Published in Sibyl Magazine October, 2018
Human beings are social creatures. As much as the American mythos is build upon the idea of the independent, self-made man who can take care of himself in any situation, the truth is that we cannot survive, much less thrive, when we are all alone.
Alfred Adler spoke about the concept of Gemeinschaftsgefuhl. This German word can be translated to mean social interest or community feeling. At its core, it describes our need for community. Adler proposed that there was a correlation between strong social connections and positive mental health. In fact, Adler found that community feeling is much more important than individualism when it comes to emotional health.
The reality of my need for community has been front and center as I go through my divorce. As the old foundations in my life fall away, it is the support of friends and family who love me and see me, both the good and the bad, that keep me moving through this next iteration of the spiral path. At the same time, I am also aware of my connection to a much bigger community.
As I go through my own anger, grief and fear, I notice the anger, grief and fear that is such an integral part of being human. When I am able to feel my feelings and at the same time look at those around me, I feel great compassion for all who go through challenges in their lives. Humbly acknowledging my own vulnerability helps me feel connected to others who suffer. It also leads me to expand my definition of who is a part of my community.
At first, I needed to find just one or two people who could be there for me as my world shattered. To have a person with whom one can share their deepest thoughts, emotions and desires is an incredible gift. If you have such a person in your life, you are truly blessed.
Then, as I allowed the pieces to continue to drop away, I found that my community expanded. As I began to talk about my journey, others came forward to share their own dark nights of the soul. Their stories of sorrow, loss and transformation allowed us to forge connections that can only come from shared pain and longing.
As I continue to walk my path, I look around and see the sorrow and joy, trauma and transformation, death and rebirth that is the common experience of all those who walk the spiral path. Even in the midst of my deepest grief, I trust that there will be new connections, new experiences, and new life to follow.
I am part of the human community. I don’t have to do this alone. Allowing myself, allowing ourselves, to feel our connection to another human being when we are in crisis, ultimately leads to deeper community feeling and improved mental health. This, in turn, opens us up to connecting with others in compassion. As we transform ourselves, we transform the world.