Alone in the Dark
Researchers Jean Baker Miller and Irene Stiver have written, '"We believe that the most destructive and terrifying feeling...is psychological isolation...It is a feeling that one is locked out of the possibility of human connection and of being powerless to change the situation.'" (quoted from Brown, 2007). Some experts theorize that isolation is the largest psychological threat humans face. As a species, we need each other. We yearn to be known, to have our stories heard, and to feel valued. Isolation can take physical forms: we begin a new job and no one at our workplace has reached out to us yet. Or it can be an emotional affront: we risk being vulnerable with someone, and our feelings are dismissed or negated. Isolation can result in feelings of depression, physical illness, hopelessness and despair. As easily as we can "connect" with others thanks to technological advances, many people report feeling more cut off and lonely than ever before. Like most complex problems, isolation cannot be cured by simple means. But demonstrating empathy for others is a potent beginning to curbing this deep sense of aloneness. Listening to others with the goal of communicating an understanding of their experiences, of validating that you share what they feel or need, is a powerful tool of connection. Being "heard" communicates an acknowledgement of the other, a sharing of their truth. Connection is restorative. It builds hope and resilience. Listening and providing empathy are two gifts we can offer to affirm that, indeed, we are all in this together.