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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Disconnected - Unplugged in relationships and our lives.

Usually a song develops meaning for me with its lyrics.  On a rare occasion, I will connect with a song more profoundly with the accompanying video.

A number of years ago, I saw the video for Nickelback's "Savin' Me".   In the video, a guy is on his cell phone oblivious to the people and traffic around him.  It really gains focus when he guy nearly steps into the path of an oncoming bus.  He was saved from certain death by another man who was attuned to the situation.   The guy who was nearly killed is awaken to the world around him.   In a way, he's both connected and disconnected.  He is able to see how much time everyone has remaining in their life (an invisible countdown timer), so in that way he's strangely connected to the world around him.  On the other hand, he is in a very strange place.  He is disconnected from the hive so to speak.  He's outside the normal flow of life.

I connected with this video in a profound way.  It's funny we live in a world of millions and billions of people.  We are surrounded by people at work, on the road, at play, etc.  Yet on a very deep level, there are just moments in which we feel separate from the world that surrounds us.  There are moments when I feel like its just me and God with others around me just being 'noise'.  An extreme form of this is called depersonalization disorder.  Anyway, it got me to thinking how easy it to get 'disconnected' or detached in relationships and in life.

Anyway, I will address the symptoms, causes, costs and treatment related to being/feeling disconnected (as I see it):

   1.  Symptoms.
    • Shutting down.  I believe when we feel disconnected we tend to shut down.  I don't know if it is a feeling of isolation or vulnerability or both.  Probably both.  But, as a kid, I remember playing with roly polys aka "pill bugs".  When a pill bug feels like it is under attack, it rolls up into a ball.  In a way, that's just what we do when we shut down.  Sometimes we are defending ourselves against a purposeful hurt, but sometimes we are protecting ourselves from the danger of the situation.  In other words, this is the flight response.  Suicide--intentional or deathwish-- I believe is ultimate form of shutting down.  That is to say, preventing ourselves from getting hurt or hurting ever again.  
    • Striking out.   This actually is much like shutting down, except instead of passively "rolling into a ball" like a roly poly, there is a tendency to strike at the perceived threat.  In other words, something is in the way of our shutting down and 'striking out' is meant as a mechanism to remove the person/situation which is in our way.  In other words, this is the fight response.
    • Detachment.   Arguably, "shutting down" and "striking out" are symptoms of disconnecting that one has either some level of control over or at least awareness of.  I believe there are truly cases in which people are traumatized to an extent that their mind temporarily or permanently goes on auto pilot to the degree that they stop being fully aware of reality.  That is to say, they are psychologically detached.

   2. Causes/why we do it.
    • Traumatized.  It can be one or more severe instances like a sudden loss of a loved one or seeing someone die before our eyes.  It can also be chronic, less extreme, yet damaging instances, like abuse or molestation as a child. 
    • Ignored/Marginalized.  In any relationship, when we sense that 'our voice' is being ignored or marginalized, eventually, we stop trying to express ourselves.  In other words, if there is no benefit to trying to 'connect', it is only natural to 'disconnect' or stay disconnected.

   3. Costs.
    • Spiritual.  Our sense of serenity is damaged or non-existent.   Our sense of purpose may be damaged or gone.
    • Psychological. We are one to stress. anxiety, depression, 
    • Physical.  A sense of disconnection, if it is long term can lead to the following physical issues: High blood pressure, digestive problems, and overall compromise of our immune system function.
    • Relational. Feelings or a sense of disconnection in our lives can lead to empty, unfulfilling relationships.  The can also lead to frustration and resentment and ultimately cause us to continue the disconnection cycle.  Relationships die or fail causing us to feel more disconnected which in turn leads to further problems connecting with others.
   4. Treatment/strategies for overcoming.

    • Counseling.  Whether it is a licensed counselor, a minister, a priest or other spiritual advisor, it helps to have someone versed or heavily exposed to what it means to be disconnected, how to help one reconnect and strategies to prevent further disconnection.
    • Deliberateness.  It is so easy when we are feeling disconnected to turn inward, to turn away from others, to shut down, to avoid risking feeling uncomfortable.  But, that's just the time to reach out to others.  Anyone who has seriously participated in recovery/support group of any value realizes this.  I believe that most people find after the fact that they feel better for having gone to church, men's/women's group, 12 step group on days they really don't feel like dealing.
    • Closeness.  In a day and age of social media presence, it is easy to have dozens of 'friends' online, but what is more important than having a 'large circle' is having a smaller better connected circle.  Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, it is important to focus on ourselves and the few people in our lives that enrich us.  That doesn't mean excluding others, nor does that mean just 'taking' from others.  What it means is focusing on a few healthy, close relationship where we can let our hair down and be ourselves.
    • Externalness. It is easy to feel disconnected when we are caught up in our own worries, but when we take time and focus on helping others, it helps us to forget feeling disconnected, like we don't matter, etc.  That doesn't mean we are trying to escape necessary introspection or processing, but rather we take time to get out of our head.

In this world, with so many people, so many problems and so much distance--even in crowded places--it is easy to feel like a cog in the wheel.  But, it is important to remember, no matter how disconnected we feel, ultimately what matters is how we feel in the eyes of our Higher Power (God).  If we see ourselves as meaningful and having purpose in the eyes of our Higher Power, then we have a good foundation, a good start for being connected.

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