The holidays are a time brimming with opportunity to connect with others. Work and school gatherings, community events, time spent with family and friends, all allow for time spent in the company of others and feeling the warmth of connectedness.
Those of us in the healthcare profession know that the holidays are also a time that many people feel a sense of isolation, despair, and sadness. Feelings of loneliness become more prominent when felt against the backdrop of invitations, parties, and festivities. Frustration and confusion are common when we feel differently than what we think we should be feeling. All of the messages around us tell us we should be filled with cheer. But what if we’re not? What if we are missing someone or grieving the loss of someone? What if we are anxious about money or losing a job? What if we feel alone in our suffering or alone in the world?
Feeling connected is essential to humankind. It may be that we feel a part of a community or family, it may be that we feel connected to something or someone greater than ourselves, and it may be that we feel a strong connection to our own lives and passions. Whatever the feeling of connectedness, the importance of that feeling cannot be underestimated.
In the work that I do, Narrative Body Therapy, I encourage a dialogue with our bodies and explore what feelings of isolation and connectedness feel like in the body. For one person, loneliness may feel like a hole or an emptiness, and despair may feel like a dull, heavy, and unending pain. For another, sadness may feel like the whole body is weeping or that the heart is heavy. When feeling a connection to another person, or to an idea, it can be felt, for some, in the heart … for another, in the gut … and for yet another, it may feel like a warmth moving throughout the body.
One of the gifts that mind-body medicine has shared with me in my lifetime is the realization that even in times of feeling pain, sadness, and isolation, we can find a connectedness … a connectedness to ourselves. In our lives today, we run the risk of becoming numb to our own feelings and lost to the many distractions that our modern world offers. When we feel the need for support and connection, it is important for us to reach out to our friends, families, and communities, but we must also reach out and open the doors of communication with ourselves. Disconnect is felt when we are literally alone (in the absence of another’s company), but it can also be felt when we lose touch with ourselves, with what’s important and meaningful to us, and with what it’s like to feel vital, alive, and present.
This holiday season, I wanted to share a simple message. Within our moments of struggle and sadness, there lives an opportunity to connect to ourselves, feel ourselves, and know ourselves. Even if in that moment, we are tired, angry, scared, alone, or anxious, we have the opportunity to feel those feelings … in our bodies. This opportunity is tangible proof that we are real, that we exist, that we breathe, that we take risks and that we fall and get up, and simply that we are human; we live and love passionately even with the possibility of pain, heartbreak, and failure. Rather than numbness and disconnect, we make a choice – the choice of living and the choice of connecting. This simple act of feeling ourselves connects us to something real, something meaningful, something worthy. We make space in our hearts for ourselves.
by Jenn Krebs