My early education about relationships was influenced by growing up in a small town on the Great Plains. Life revolved around the interdependence between farmers, businesses, faith communities, public servants and public schools (and of course the public swimming pool). This interdependence was never more evident than during the summer wheat harvest. The heart of the community was deeply impacted by the abundance or scarcity of any particular harvest.
We had a town siren that would sound off to announce the arrival of noon or an approaching tornado. This siren could be heard throughout the one square mile community. The daily blast of the siren seemed to remind us that, “we are all in this together.”
At age five, my N. Webb St. tribe of friends were gathered next door at the Kohart’s, suddenly the wind picked up followed by the town siren. We knew the drill and scattered for our homes (fortunately it wasn’t a tornado but one of the many big winds that flipped a few trailers and ripped down some trees).
Of course there were the constraints that come with being a small town (it wasn’t a utopia), but from an early age I learned about the significance of being a good neighbor and interdependence. When the Kohart’s oldest son was seriously injured operating heavy machinery, the town rallied to help. It seemed like entire community got together as they gathered on “Terry Kohart Day” to help raise funds to pay for the exorbitant medical bills.
My early experiences taught me about the importance of community, relationships and having significant others in our life. It is a need that is “hard wired into our nervous system.” As adults, we still have the same basic needs that we felt when we were children, the need for nurture, belonging, being cared for and safety. It may look different as adults, but make no mistake we are hard wired to feel an emotional bond that is safe and reliable. When that is missing, it is natural to experience an internal siren that tells us there is an emotional disconnection.
Dr. Sue Johnson, witnessed the importance of community and connection during her many hours at her parents pub in England. In her book (which I highly recommend), “Hold Me Tight,” she writes,
“The need for safe emotional connection to a few loved ones is wired in by millions of years of evolution. Distressed partners may use different words but they are always asking the same basic questions.
- · Are you there for me?
- · Do I matter to you?
- · Will you come when I need you, when I call?’
She goes on to write, “The drama of love is all about this hunger for safe emotional connection, a survival imperative we experience form the cradle to the grave. Loving connection is the only safety nature ever offers us.”
When our loving connections short circuits, we often become anxious or numb as a way to cope with this feeling of relational danger. Couples that come for counseling are hearing that alarm go off “that something isn’t quite right or that something is dangerously threatening” their relationship.
My next post will identify three negative dances than can act like a virus in significant relationships.