The need for Love and Connection
Tony Robbins outlines the 6 human needs at the basis of everything we do. One of them is the need for Love & Connection. What follows are my reflections on this particular need and how it impacts our relationships with ourselves, others and even food and body.
The need for Love and Connection is a need we all share. We can satisfy this need in ways that are truly nourishing, such as meaningful and uplifting conversations, conscious and loving touch or undivided attention, or in distorted ways, such as emotional eating, toxic relationships or even an exaggerated dedication to meditation. We need to feel love and connection with ourselves, with other beings and even with something “Higher”. One cannot be substituted with the other, although this is a strategy we often use.
Trying to fill a lack of connection to others with more connection to self, or a lack of connection to self with more connection to others, will always leave a feeling of dissatisfaction and dependency.
It is like a void that can never be filled, because we are not filling it with the right fuel. A spiritual connection, a pet, meditation, self-care… are all crucial and can nourish us deeply. Yet they can never compensate for connecting to other human beings. The problem is that at some point in our lives we might have learned that connecting to other human beings is dangerous, because they might not be available when we need them, which is a very painful experience. We might conclude that depending on others for love and connection is a weakness and that we need to detach ourselves from this need – to become emotionally stronger, independent and self-sufficient, finding all we need within ourselves or in our spiritual belief system.
While I absolutely agree with the notion that we cannot find in others what we do not carry inside, and that we should by all means connect with others from a place of true connection with ourselves, this does not mean that we do not have an innate need for connection with others. If we try to deny this need, we set ourselves up for unhappiness, because denying anything does not make it disappear – to the contrary, it usually attracts more of the same patterns into our lives, in this case situations that will confront us again and again with this unmet need. Since it is such a strong need, it also makes us especially vulnerable to ending up dependent on those people that we encounter that actually do make us feel loved and connected. But instead of getting that feeling from many different sources, being filled up and saturated with connection so to say, we allow it in only from a few, leaving us always in a state of lack, which will make us act and behave in a very needy way. This will confuse us, because we assumed we were independent persons who did not need anyone else. We will suffer greatly, yet strongly judge ourselves for it and try to push that sensation away.
The problem is not the need as such. There is nothing wrong with needing to feel love and connection with other people. It is a very basic human need. The problem starts when we make this need a potential problem, if we make it wrong. Then, instead of looking for ways to satisfy our need, in other words, to create meaningful connections or to simply allow them to take place, we turn to all kinds of avoidance strategies.
Our neediness is simply trying to show us that we have indeed a need for love and connection. The change in perspective we have to make to solve our dilemma once and for all is that meaningful connection is not something limited to the people we think we would LIKE to connect to.
The supply of connection is literally infinite. We do not have a need for love and connection with a specific person, but for love and connection in general. Once we understand this, we can actually allow ourselves to be nourished by those connections that are already there, that are presented to us on a silver plate, that we only have to reach out for. Yes, even if they come in a different package than what we had been looking out for, these connections can deeply nourish us. Age, gender, looks or the potential to become a romantic partner do not matter, even though we often apply those filters to the people we meet before we decide whether or not we allow ourselves to connect to them. All that matters is the feeling and energy we can sense in that person, the person as such.
Realizing, acknowledging and actually owning the fact that YES, we do have a NEED for connection with others, can be a real epiphany. We might suddenly be able to see how we have been trying to compensate our lack of connection to others with more connection to ourselves. More me-time, more relaxation, more time for reflection, more sleep, …, when what we would actually need is to go out more, meet people, maybe sleep a bit less and simply be receptive to meaningful connection in whatever form it might show up.
When we allow more connection to happen, incl. with people that we hardly know and that we do not particularly feel attracted to physically, we will be surprised to notice how much intimacy and even love (in its universal sense) we can feel after just a very short time of truly connecting, and how deeply nourishing those encounters can be. If that involves overcoming certain fears, that’s the way we must go. We need to identify and establish a network of people to exchange love and connection with on a regular basis.
By making sure that our tank of love and connection is relatively full, we can then connect to a romantic partner from a much fuller place, because we do not depend on him (or her) anymore to fulfill ALL our need for love and connection with other beings. We can appreciate him/her for the person (s)he really is rather than needing him/her simply to compensate an internal lack. And that is a true asset, because that’s what we all truly long for in a relationship.