“Stimulus is the missing third dimension in all theories of motivation.”-David Freemantle
With all the discussion of economic crisis going on today, there is little recognition of the even deeper poverty of heart which like a creeping malaise, impacts the very core of our wellbeing, our life and the meaning we derive from it. Recent studies by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that over the last twenty years over one in four of us have no one with which to discuss important life issues or to confide in compared to only 7 percent in 1985. Loneliness doesn’t get much air time because it is still so stigmatized. Many people cannot discern loneliness from depression or anxiety and feel like describing themselves in this context describes them as social outcast or worse.
Actually, loneliness has more in common with the physiological human functions of hunger, thirst and pain. The impulse for social connection, which is built in to our neural wiring, is rooted in the basic urge to survive. We are not wired to live alone, researchers say. “The need to deal with other people is so great,” says Cacioppo, author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, “that, in large part, made us who and what we are today.” Most neuroscientists agree, he said, that it was the need to process social cues that led to the expansion of the cortical mantle of the brain. And yet loneliness grows in the midst of more social connecting devices than we may have ever imagined twenty years ago. This is in large part due to the confusion we all share about what constitutes real relationships. The “friends” and “connections” that we may be adding up online often serve to only distract us from the few real friendships and intimate connections that fill our real 3D time. It is easy to see how this happens, our busyness and the ease with which we conduct those two dimensional relationships favors them.
Real relationships are three dimensional. They use all of our senses and exist in real time. Not unlike the difference of playing basketball on a screen, or getting out and using your whole body. The real game is intensive and can be demanding. We are wired to play and relate with our whole being. The relationships that share your kitchen, your bedroom and your heart are the ones that make your life whole and full. Yet they also often require us to give of ourselves in ways that make us stretch and grow. Friendships and intimates often demand us to give up the need to be right and give in to the need to be related to the people we love. The give and take of keeping things real is the work of love and the satisfaction of being right is not nearly what it is cracked up to be. The number of relationships that have and continue to be sacrificed to our idea of how others should behave is both tragic and shredding the social fabric of our time.
The same three dimensional comparisons could be drawn about our sexuality. The numbers of people who pay for two dimensional sexual contact is staggering. Virtual sexuality carries none of the physical benefits of the act in 3D and often leaves you feeling lonelier than when you began. While the secrecy and clandestine fantasy that virtual sex affords might titillate, it will never heal. Demand the real thing in your intimate life and don’t give your life energy away to stimulate a screen.
If the economic crisis has any upside, it is that it might just make us more aware of the wealth of friends and loved ones that have gotten lost in the speed and intensity of life in the fast lane. Shifting our energy back to the heart of our life relationships has the power to re-invent how you spend your time and how you think about your life goals. Reach out to the people in your life that you may have only been texting and share a meal. Call and chat with an old friend that you haven’t spoken with. Re-focus your days with true 3D relationship time and enjoy a lasting stimulus in your life work.
Wendy Strgar is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love and family. She helps couples tackle the questions and concerns of intimacy and relationships, providing honest answers and innovative advice. Wendy lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband, a psychiatrist, and their four children ages 11-20.