“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Fred Rogers
As humans we need social connection. And we especially need to feel connected when we are sad or when times are tough. It is interesting that social connection seems so readily available to us when times are good, when we are at our best. Yet, when times are tough, when we are feeling vulnerable and in need of support and care, that real human connection that we are so desperate for can sometimes be very difficult to come by.
Imagine for a moment that you have recently lost your spouse to a long illness. In the days and week’s leading up to and surrounding your spouse’s death you were rarely physically alone. Friends stopped by day and night to deliver you meals, to sit with you, and to offer you company and support. You were surrounded by so many loved ones, and you might wonder, why it seems strange then, that you feel so very lonely. Yet, when you think about it during this time you were never physically alone. Sadly, this feeling of loneliness is all too common when we face a life challenge, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
The Importance of Human Connection
Beginning when we are young children we are taught the importance of and the means by which to live healthy lives. Nutrition, exercise, and making healthy life choices all rank high on the scale of healthy living, but what do we learn about the importance and value of developing deep meaningful human connection. Interestingly enough we are taught very little about this and the importance of nurturing it. Human connection, it would appear is supposed to come naturally to us and be readily available. Yet, in today’s day and age our lives are so busy and often times our social connections play second fiddle to work, school, hobbies and household responsibilities.
Research shows, that despite increased connection to others via technology, loneliness is on the rise. A recent report by Cigna, found that more than 60 percent of Americans report feeling lonely, left out, poorly understood, and lacking companionship. Research also shows that loneliness can be detrimental to our health and many researchers fear that it may in fact be more harmful that obesity or smoking. Research also suggests that individuals who feel lonely are 50 percent more likely to die prematurely than those with solid, healthy social relationships. So it would seem then that connecting with others is more important than we might like to think.
What Does Connecting Really Mean?
Brene Brown, a professor who specializes in human connection believes, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection”.
Connecting means being open and available and being present in time and in space with one another. It requires both learning how to give and how to receive. For connection to occur it is essential to create a safe, nurturing space where compassion, empathy and trust are readily available.
Finding Real, Authentic Human Connection in Emotional Support Groups
It is hard to connect and it is even harder to find connection when we are feeling vulnerable. Our culture tells us to keep our feelings inside to be strong, to talk about happy things and not the things that cause us emotional pain and discomfort.
At 7Chairs we understand the struggle of finding real human connection and we recognize the benefits that come from connecting people who are experiencing similar life challenges. We believe in the power of human connection and we know that individuals and communities are strongest when all members are valued, listened to, nurtured, and heard.
Making an Online Support Group Work for You
If this is the first time you have participated in a support group, it is normal that you might be feeling hesitant or apprehensive about sharing your darkest moments to a group of people you just met. Don’t worry everyone feels this way at first and in no time sharing in the group will feel cathartic and second nature to the healing work you are doing together as a group. 7Chairs makes it easy to find the connection and support you need from people who can truly relate to what you are going through. We hope that you will find the support you need in one of our group sessions. And for our group members, new and old, “Welcome to the 7Chairs family!” Here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of your experience with us:
- Be open and present. Attend all group sessions if possible.
- Remember your facilitator is always there for you to guide you along the way. Reach out to your facilitator and communicate openly with her if you have any concerns about the group dynamics or if you will be missing a session.
- Nurture your group relationships. Learn to give and receive feedback to the other members of the group.
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Let your feelings out, cry, laugh, get angry. Remember this is a safe, supportive, and confidential space. It is okay to take risks!
- Find a quiet, peaceful place free of distractions to log into your group session each week.