A good friend and I often joke that, at those times when I’m really struggling or something is really getting on top of me; I go into what we laughingly call ‘radio silence.’ As a natural extrovert my usual pattern, when I’m feeling the pressure, is to talk it out. Somehow the mere action of saying something out loud releases the pressure. The process of articulating my thoughts, often helps me come up with a sense of what I can do to help get myself out of whatever it is that’s feeling tough.
However, I also recognise those times when the pressure or challenge has felt so great that I retreat into myself. It almost feels like connecting with another is going to use energy that I can ill afford to waste. Somehow I’m conserving my energy to throw more time at the problem or work things out for myself feels like what I need to do, before I’m ready to reach out to friends or family.
But here’s the rub……
When we withdraw, or retreat from others we lose a vital connection – and social connections are one of our most basic primal needs. Our very survival in prehistoric times was reliant on socialising and working with others to get by. In his brilliant book Johann Hari talks about how a lack of connection with others is considered as a major cause of depression. (ref below) Loneliness and isolation have been shown to lead to depression. We not only feel good when connected we feel secure. I know at those times, when I have inadvertently gone into ‘radio silence’ it definitely feels like a lonely, isolating place, which somehow fuels a sense of sadness and despondency.
When we are feeling depressed, under pressure or up against it’s social connection and feeling connected to others becomes even more important. Hari talks in the book about how, with the progress of technology and social media we have become the first humans to ‘dismantle our tribes.’ In effect we’re a generation that feels increasingly disconnected and alone ‘on a savanna we don’t understand, puzzled by our own sadness.’
This is why I love my work as a coach; and one of the reasons I started to train as a psychotherapist. I’ve seen first hand how transforming it can be for someone to feel that they are REALLY with another. I’ve felt the significance of those moments when a client feels so safe and secure that they share things they haven’t shared with anyone else. The coaching relationship is one where I feel deep, genuine positive regard for my clients and they experience that as a safe secure base from which to explore their difficulties. It’s amazing what comes up when people give themselves time to poke around in an issue, without judgment – and most times, they manage to find a foothold or the first steps to get themselves out of the issue.
I’m a massive advocate of the ‘talking therapies.’ I’ve seen and felt so many times when a client, whilst feeling safe, breaks new ground, uncovers new insights and more importantly starts to feel that there is a way out. My clients don’t need me to tell them what to do. They need me to be a solid, safe, dependable connection. That’s where I can be of best use to my clients. That’s what I’m always working to maintain in the coaching relationship.
If you ever notice the ‘radio silence’ for yourself, check it out. Check out how are you feeling? What’s prompting the withdrawal? And then think about the type of connection that you need. What type of connection do you need? How could you reach out?
Remember the sense of disconnection with others might just be fuelling what you are struggling with.
Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to have a chat about any of this.
Hari. J, (2018) Lost Connections. Uncovering the real causes of depression and the unexpected solutions. London. Bloomsbury Publishing.