Whether you are introverted, extroverted, or an extroverted introvert, you are created for connection. Connection is one of our most basic human needs. As infants we need connection with others to survive, and as adults we need the right kind of connection to thrive.
When we were babies we were powerless over who and how we connected to others, but as adults we can learn the difference between connections that harm our personal well-being and the one type of connection that will bring us true happiness.
The four types of connection are…
2.) Bad connection
3.) Fantasy connection
4.) Real connection
The first three are extremely common, but will bring you nothing but misery. You will thrive only with real connection.
Let’s take a closer look at these four types of connection.
Disconnection– Disconnection is no connection at all. Disconnection is the result of shame. Shame about who you are, how you feel, what you have been through, or what you have done. Disconnection is created when you fear vulnerability and refuse to open up to at least one other person. You do not have anyone that truly knows you (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Maybe you have tried to share with the wrong person and decided the risk was too high. Maybe your shame has been too great to share at all. It is important to know that the only way to heal shame is through connection. There is an old saying, “You are only as sick as your secrets.” Finding that one person to open up to whether it be a friend, a family member, a therapist, or a spiritual leader is necessary if you are to thrive in life.
Bad connection– Because connection is a basic human need, many people settle for unhealthy connections rather than no connection at all. This may be connecting to an abuser or it may be connecting to someone who is highly critical and makes us feel like we are not good enough. We long for their acceptance, but can never achieve it. They bring us down. They cause us to doubt ourselves. This type of connection has long-term consequences. Even after we disconnect with this person, their message is stuck in our heads. It has become internalized. Now we have a bad connection with ourselves. We put ourselves down. We doubt ourselves. We do not feel good enough. We are full of shame.
Fantasy connection– When we feel disconnection or we have experiencing bad connection, we may go to fantasy connection to ease our pain. The fantasy connection may be in the form of an addiction (alcohol, drugs, sex/pornography, shopping). It may also be in the from of jumping from one relationship to the next, confusing the endorphins that are released in a new relationship with real connection. When we go to these feel good fantasy connections, the searching for connection part of us is still looking for real connection. We search and we search and we search and we never find. Meanwhile we are digging ourselves deeper and deeper into a whole filled with more shame and disconnection.
Real connection– Real connection involves being vulnerable and letting yourself truly be seen. It is about taking off that mask and the need to appear perfect. Real connection involves risk taking. This does not mean it is wise to open up to everyone or to open up to people who have proved to be emotionally unavailable or unsafe. Real connection can be established when you find one person and you let them see the real you- your hopes, your fears, your insecurities, your passions, and your dreams. When you find that person and they accept you without judgment, real connection is formed. While trying to establish real connection, you may get burned a few times, but the important thing is wisdom and perseverance. Use wisdom and do not attempt to form a real connection with someone who has been a bad connection or does not have the ability to connect at all. Take wise risks and continue to try to connect with others who do not have a history of betraying your trust.
Real connection is necessary if you are to thrive in life. No matter what you are struggling with, do not go alone. Take off that mask. Be you- authentically you. The payoffs will be limitless.
This article was written by Kristin Barton Cuthriell, MEd, MSW, LCSW, author of The Snowball Effect: How to Build Positive Momentum in Your Life, available through Amazon in both soft cover and kindle version.
To dive deeper into the power of connection check out Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, The Power of the Other.
You can also find Kristin on Facebook at facebook.com/kristinbartoncuthriell where you will find daily inspiration.