Most of my young life, I believed I was broken. In fact, I was led to believe something about me was broken. My childhood was not ‘usual’. In fact, particularly for the time (1970’s), it was extremely ‘unusual’. I spent most of it alone (I was an only child) with
my violent paranoid schizophrenic mother. She too was led to believe she was broken. But, here’s the difference between my mother and me. She gave in to the belief and totally connected to her diagnosis, accepting the perceived inevitability of it. I, on the other hand, couldn’t accept that the life I was living, the experience I was having, was all there was. And, I didn’t believe that I was broken, any more than I believed my mother was broken. I believed I must be here for a reason, a purpose. I just had to figure out what it was. It would take a while.
There’s a great line in the beautiful film Hugo that illustrates this perfectly…”Maybe that’s why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do. Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose, it’s like you’re broken.”
Now, as a young child, what I did accept is that I had little control over things. I had little or no power to change anything, for me or for my mother. So, I needed a survival strategy until such time that I could claim my power. I chose to disconnect. I disconnected from my mother, I disconnected from school, I disconnected from my mother’s religion (she was a Jehovah’s Witness), I disconnected from my sense of self. Unfortunately, what I couldn’t disconnect from, was my feelings, my emotions. As a result, I internalised everything and became introverted, developed a stammer, became a natural bully victim and therefore disconnected even more. I had things entirely the wrong way around.
I would remain disconnected, in one way or another, long in to adulthood. I believed it was the best way to survive. I literally could not have been more wrong. More off course. Being disconnected led me to make a string of bad decisions, about relationships, about work, about so many many things. Every time I faced a disaster, a trauma or the consequences of my bad choices, I reflected on whether there really might be a part of me that was broken. Still, though, I refused to believe it.
Then, somewhere along my journey of self-discovery, it clicked. I wasn’t broken. I had just become so disconnected that I was virtually floating out in the dead sea with no raft. Every bad choice I’d made was not a result of some innate inability to make a good choice. It was my lack of connectedness to my true self, to my purpose, to my real knowing. I hated most of my jobs, because I wasn’t connected to them. I chose a job purely on its ability to provide me with the money I needed to pay the bills. Most of my relationships had been disastrous, because I was disconnected from who I really am. I made relationship choices based on who I imagined I was, or what I thought I deserved. When I first started a business, I didn’t take time to get connected to my purpose, to really think about what it was I had to share. I chose to set up a business based on necessity. A business that utilised all the skills and knowledge I’d gathered and that connected with my clients, but not with me.
I was still disconnected from myself. And, I was still disconnected socially. Yes, I had a small close circle of good friends, but I never reached out any wider than that. I never asked for help because I didn’t feel I had that kind of connection with anyone. Of course, that led to even deeper disconnection. I was heading for disaster. The harder I tried to maintain control by going it alone, the more disconnected I became and the worse things got. I even started to get ill. I was riddled with anxiety but would never admit it of course, not even to myself.
Recognise yourself here anywhere?
Emma Seppala, Associate Direct of the Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford University states. “Low social connection is worse for us than smoking, than obesity and than high blood pressure.”
I have come to understand that connectedness is not only important in our lives, but crucial in order for us to survive and thrive. If we’re disconnected in one area of our lives, it spreads like a disease to other areas until we find ourselves isolated. When we’re truly connected – to our work, to our business, to our purpose, to our partners, friends, family and to the wider community, we develop a true sense of self. And that is the root of true happiness. In evolutionary terms, we wouldn’t even exist as a race if our ancestors hadn’t known the value of connectedness. So that they could find food, water and shelter and to protect themselves, our forebears had to work as communities. Those that didn’t simply didn’t survive.
And, while we’re on the subject, and considering we only relatively recently stopped living almost entirely in the natural environment, also well documented, is the effect on our health of being connected to nature. I can tell you that this played a huge part in my realisations about connectedness. Being outdoors, watching and being inspired my nature and animals was one of the things I never lost a connection to. In my naivety, I thought being alone in nature was part of my disconnection but in fact, I was more naturally connected there than anywhere. And I learned more there too. Nature doesn’t accept the seemingly inevitable. The crocus doesn’t give up and shrink back under ground at the sign of frost or snow. It protects itself, gains strength from the ground and tries again. Nature doesn’t copy and follow, it trusts its instincts. A tree knows it’s a tree and doesn’t try to be a river. It keeps firmly rooted but allows its branches to bend with the wind, its leaves to reach to the sun. “The evidence is strong and growing, that people and communities can only thrive when they have access to nature,” said Robbie Blake, a nature campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe. Things in nature know themselves, hold true to what they are but work in harmony with each other to create beautiful miracles.
So, now that I know all this what do I do to stay connected? Well, there are many things but here are my top 10...
I constantly and consistently explore and examine my own values and make sure I make choices and decisions that are aligned with them.
I reach out to people, investing very real time and energy in developing relationships with them.
I disconnect from anything that feels wrong or misaligned because that’s important too. When I read, or hear the news, I stop and connect to my true feelings about it before reacting or responding.
I do work I love and only work I love. When I take on new clients, we interview each other to make sure we’re a good fit before we even consider working together.
I connect with my inner circle regularly, putting time aside to be with them.
I take what I like to call ‘fresh air baths’ every day to connect to nature. And most importantly...
I meditate every day. Not in a white walled room with candles and insense, although that's fine, but whenever and wherever I feel I need to; in the supermarket queue, in a traffic jam. It's absolutely the best way to connect to 'self' and to get real answers.
I acknowledge and give gratitude every day for as much as I can; for friends, for my work, for the food in my fridge, for nature, for the children in my life who show me what it is to feel real unbridled joy and for the time I was disconnected because it taught me the value of connectedness.
I keep my ego in check. Being connected isn't about 'me', it's about connecting which means listening more than we talk.
I give. My lovely Dad once advised me that any relationship is like banking. What you get out is directly related to what you put in. Science backs this up. There are four circuits in the brain (I won't go in them all here). The fourth circuit is entirely dedicated to generosity. That's right, we're wired to be generous. That's why we feel so good when we give, whether it be time, gifts or love. So, the more we give, the better we feel. It's a win win of humungous proportions.
Am I totally connected now? No. But I’m more connected than I’ve ever been and happier than I’ve ever been too. And that’s no coincidence.
If you’d like to chat about how I can support you in getting better connected, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to hear more from me about Connectedness and how it can positively affect your life, work and business, check in with me in the following places, where I share hugely valuable stuff on a regular basis.