Most of us enjoy being with others rather than being alone, as being with someone we like is an enjoyable experience. We like to share our reactions to situations and events that amaze us, like going to the Grand Canyon, for instance. As we stare and are awestruck by its beauty and majesty, we like to share this experience with someone close to us, who is feeling the same emotions at the same time as us. Likewise, when we are sad and lonely we seek someone who can hold us, comfort and sympathize with what we are feeling. Somehow, when we share our emotions, the enjoyable ones get magnified and the painful ones don’t seem to be too overwhelming any more.
Why is that so?
Let’s start from the very beginning, from when we are still in the nice and warm cocoon that is our mother’s uterus. From there we can hear her voice (at birth, infants are already familiar and recognize their mother’s voice;) we can feel her hand rubbing her tummy, connecting with us, and we are affected by her feelings and moods. At birth, she is usually the first face we fix our gaze upon, once the hoopla of the actual birth process is over. And it is her face we see over and over again, day after day, or the face of the person who will mother us, whether our biological mother or not. So, we can say that, from the very beginning, our lives are social in nature. From people around us we learn to interact, to smile, to fret, to be anxious and scared, but also to be comforted, reassured and made to feel safe. We watch these people in order to learn how to be in this world and how to deal with our emotions and those of others. Our early experiences of interactions shape the way we see ourselves and people around us and, to a great extent, determines the quality of personal relationships we will develop throughout life. If we were lucky enough to have good interpersonal experiences with the people who took care of us as infants and children, we are more likely to develop trust, have a positive attitude and be open and comfortable with emotional and physical closeness. If not, we may suspicious of others and uncomfortable with intimacy, distrusting partners and keeping them at a “safe” distance.
Social connections allow us to regulate our emotions, magnifying pleasant ones and making more manageable the uncomfortable and painful ones. When we are not in a good relationship, or when we are uncomfortable with closeness and intimacy, we may use other means of regulating our emotions, such as FOOD, ALCOHOL, WORK, EXERCISE, DRUGS in compulsive ways. These become our emotional regulators. However, they create dependency, adding a new set of problems.
So, let’s open our hearts to good, healthy emotional relationships. These will improve the quality of our lives, will reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness and make us more comfortable with ours and other people’s emotions.