The experience of being connected to the people around us is a fundamental component of our emotional well-being. Disconnected is loneliness and connected is loved. In loneliness, there is some sense of rejection from the world. In love, there is a sense of being accepted and welcomed in. Whether we are present to it or not, the experience of being connected is something we all need, as Dr. Sue Johnson points out in her video. Just because we are in relationship with each other does not mean we are connected. Sharing ourselves enables us to connect. Being received by the other after we share ourselves leaves us connected. Being connected makes us strong, and more able to take on the stressors of the word.

In our current lives, we live with a fair degree of insulation/isolation from the world. Many of us live in single-family homes, drive our own cars, and ride our own bikes. We have these neat little things in our pockets that can do so many things, including allow us to speak face to face with people on the other side of the Earth. We spend a lot of time inside working or seeking shelter from less than ideal weather conditions. In the individualistic culture I find myself in, I notice how little we ask for help, share our suffering and, heaven forbid, talk about how messy we really are. What I have learned along the years is that it is our mess that gives us access to connection.

There is no true connection without being vulnerable, and vulnerable is not pretty or neat. Truly feeling connected has more to do with being known in our insecurities, being visible in our messiness and being received in that mess. Connection without vulnerability is like saying “Let’s agree to hold hands and walk together, but say nothing of me and I will say nothing of you.” It is the agreement that we are unwilling to look at ourselves, and therefore, you are not allowed to see me either. I am safe, safe and alone.

We choose to play safe and avoid being vulnerable to manage risk of rejection. However, playing safe keeps us isolated and is a barrier to the experience of being connected. Safety reinforces loneliness, which is an outcome of being rejected. So in choosing to be safe, we are actually choosing the experience of rejection that we were trying to avoid in the first place.

When we receive one another lovingly, we honor the courage of vulnerability and give our partner the experience of safety and acceptance. We give each other the space to be ourselves in all our glory and in all our messiness. We make our relationship a place to call home that feels warm and safe. Being vulnerable and loving our partner as they are vulnerable is the key to maintaining connection. Your feelings may get hurt along the way. By choosing to be vulnerable, you will get some love and connection instead of shying away from what you want for fear of losing it.

Go love, go risk.