"Connect or Die Sooner"
An Approach Towards the Millennium
by Kare Anderson
Author & Speaker
Captain Eugene "Red" McDaniel was a Navy pilot shot down in North Vietnam and
then held as a prisoner of war for six years. In his book "Scars and Stripes", he describes the desperate need of prisoners to communicate with one another to maintain morale. Prisoners risked death to work out a complicated communications system where they would write under plates, cough, sing, tap on walls, laugh, scratch, or flap laundry a certain number of times to transmit a letter of the alphabet.
He says POWS tended to die much sooner if they could not communicate with each other. On many occasions, Captain McDaniel endured torture rather than give up his attempts to stay in touch with other prisoners, especially when he was in solitary confinement.
When we think of survival, we usually list food, shelter, and clothing as the essentials. But, as abandoned, untouched babies in desperately poor orphanages know, lack of attention leads to atrophy and death.
Even when we can see people, as we often do in our daily life, we may not actually connect with many and still feel emotionally deprived. For example, while maintaining a poker face has strategic advantage in a game, sarcastic humor may spark immediate laughter, and brief, abrupt answers may make an immediate interaction more efficient, all of these forms of communication distance people from each other and freeze them at that distance, in future communication. Always remember, love is the fundamental attractive process.
As Dr. Dean Ornish wrote in "Love and Survival", when we gather together to tell and listen to each other's stories, the sense of community and the recognition of shared experiences can be profoundly healing." As the British scientist Denis Burkitt once wrote, "Not everything that counts can be counted." In a time-pressed culture, the undercurrent of sadness is how many people also feel the twin phenomena of being relationship-diminished. That is, they do not feel known by many people as society becomes more transient, isolating.
Consider how you recognize and offer caring and respect in daily interactions. For example, do you immediately stop what you are doing when someone asks for your help or appears to simply want to talk about "nothing."? Does your face and body look relaxed and open when you are listening or tense, judgemental, uncaring and/or waiting to move onto the next task? If you are talking by phone, are your tone, words and
conversational pace encouraging of others to feel heard?
One of the most interesting studies of how well people handle stress and even
withstand desease was conducted by Drs. Stanley King, Harry Russek and others
of randomly chosen Harvard students in the early 1950s. They were asked, "Would you describe your relationship to your mother and to your father as (check one): very close, warm and friendly, tolerant, strained and cold?
Thirty-five years later, medical records were obtained on these participants and detailed medical and psychological histories were conducted. What they found was amazing: 91 percent of participants who didn't perceive themselves to have had a warm relationship with their mothers had serious diagnosed diseases in midlife (including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, ulcers and alcoholism), as compared to only 45 percent of those who perceived themselves to have had a warm relationship with their mothers.
Similarly, 82 percent of participants who had low warmth and closeness scores with their fathers had diagnosed diseases in midlife compared with only 50 percent of those who had high warmth and closeness with their fathers. All (100 percent) of the participants who rated both their mothers and fathers low in warmth and closeness thirty-five years earlier had diseases diagnosed in midlife. Only 47 percent of those who rated both parents high in warm and closeness had diagnosed diseases. The researchers wrote, "The perception of love itself . . may turn out to be a core biopsychosocial-spiritural buffer, reducing the negative impact of stressors and pathogens and promoting immune function and healing."
Dr. Rachel Remen, who has been in endemic pain much of her life and who teaches doctors how to be more compassionate listeners and complete diagnosticians, wrote, "The places where we are genuinely met and heard have great importance to us. Being in them may remind us of our strength and our value in ways that many other places we may pass through do not. "As Candace Pert wrote in "Molecules of Emotion", "Love often leads to healing, while fear and isolation breed illness. And our biggest fear is abandonment."
What we believe about ourselves can hold us hostage. According to Talmudic
teaching, "We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are." When you support others in seeing themselves in a different, more giving and caring light, you foster their beliefs that they have within them that capacity, and can cultivate it in their lives.
As we approach the millennium, we may be considering many goals, dreams and
measures of accomplishment, but perhaps none can be more important than how
we can grow to cultivate closer connections with others. Contemplate how much of a safe connection you provide in uncertain situations, a comforting presence you evoke in crisis, and a source of fun and laughter during the little moments of life that, all too often, are spent rushing to the next task. Not just for your close friends, but in the casual, brief transactions with strangers, consider how you contribute to our interconnectedness.
The Fijians are aware of a basic human law. We all influence one another. We are a part of each other's reality. There is no such thing as passing someone and not acknowledging your moment of connection, not letting others know their effect on you and seeing yours on them. For Fijians, connection is natural. Don't pretend that others are ships passing you in the night. How often do you recognize someone else as that person -- in that moment -- wants to be seen, acknowledged and known? In so doing, you open up more possibilities for being truly known, expressing caring, as your bring others closer.
To learn more about the effect of close relationships on our health and emotional well-being, consider reading:
- Dr. Dean Ornish's "Love & Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy"
- Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen's "Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal"
- Gary Schwartz and Linda Russek's "Love, Energy, and Health"
- Sam Keen's "To Love and Be Loved" or
- Daniel Goleman's "Emotional Intelligence."
�1999 by Kare Anderson. All rights reserved.
Kare Anderson is a behavioral futurist who speaks and writes about "Say It Better" methods of thoughtful communication, conflict resolution, cross-promotion and outreach, and multisensory techniques to create more memorable on-site experiences. An Emmy-winning former TV commentator, Wall Street Journal reporter she's a national columnist in 98 monthly magazines (from Gourmet Retailer to Broadcast Engineering), nine-time author ( Getting What You Want, Pocket Cross-Promotions, Make Yourself Memorable, Beauty Inside Out, Cutting Deals With Unlikely Allies, Resolving Conflict Sooner . .
.) and publisher of the "Say It Better" online newsletter now read by over 17,000 people in 32 countries, which is available free when you sign the guest book at her web site at www.sayitbetter.com. Anderson is the co-founder of The Compelling Communications Group
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