Lately, the common theme in all my sessions is connection. Or more accurately the lack of it in people's lives. It strikes me as salient how many people do not feel seen or heard or valued in their lives. Or do not have anything to connect to that is bigger themselves.
This strikes me as a problem of modernism. As we get older, we tend to see our friends less as the responsibilities of adulthood-- work and money and family-- take hold. The sense of community in youth or even in college is gone. And the connections we used to get from our partners can start to wane as well as we get busier and busier. And then suddenly, loneliness starts to creep in. And with loneliness, depression, and despair. People are far more unhappy that you would think. And no one seems to be the real adult we imagine we should be.
And it's not as if many people get that connection from their work either. Among the people I see in therapy, I'd say about 80% are indifferent to their work or outright hate it. A lot of us, it seems, are just going through the motions to get a paycheck.
I don't know what to do about all this. I have managed to stay connected to my work, my friends, and my partner but I'm not sure I can attribute that to anything but dumb luck. Many aren't so fortunate. And I realize that those things can end at any time because life is very much about change. And sometimes I am powerless to do anything about those changes.
Which is why I return to my work. In some ways, I feel like a connection machine... a place that gives the suffering safety and connection that they haven't been able to find in their adult life. I don't know if that means anything worthwhile considering all the threats we face as a species. Maybe it doesn't. But it is the only job that I've had that has made me feel alive and connected to something greater, mainly compassion. As the Buddha once said, “Radiate boundless love towards the entire world — above, below, and across — unhindered, without ill will, without enmity.”