But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
He couldn’t wait to move out of that house. He couldn’t wait to be on his own. He didn’t need anyone telling him what to do, what time to go to bed, what to eat for breakfast. He didn’t need anyone.
A few weeks after he left, her phone rang. His voice on the other end, “Hey, Gram, how do you make that chicken dish I like?” He needed her help. He needed someone after all.
In “The Little Prince”, we find a fox who wishes to be tamed by a young boy, the prince. He explains (in the quote above) to the boy that if he’ll tame him, they will have a relationship, so that he is not just any other fox and the boy is not just any other boy to each other.
Perhaps the young man had come to realize that he was like the fox, happy to have been “tamed” by the grandmother who raised him, happy to be unique to someone in all the world. It is in our recognizing our need for each other that we discover how much brighter our world can become.
We can have meetings using a computer screen and camera. We can have meals, groceries, household items and clothing delivered to our home and left in front of the door for a no-contact delivery. We can watch videos to learn how to fix darn near everything. We can conveniently keep to ourselves. We can shout to the world that we need no one.
But that isn’t really true. I need you. It’s just that simple. You read my words, you send notes of thanks for things that have touched you, and you become unique to me — not just another reader. You need me, too.
As you get to know me through my very honest and often humbling writing, I become unique to you, not just another writer. I could say the same for the people whose writing I read. We need each other. We need a lot of people in life, yet our demand of independence makes it difficult to balance our need for this important piece of the human puzzle: relationship.
It isn’t necessarily that we’re too busy for relationships. It might be that when things aren’t busy, we think we’d rather be alone. Sometimes, we find other people to be exhausting. We have enough going on in our lives, after all, why should we spend our energy on someone else’s problems/worries/concerns? Because humans are created for relationships, that’s why. We benefit from our interactions with other people.
How do we benefit? According to research from the University of Utah, because of relationships, we:
- · Live longer
- · Heal more quickly
- · Have lower blood pressure
- · Bolster our immune system
- · Are more physically fit
- · Enjoy good heart health
- · Feel less pain
We also learn more effectively. In studies in 2004 and 2011, it was shown that adults and children (respectively) benefit from and learn more when engaged in a conversation instead of being talked or lectured to. That means being lectured to is less beneficial than dialogue between people. Maybe that’s why I believe it builds a better relationship with your child or student or friends when you are willing to have conversations, not just offer pronouncements.
Relationships require effort, and when we’re tired from a long day at work or school, it’s easy to want to isolate and avoid additional pull on your senses, but it turns out we also need socialization.
Matthew Lieberman is an accomplished neuroscientist at UCLA whose work shows that, “Whenever it has a free moment, the human brain has an automatic reflex to go social.” We literally are wired for social connection. That doesn’t mean you need to overload your life with social activities either, of course.
While I love people and love relationships, I also need and enjoy time alone. Most of us do, and that’s OK. Our brains, it seems, are going to keep on caring about what might be going on with other people. That’s the draw for social media, the wonder of what is going on on Facebook when you aren’t there.
So, maybe you’re thinking you’ll make an effort to be a little more social. Are you wondering what you might do? Here are some suggestions from researchers:
- · Invest time in people
- · Ask (allow) people to help you
- · Smile at people when you go out to walk (Better yet, ask a friend to walk with you, or join a group in your community
- · Meet a friend for coffee or lunch
- · Write a letter (and respond to ones you receive)
It’s especially important to reach out to others, and to not ignore relationships when you suspect there might be problems. Domestic violence is a serious part of many relationships, and it, like so many other uncomfortable topics, is often swept under the rug, excuses made that someone must have overreacted or didn’t mean to behave as they did. Chances are, they didn’t, and they need us to be aware of their struggles.
If you are in a domestic violence situation, you can safely ask for help online at loveisrespect.org, text LOVEIS to (866) 331-9474 or call (866) 331-9474.
Relationships matter. Few, if any of us, can do it all on our own. When we allow others to help us with the things we aren’t able to do, it allows us to feel better about ourselves as we do the things we are able to do.
Independence doesn’t mean we operate as an island. With social distancing, it’s tempting to completely isolate, and all research shows how dangerous that can be to people of all ages. Be intentional in your choices to engage. Be intentional in building and maintaining relationships for your health and theirs.
Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others.