Despite the technology that allows us to message or speak to one another at any time, you don’t have to look very hard to see the growing struggle for individuals to connect with others. In the news and social media, inflammatory comments are rampant and creating walls between people of differing ideas and beliefs. What is going on?
Noted author and speaker Brené Brown has done extensive research on connection which she defines as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
Because Brown contends that we are hardwired for connection, it’s puzzling to see the surge in “othering” (the purposeful separation created between a perceived “us” vs. “them”) that’s appearing in our daily discourse. Whether it be political leanings, skin color, religion, or ethnicity, the divisions in our country are growing deeper.
If connection is so vital to us, why then are we working so hard on separating ourselves?
There seems to be an evolutionary drive behind ‘othering.’ Psychologist speculate that having strong distinctions between groups was important in our tribal past when knowing who wasn’t a part of your group was essential for survival.
Despite the progress in globalization, societies around the world continue to cycle through periods of self-imposed divisions, most notably when fear and uncertainty are left unchecked.
The reason for our resistance to connection during times of stress, may be found in the teachings of the Tao Te Ching. It reminds us of the value of opposites. There is no black without white, no light without dark, no good without evil, no left without right, no front without back. We experience things only in contrast to other things. The more we focus on the differences, the more value we give to the commonalities.
Could the reason for the increase in ‘othering’ and separation simply be a natural response to our increasing need to feel connected? With our 24-hour news cycles and constant bombardment of bold, sometimes shockingly candid discussions on social channels, could we be feeling less safe, less certain and be in greater need to seek comfort among those who are like us? And as we seek to make those connections, is it possible we inadvertently create more divisions?
I think so. I believe, too, that we can find connection without ‘othering’ by bringing more yoga to our lives. In upcoming posts, we’ll explore yoga’s role in helping us find greater connection – and unity – in a different way.