn’t limited to romance – you could feel it with a friend, family member, or even a pet – anyone who gives you the warm and fuzzies.
As a member of this fast and furious world, you probably can’t name many people you have a real, emotional connection with. In fact, most people can’t even name one person with whom they feel a strong bond.
According to a 2018 survey from The Economist and Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), more than 2 in 10 adults in the United States (22%) and the United Kingdom (23%) say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, or feel left out or isolated. This epidemic of loneliness in modern society has become a focal point in conversation. Health practitioners warn about the range of negative effects of loneliness on our mental and physical health – effects such as depression and suicide, heart disease, cognitive decline, and anti-social behavior.
Loneliness, however, doesn’t always mean that you’re physically alone. Feeling lonely is a state of mind in which we experience a lack of belonging. For example, you could be a student in a class full of people and live on a busy campus yet still feel alone and isolated.
What’s lacking in people’s lives is not the presence of others, but a sense of depth in their connections. Depth is a rare commodity in both love and friendships. In a world of networking for personal gain, dating apps, and shallow social norms, most of us feel replaceable. We are rarely seen and heard for who we really.
There’s an increased preference for impersonal forms of communication like texting, rather than calling or meeting in-person. It seems as if everyone is too busy climbing the corporate ladder, becoming YouTube stars, and paying their bills to put in the effort that’s necessary for a connection to blossom to its full potential.
Yet no matter how preoccupied we become in chasing our pots of gold, we can’t neglect our fundamental need to give and receive. Human beings are social creatures, and it’s our connections with others that allow us to survive and thrive. It’s the way that we’re wired, and for this reason, we need to prioritize developing high-quality relationships.
Author and researcher Brené Brown defines connection perfectly her book The Empathy Effect:
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
We need to be careful about not mistaking infatuation or codependent relationships as the type of emotional bonds that are good for us. While they might arouse intense feelings, they don’t nourish us. They are the equivalent of fast food. The best way to steer clear is to actively work on yourself and heal the parts of you that need attention.
Each person has their own definition of what an emotional connection means, but some common characteristics apply to everyone. It’s a mix of subjective feelings that form together to create a deep and caring bond between two people, helping them grow.
An authentic and healthy emotional connection has these five characteristics:
1. Trust: Emotional intimacy is impossible without knowing that you can trust someone. It’s only when we can place our trust in a loved one or friend that we can feel safe with them. We have to know that they’ve ’got our back‘ and that they will be honest and upfront with us at all times. Trust is built during the small moments as we get to know someone and we become convinced of their reliability.
2. Feeling understood: Your person should be able to ’get you‘. Even if they don’t fully understand or agree with your choices, they should respond with empathy and understanding. A requisite to being understood is a willingness to be vulnerable with others and share aspects of ourselves that we normally wouldn’t. It’s only when we reveal our authentic selves that others can know who we really are and what we genuinely care about in life.
3. Unconditional love: Loving unconditionally means accepting you for who are with no string attached. When you mess up, they’ll help you get back up without any judgement. No matter what you do (or don’t do), your person won’t take back their love. When someone makes demands on you and requires you to be a certain way, you can never experience harmony in your bond.
4. Consistency: With these special connections, you know that what you see is what you get. Your person is consistent in their behavior and attitude towards you. Of course, there may be days when they are crabby, but they won’t let a bad day jeopardize the connection that you have with them. You need to feel stable and balanced in their presence because you’re not afraid of rude comment or an unexpectedly mean-spirited action..
5. Fun and humor: Fun and humor are the lubricants for any type of connection. Being able to crack jokes and laugh together are markers of comfort and fondness between two people. Nothing brings two people closer than sharing a light moment. Without some levity, all relationships can get dull and predictable.
Love is not only available to us in our connections with others, but it can also be found within ourselves and in the world around us, because love is the dominant force that permeates the Universe. When you follow your heart, you’ll find it. As the great Rumi once said, “let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.”
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What does an emotional connection look and feel like to you? What do you need to experience that deep bond with another person?
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