One of my favorite movies is Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. (If you haven’t seen it. . .what are you waiting for? It’s a classic for a reason!) That final scene when George Bailey’s friends all show up – never fails to bring a tear to my eye. But why is it that George’s inclination through the movie, like all of us do at times, is to feel that he has nowhere to turn, to disconnect himself from his friends and family and to try to go it alone. Why is it that in times of trouble we sometimes isolate ourselves at the moment we most need support? Why do we tend to forget that connection is key to our mental health and happiness?
What is connection? Brene Brown defines it as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued, when they can give and receive without judgment and where they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
There have been numerous studies that have shown that social connection improves not only our psychological well-being, but also our physical health. With lack of social connectedness having a greater impact on our health than obesity, smoking or high blood pressure. There are a number of studies and even an interesting TED talk (Johann Hari) that investigate whether a component of addiction is related to an individual’s inability to be present and bond or connect with others. These harken back to the Rat Park Experiments conducted by psychologist Bruce K. Alexander, where rats that were caged alone chose water laced with heroin and became addicted, whereas rats that were caged with other rats, chose plain water and did not.
When I thought to start my own law practice, I was to be candid, terrified. It felt like a huge leap. My first inclination was to get under the bed and hide. A friend of mine sat me down and said, “take the leap, you won’t fall, there will be so many hands that will reach out to catch you.” And there were (you know who you are and thank you to all of you). But first I had to reach toward connection. I had to be present and share my real self. And the funny thing is that the more real I was with colleagues and friends, both old and new, the more hands there were reaching out to help me. I didn’t fall.
In my family law practice, I am witness to so many people’s heartache and sadness. And I see where people can become deeply stuck. In meetings, clients share stories and express feeling embarrassed or alone. They feel that what is happening to them doesn’t happen to anyone else. They sometimes express deep shame. They are clearly suffering. I see that their sense of “otherness” is leading them away from valuable and healing connection.
I encourage them, as I was encouraged, to be brave enough to share their most real and vulnerable selves with friends, colleagues and loved ones. To reach toward connection. Maybe push themselves to go out with friends, talk candidly to their parents, find a good counselor or reconnect to their faith. Connection is key because like George Bailey learns, we all touch each other’s lives in unfathomable ways and in the end, our connection to each other is all that really matters.
Looking for help connecting in your life? We’re here to help you get through your toughest family law moments. Contact Georgia Fraser, Esq. at 609-223-2099.