On Monday I delivered a presentation to a local Rotary group. While there, I was asked for my opinion regarding the riots which had happened over the weekend here in London, ON. More information regarding this can be found at through this Globe and Mail article . I live near Western University and saw hundreds of people walking around with open liquor, clearly intoxicated, seemingly unconcerned that they were breaking the law.
I am in the connecting business. Throughout my life, I have learned about and experienced different types of connection and their subsequent effect on a person. We all have an inherent need to belong and feel a secure connection to another person. I welcome your debate on that statement. Some people call that a need for love, but I challenge that the word love is better replaced by connect because many people have a different benchmark for what love means. I have heard children tell me they love the father who scares them to death… continuously.
So how are the riots and connection related? Many of the young adults I have had the pleasure of working with through my teaching career and psychotherapy practice feel neither heard nor understood. They seem to have a lot of anger inside them, which they do not know how to manage. *Let me pause here to say it is never okay to blame our parents. I haven’t yet met a parent who said, “I want to screw up my child today.” Most parents raise their children with the skills they have at the time. We cannot expect a parent who does not have self-confidence or the ability to manage intense emotions to be able to teach that to another.
-Back to my original point which is that many young adults feel that no-one is truly listening to them, or that they matter significantly. They also seem to be lacking in something we call “secure connection.” For the sake of brevity here, I will let you look that term up (I like Gordon Neufeld’s definition). www.neufeldinstitute.com
When people do not feel deeply connected, they have a strong desire to connect with something, anything to feel they belong. We can also feel very angry, but not know why, when we do not feel there are enough people out there who really get us… who really want to get us. So, we are seeing this generation connect more to things with a screen, and less to people and the environment. Which is the chicken or the egg? Did children give up on adults because they weren’t hearing or feeling enough that they are important–or that they matter? Or did the screens take away their ability to sustain the connection? My hunch is that is the first one.
The answer? It is not simple. Although, we know that connecting more is part of the response. This can be done by: encouraging more, listening more, dialling in more, discouraging less, praising less, defending ourselves less. It will take time to reconnect. We also need to learn how to off-load our intense emotions. Those students were presented with a situation where I imagine it temporarily felt really good to burn something. This was accompanied with the inability to use their own good judgment due to alcohol consumption. Hey, burning things does feel great! I’ve done it many times… in my backyard into a steel bin with water handy.
My message and challenge is to connect deeply with ourselves and others. This can be started by asking these questions, “How do I want people to feel about themselves or the world as a result of spending time with me?”, “How much respect to I pay to my own body, soul and mind?” As this is likely the amount of respect you are paying to others. Also, “Am I shaming another person?”, “Do I give my full attention to others?” I have recently learned of Brene Brown who does a great job of explaining what shame is. www.brenebrown.com
Learning to connect more deeply is a lifetime journey. If you would like to learn more about how to do this, I encourage you to get to know the helping professionals in your neighbourhood, or start by going down to your local book-store and looking for a book that jumps out and yells, “read me!” Also, journal, journal, and more journalling! It is DIY therapy.
You are important, and you matter. Your words are also important, and there are people out there who want to hear them.