"Love is just a word, the reality is the connection it implies."
— The Matrix Revolutions
Much of our lives revolves around two major implicit fears — " I am not good enough" and " I am not loved". If you dig deeper, you'd realise that both these fears have an underlying theme — a need to " belong or feel connected". The unconscious thought is " I am not good enough to belong to this family/ parents/ society" and " I am not loved / accepted as part of the family/ herd". These fears can be manifested in a range of issues in our head, like fear of rejection, loneliness, isolation, low self- esteem and self-belief, feelings of not being lovable or deserving.
All our lives, we either fight these fears to prove them wrong, or we give in helplessly. Paradoxically, both choices often lead to the same outcome. For instance, if you have a predominant belief that you are not good, you may try to fight it by pushing yourself harder, aiming for higher goals or by becoming a perfectionist. But all this can actually put a lot of pressure and become the very reason for you to feel like a failure, as now no success is good enough for you. Or you may completely give up and not try by succumbing to the fear of " not being good enough". Similarly, you may become clingy, possessive, insecure and controlling when you think " I am not loved", and in turn may push love away when it knocks on your door! These fears are mostly fed by our childhood memories and experiences.
Rizwana, a homemaker, is always panicky about her children, aged 11 and 8. " My happiest moments were when I first saw my children after they were born. But now I am always bitter with them. I shout at them, raise my hand and then feel terribly guilty. I feel I have forgotten to love them," she told us.
Rizwana wants her children to do well in life. She wants to make sure they are accepted and respected by her family, friends and society. What she is actually trying to do is ensure that her kids feel they "belong". But her children are feeling unloved by their mother and disconnected from their family. They show defiant behaviour and their mother's worst nightmare seems to be coming true.
We all may have encountered Rizwana's struggle, either in ourselves or in others. Yes, this problem may arise in any bond of love.
When we love someone, we fear losing the connection. We want to fit them into our idea of "how it should be". We want to change them to make sure they accept our point of view, our ideas, our needs, so that we feel connected to them. And this approach severs that very connection. As we operate from our own fear of disconnection, we contribute to the same fear in our loved ones.
Meaningful connections don't always happen naturally, but we can try to create them. Here are some tips on how to do that...
Make an effort to bond with your family, friends and colleagues. Believe that you " belong" the way you are. Meet new people, make new connections. Don't try to prove anything, just be a part to share. Join a group class — painting, dancing, yoga, movie or book club; anything that you fancy. If you can't find one, you can start a book or movie club yourself.
Across age, race, class and culture. Be open to learn newer ways of thinking. You don't have to agree on everything to be friends. Agree to disagree. Challenge the limits of your acceptance. Try not to judge, not to fix according to your value system. Greet more, listen more. Be more inclusive.
Do something meaningful:
Join a cause or an initiative. Try to take out time for something that you consider is meaningful or for the greater good.
Help your kids to connect:
As you discipline your children, also make sure to tell or show them that they are a part of the family and you love them. It is their behaviour you disapprove of, not them as a whole.
This needs to be conveyed often. Go on a family holiday and make a rule to not be on the phone during that period.
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches Share your problems with them at dr. sangbarta@ gmail. com