Schools have been actively engaging in the conversation about the effects of trauma in childhood, and now Oprah is informing the nation. Awareness is rising. I’m thankful.

However, the thought that keeps creeping in my mind over the past couple of months has been what about the people who don’t meet the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experience) criteria but still feel depressed or anxious?

What happened to them? If a childhood was “normal” and needs were easily met, why are they hurting?

Deep inside there are hurting people feeling disconnected and disengaged even if they seem to have what society calls the standards of the culture – a house, a car, a marriage and kids. Or maybe they have good looks, nice clothes, money and a social media following.

(To be honest, I don’t really know what the standards of this culture are. I usually find myself intentionally not paying attention or else setting myself up against them. (Divergent is one of my favorite movies.))

In the book Lost Connections, Johann Hari lists nine causes of depression – not just one – and it’s answering some of my questions.

Out of the nine causes Hari writes about, “disconnection to other people” stood out to me.

What? Wait. How can that be? Don’t we have hundreds of friends on Facebook and thousands of followers on Twitter? How can there possibly be lost connection? What are we missing?

In just one of the studies Hari mentions, he writes, “Social scientists have been asking a cross section of U.S. citizens a simple question for years: “How many confidants do you have?” They wanted to know how many people individuals could turn to in a crisis, or when something really great happens. When they started doing the study decades ago, the average number of close friends reported was three. By 2004, the most common answer was none.”

By 2018, it’s not uncommon for leaders (or anyone) to experience isolation. Even with the explosion of social media, loneliness has infiltrated our culture.

  1. By nature of leadership positions, confidants may seem like slim-pickings.
  2. Social pressures can create a divide by instilling fear or anger toward others who believe differently on issues.

At times people feel as if there are two options. They either don’t speak up and share their heart or mind, or they go ahead and share and buckle up for the retribution that inevitably follows.

It’s no wonder depression and anxiety have been on the rise for adults and kids alike whether they’ve experienced an adverse childhood experience or not.

Feeling alone creates the same physiological response as stress. The heart rate increases, cortisol is dumped into the bloodstream, and psychological pain ensues. There are people in our midst – our colleagues, our families, our churches, etc. – that are hiding their struggle well.

Meaningful human connection is essential to wellbeing.

Something a friend summarized for me from the Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups by Joseph Myers made sense. Think of belonging as a triangle divided into four tiers. The very bottom tier is Public Belonging. This includes people with whom you share a common experience; need numerous public relationships to experience a sense of healthy belonging. Social media can meet this need for some, following a sports team, being part of a community or church or school. There is a group identity.

The next tier up is Social Belonging which brings us feelings of safety, comfort, and connectedness. It provides a space to decide with whom to grow a deeper relationship. Think of social get-togethers that offer an opportunity for connection at a deeper level.

Third is Personal Belonging. These are close friends. You feel like you can pick up where you left off, even after years apart. Perhaps a relationship formed at a public or social get-together; you were drawn together.

Intimate Belonging is the top and smallest tier. With this small group of wholly trusted people, we share “naked” experiences, feelings, and thoughts. We are most vulnerable here.

While all are important aspects of belonging, intimate belonging established in trust and mutual respect, where we find ourselves feeling like we’re “at home” with one another, help us to know and be known.

The 2008 movie Avatar struck me recently with the line, “I see you.” I almost think it means more than, “I love you.”

Having a space to connect in shared humanity without expectations, judgments, or shame is healing at its best. I see you. I see your humanity. I see your divinity. You are not alone.

In many regards, our culture has been losing this innocent intimate connection over time, and adults are suffering…and then kids suffer.

Advocating and understanding children and adults with adverse childhood experiences is the beginning of a culture shift. Advocating for children in homes with overly busy or disconnected parents – and establishing meaningful connection – is another.

The standards of the culture could use an overhaul.

Reflect: How many confidants do you have? Where can you make a meaningful connection today? What do you see as the “standards of the culture”?

Rachel is a certified coach & intimate by default. Learn more here.

Let’s connect! Email me: rachelthalmann@essdack.org

Team Websitewww.inspiredleadershipwithin.com

Emailinspiredleadership@essdack.org

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Twitter: @TamaraKonrade @MikeSanders19 @RachelThalmann @tjfellers

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