In today’s fast-paced life, it seems that we’ve lost our connection to others and the value of social interaction. We sit on our phones in crowded places, avoiding eye contact, and desperately hope that no one speaks to us.
The moment we are spoken to, we jump out of our seat, our heart races, and we stand guarded against the caller. We fear social interaction. We are afraid of new people. We avoid relationships.
But why? Why is it so difficult to let someone into our lives?
For those of us who have been so deeply hurt by others, it is our protection measure. We can’t be hurt by anyone if we don’t let anyone close to us. Perhaps we suffered abuse at the hand of a stranger or a loved one. Whatever the cause, we’ve suffered a traumatic emotional injury, and we don’t want to go through it again. And that’s a perfectly normal response to trauma.
The problem becomes when it begins to affect our personal relationships and social lives. True recovery from emotional traumas requires that we heal from the wounds caused by these traumatic situations.
No, it doesn’t mean we allow it to happen again. It means that with wisdom and hindsight, we heal and alter our social interactions so that we can maintain healthy relationships and ultimately, our mental health.
Positive relationships are essential to our overall mental health. A study out of the University of California at Santa Barbara proposed that there are five aspects to thriving:
- Happiness and life satisfaction;
- Having purpose and meaning in life and progressing toward meaningful life goals;
- Psychological well-being (positive self-regard, absence of mental health symptoms/disorders);
- Social well-being (deep and meaningful human connections, faith in others and humanity, positive interpersonal expectancies); and
- Physical well-being (healthy weight and activity levels, health status above expected baselines).
Having positive relationships helps us thrive as individuals in two major ways:
First, healthy relationships allow us to pursue opportunities that enhance positive wellbeing. As our relationships improve, we broaden our resources to build a strong support network and foster a sense of purpose and meaning in life. We thrive in life through opportunities that are presented to us. In the business world, we call this networking – using our relationships to further our advantage.
Second, our relationships offer us support in the case of adverse situations. Positive support acts as a buffer from the negative effects of stress and succeed despite the negative circumstances. In other words, our friends and family are the ones who keep us afloat when we feel like giving up.
So if we find ourselves avoiding others and stricken with fear in social situations, we shouldn’t give up hope. Our anxiety comes from our traumas, and can be healed. It will take time, and it will take a lot of growth and work on ourselves. However, the end result is always worth it. The reward is healthy, fulfilling relationships and unwavering steadfastness in the midst of crisis.