A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.
A heap of songs and endless movies discuss love in all its forms. Some say that it is one of the most important feelings and that it rules the world. Others consider it the only feeling that exists, while all other feelings are simply the lack of it.
Our need to be loved and to be connected to the world around us starts even before birth. It starts during the 9 months of relationship we have with our mother, wrapped up inside of her and waiting for our first meeting with the world on our birth day. It continues on until the end of our lives. Everyone wants to love, everyone wants to be loved, everyone wants to feel connected and belong. It could be an instinct that we used throughout evolution in order to survive, or maybe it is a social need. For whatever reason, our well-being depends highly on others from the second we are born.
While most people think that love is an emotional need, research done on the connection to parents and caring for babies thinks otherwise. It was discovered that children who grew up in orphanages, who were only fed and cleaned, and who did not receive love and affection showed severe developmental and cognitive delays and even permanent damage to the brain. So, love in not only needed for our well-being but has a huge impact on our abilities to think, connect, maintain our health, succeed and live long.
Where there is love there is life.
– Mahatma Gandhi
Significance (which we talked about last time) and love and connection are very much connected to each other. They sit on either side of a scale that needs to be in constant balance. When we have too much significance we reach a level where we are so special to the point that we are different. We may even be strange and weird. This makes us look for a change. We have to let go of our uniqueness in order to connect with others.
People are willing to do a lot of things to be loved and connect to others. Some ways to achieve it will be positive, like kindness and caring for others. Meanwhile, others will be destructive, like being sick to get some attention and affection. Remember, love and connection are basic needs. They give us a kind of control and courage regarding our place in the world. We are willing to do a lot to achieve have these needs met. Sometimes the need for love is great that we have a small panic attack that overrides everything else. It overrides even the things we claim are most important to us, even if it means that we have to compromise who we are.
In close relationships, it is not healthy to have too much “us” to the point that the “I” is lost.
– Ronit Baras
The main problem with seeking love and connection is the dependency on other people. For love and connection to happen, you need two to tango. When we have too much connection with others, we lose a sense of who we are. From personal experience, I can tell you that this is true for me in my relationship with Gal. We have been together ever since we were teenagers and in the last 20 years we have been living oceans away from our families. Sometimes, we are so used to doing things together that we forget we are individual people. There is so much “us” that the “I” gets a bit lost.
Feeling the fight between significance and a need for love and connection is something most teenagers have to face. They want to be accepted, loved, appreciated. They want to belong, feel connected, be part of something, that they lose the sense of who they are. In order to blend in they are willing to pay the price of mediocrity. When they have had enough of being the same as everyone else, something they sacrificed a lot in order to achieve, they want to feel special and unique again. They will do strange things to make themselves stick out. “If everyone has piercings in the belly, I will have it in my tongue”.
My book “Be Special Be Yourself for Teenagers” focuses mainly on this dilemma, “How much am I willing to give up of my uniqueness so that my peers accept and love me?”. The book offers very effective solutions for dealing with this dilemma.
If you think only teenagers face this dilemma, I am here to tell you differently. Every adult, even the ones whose teen children are experiencing it at the same time, have exactly the same dilemma. Why else would they buy big houses, new model IPads or IPhones, read magazines or follow the latest fashion? We all have this dilemma. while teenagers lack the life experience to make an easy choice between the two, it will still be part of their lives forever.
My family is a wonderful example of how this struggle comes into play. We travelled around the world for a time and got to visit some unique places like Thailand, Singapore, France, Korea, China, USA, Philippines, New Zealand and others. Because of that, we sometimes find it hard to connect with people in Australia who have never left their hometown. We had a feeling of uniqueness. We felt that we were special because we had seen more of the world. This was not so great for our feelings of love and connection though, because even today, after 13 years of living in Australia, we find it easier to connect with people who appreciate other cultures.
Even though we knew that travelling the world and being “frequent flyers” of the globe made us a very special family, at some point we just wanted to rest, to make long time friends and be able to remember the name of the man at the local corner store. We decided to settle down. Do not get me wrong, we had many friends in our travels and life around the world. Most of them were even similar to us. Yet we wanted something more. We missed them every time we had to move on and we wanted “long time friends”.
But does it ever end?
No, not really. Every day of our lives, we make a choice to either go that way or the other, depending on our current needs.
Every relationship between us and another person requires a constant balancing act between our need for love and connection and our need to be special and unique. That is why we see so many relationships breakdown. After a period of connection to each other (with any form of love), one or both of you want independence. You want to be able to do things without needing to be considerate towards the other. This is true in love between couple, love between parents and their children and is even true in love between friends.
Originally, the relationship was formed on connection and then one day it reaches a point of being “tired of making an effort to please, to connect, to create rapport, to be accepted, to feel like I belong”. This is when letting go of the relationship seem like a very attractive alternative.
If you examine friendships, you will find that any friendship that ended badly was due to one or both of you deciding (not necessary on a conscious level) to let go of the connection. You were “sick and tired” of something.
It is important to recognize that when you overcompensate for one need, the other one gets pushed off balance. Every person has his/her own point of balance. What seems out of balance for some may be in perfect balance for others. For example, we traveled and lived around the world and some people (who chose a different lifestyle) thought that our lives were out of balance. For us, it was in fact the perfect balance between being special and having love and connection in our lives. We balanced our travels with being very close to each other, developing great skills of flexibility and honing the ability to make new friends. This lasted for a long time before life circumstances changed our minds and we did not want to travel that much anymore.
Join me next week for future example of ways to achieve love and connection, in a good and healthy way and in not so healthy.
Remember, people will violate their values to meet their needs. Do not judge them, it is not conscious.
This post is part of the series Six Human Needs: