Its always difficult, and sometimes, impossible to put oneself in somebody else’s situation, because of course we are all individuals with different mind-sets, different upbringings, different perspectives on life and who have had different teachers and role models. However in these strange times we live in (enduring a global pandemic) I have realised there are a few things that will always remain the same for every single human being and that is connection with other humans.
Maybe you’ve watched the movie “Castaway “ with Tom hanks where he is stranded on a desert island on his own for years. The film is fascinating because we watch his gradual ability to adapt to his surroundings and find a way to physically survive the horrific situation he has been put in. However, whilst he is surviving physically we also get watch his slow mental deterioration. He has to paint a face on a football and props it near him so he can have a conversation with it. And he even gets to the stage, when trying to escape, where the faced football “Wilson”, (yes he has named it) falls into the sea and drifts away and he is crying and wailing as if he has lost a close relative, rather than the simple fact of a piece of rubber floating off. So as we are watching this, we are thinking wow this guys really has gone crazy.
However, he is a normal human being having been thrown into an abnormal situation. He can cope and use survival instincts to forage for food and create shelter, but he has no ingrained ability in his mind to cope with not having any sort of human connection. Even going back to caveman times, where they hunted and survived in the same way Tom hanks was having to on his island, the one enduring similarity is that back then there would have been communities and other human beings to connect with So where the film is excellent is how it depicts the actual primal need for humans to have connection and without it we are prone to suffer immeasurably.
So back to the present day. The majority of people in western society are pretty fortunate with their lives, in fact we live more comfortably than at any time in human history with our various luxuries and entertainments which are all focused on the individual to keep our minds a bit numb and distracted when we are on our own (or even with others). Ok so it can be argued that TV can bring families together to watch a show or a film, but these days its more likely each member of the family will retreat to their own screen to watch what they want to on their own.
It can also be argued that facebook and social media is bringing people together like never before. Yes this is true, but it is not bringing people together in the primal way of being around and feeling the energy of other human beings.
At school and from a young age we are taught various subjects in order to help us function in this modern day society we have created. So when you go to school you spend 4-5 hours a day learning different topics, and its fair to say with some subjects you do rather a lot of group work with other fellow students.
But has anybody ever said to pupils, or to teachers for that matter, that break and lunch times are probably the most important part of a small human’s development? Now that can be argued against of course, but of course nobody ever highlights the importance in surviving and flourishing in life of human connection, and creating these on your own and building relationships.
Why? Because it is a given, it is natural, we are brought up in a family where we have daily connections (even if we may hate our older brother for beating us up now and then) , so whether it be in a negative or positive way there is mostly always other human beings to bounce off. Strangely I bet Tom hanks would have taken having a football hooligan on this island with him rather than nothing.
So that brings me to highlight a select group of people, like myself, who are living through this pandemic on their own. I have lived on my own now for 5 years since the break up of my last relationship and whilst I clearly remember having and uncomfortable time in the first few weeks, I very quickly adapted and never felt too much of a lack within by being on my own.
However, I have experienced something quite different having now been living on my own for over a year, without the ability to (mostly) go to other peoples houses, have a social outlet at places like the pub, the swimming pool etc, and not being able to have anybody around to my place.
Now don’t get me wrong, every person in whatever situation whether it be a family together, a group of housemates together or somebody living on their own has more than enough of their new problems to have to deal with. Some people will be desperate to escape the pressure of being with their family 24/7, lamenting a lack of personal freedom for escape, others will find things out about their flatmates and their powers of acceptance and their balance will have been truly tested by seeing them all the time, having them working at home etc, so on the surface it may seem that the lucky person is the one who lived on their own before, so is used to it, and is still living on their own during the pandemic, so surely that person can cope better with the current situation than anyone else .
So this is where I have to rewind back again to social connection and our lack of knowledge of the importance of it in human existence. A person living on their own (and I am not talking about the poor souls who suffer from having no friends or relatives nearby. For society that is a hardship that needs to be focused on a whole lot more) usually would see friends or family on a weekly basis and greet them with a hug or some form of human touch. When that hug or human touch takes place a form of connected energy that we all take for granted, is being shared between two humans. Or even when one is at a gig or concert and a crowd is dancing and swaying together, there is an important energy transfer going on between human being which enables certain body energies to be released and therefore enables that human being to have a connected sense of being, almost like having a role in the world, even if it is the simple role of enabling others to function mentally by being physically connected.
Back in April I had a little mental breakdown and had to take time off work which made no logical sense to me as I was teaching on zoom instead of physically having to drive around peoples houses to teach, which in theory should be more tiring than sitting in one place to teach.
However, apart from the now recognised effect of screen time numbing our creative minds and basically helping to turn us into partial zombies, by not being physically with these students my body and mind were sending me messages that this is not how human beings are supposed to function to survive. Even in an office where someone may be sat at a screen all day, they are surrounded by other humans, can talk with other humans and share their energies with other humans (ok sometimes if that is negative that doesn’t help either of course).
So this links in with the whole area of living in the pandemic as a single person. Suddenly, we may feel lonely and find ourselves feeling more needy than at any other time in our solo lives. We either distract ourselves with screens or we have to face up to ourselves and this terrible yearning for some sort of human warmth or recognition from somewhere. In my worst stages, this manifested itself in feeling such strong emotions and a feeling of loss it was not dissimilar to the pain I felt when splitting up from my (various) relationships. I had to stop and feel that pain. At first it came with such a confusion. The logical brain telling me nothing really has changed in my living situation, so you should t be feeling this pain, but then I started to recognise all the outside factors and understanding about human connection which we have grown to dismiss or simply take for granted.
For a minute I want to you to think of a hug as food (weird I know). So If we don’t have breakfast in the morning we experience a sense of emptiness and we automatically know what is lacking . If we do have breakfast we don’t really think about food until it gets to near lunchtime but we don’t worry or panic about it, because we know we will satisfy that need throughout the day and all will be well with our bodies. Now replace breakfast for hug (or if you’re a more stiffer Brit, maybe just being in the same room as a human). We don’t think, in these modern comfort living times, that we need human connection to survive but that is because it is something that is automatic in our lives. When we see friends or family we greet them and leave them with human touch, that’s not accounting for all the energy transfer that goes on during our time with these other humans.
So even though I have been seeing friends (I have only seen most of my family twice this year and that has been obviously painful and clear even to my logical mind) most of us haven’t been allowed to hug and we have been at a distance and of course the frequency of seeing people is much less due to the restrictions, so a light bulb went off in me and I realised that human connection and hugs for people living on their own are not only desirable, but actually important to human survival. The reason my physical body has been struggling has been in no small part due to the fact it hasn’t been receiving the things it needs to survive in the form of human touch. Yes there have been other factors personally, but it has taken a long time to recognise and be kind to myself with the knowledge that a lot of my mental anguish has come from simply not having what my being needs to survive.
So where as in a family, even if you have been locked down for weeks or months and you are ready to tear your partners head off or your are sick to death of children moaning, At the end of the day, like in the food analogy, you will always know there is some human touch there for you at any time you need it. Again this will probably be taken for granted. But like the food, you will always know there is lunch and dinner available for you and it will be taken, if you hate the food that is being put in front of you. For the person living on their own, they do not know where there next meal will be coming from.
So it manifests in all sorts of ways. But I have come to realise that nobody can put themselves in anybody else’s situation and totally understand how they feel in all these scenarios, and although I am still struggling, I am trying to be kind to myself and not be too ashamed or embarrassed about the huge emotional rollercoasters and sometimes, unbalanced need to feel a bit of love and care from the world, after all , as for so many, these are unprecedented times and although we know they won’t last forever, Sometimes the mind talks a lot louder than common sense.
However, it has taught me a few invaluable things in life. 1/ life is very short, a year goes by in no time at all, so its vital to tell the people you care about how much you care about them before its too late 2/ With all the technology and amazing scientific developments we are lucky enough to have in this age, absolutely nothing is more important than human connection and appreciating that all the time , which is something I will be doing lots of post pandemic and 3/ We all think we know ourselves and what is best for us, but there will never be a point in anybody’s life where you can sit back and say I can stop learning more now. We are so uneducated in so many things that would make everybody’s existence infinitely happier, and we must continue to learn. Things such as understanding ourselves comes with allowing all the self imagined image of who we are or have been to flow away, like a hundred leaves blown off a tree drifting away down the river. And with that allow ourselves to be that person we are continuing to discover. With a new rising of the sun comes a new day and the potential to simply be alive with that and enjoy it with a full connecting heart.