Everybody Needs Somebody
A friend of mine once told me “It’s a lonely word, isolation, on bad days it seems to envelop me like a smothering blanket cutting off sustaining air. Once I liked to be alone with my books and music, then, private time away from people and pressures provided nourishment for my soul.… Solitude was precious because it balanced the pressures of days spent dealing with people...Now...at times I feel imprisoned, like Rapunzel in the castle tower, without the advantage of long hair to slide down.… It is difficult obtaining help when one is proud and independent” This strong and determined woman felt excluded and lonely and was finding it hard to break out of her isolation and get herself connected to the world outside.
In the Chinese view we are all connected and are all part of the web of life. The entire universe is governed by the laws of Dao, and all of nature forms one complete whole. All things, animal, vegetable and mineral and all processes are connected and everything influences everything else in some way or another. We are never alone in this incredible web but sometimes it feels as if we are. Sometimes we feel unconnected and unsupported and this sense of alienation can lead to feelings of despair. Conversely when we feel connected we feel better –physically and mentally.
Research shows that good mental and physical health depends on a support system and that stressors can be endured more easily when you have a strong supportive network of family and friends. A large scale, 17 year study of 5000 inhabitants of Alameda County, California, showed that those people who had a strong social network had experienced a dramatic increase in life expectancy. This interaction seemed to provide protection against all types of cancer, lowered the risk of heart disease and improved recovery rates. Another study by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser at the university of Ohio State established strong links between social interaction and strengthened immune function. Those involved in loving relationships had greater levels of natural killer cells, more responsive T-lymphocytes, stronger immune control over viruses and lower cortisol (the stress hormone) levels`.
Friendships based on mutual affection and trust can help us to feel connected and supported –at one with the world. Everybody needs somebody but often we who are physically challenged can be our own worst enemy--we have taught ourselves to push on independently of others - we can cope well alone. Perhaps we now need to learn that it is OK to ask for help and accept the support and encouragement that others can give. By communicating our needs we open to and connect with others and so come to feel the benefits of engaging with the wider world.
Silence Can Be Futile
Knowing that connection is the key to good health we need to give ourselves permission to communicate our needs to others and feel OK about it. And when we do we will find that the Chinese Daoists were right –our lives are interwoven with others –we only need to ask and a helping hand will be there.
Dorothea Nudelman, polio survivor, mother and author of “Healing the Blues” found that her decreasing mobility from post polio syndrome allowed her to make many changes in her life. She writes; “the most complex and far reaching changes I need to make lie in communication with my spouse, my daughter and my close friends - people I interact with on a daily basis and who are closest to me. I think that for polio veterans to move forward in developing significant relationships with children, spouses and friends, we must abandon our silences and voice our needs more openly and directly. While the need to “ask for help” seems self evident, it is difficult to do when the lessons of silence were tied to independence and self reliance throughout our recovery years. Though silence served as strong motivation in our initial recovery, it is futile and destructive when used inappropriately. If we now need to rely somewhat on others for the full enjoyment of our lives, not to ask for help exhibits false pride and recklessness”.
We mobilewomen are typically very independent people but we need to realize that asking for help does not mean that we have come to be entirely dependent on others! We needed to be strong and determined to cope with our physical challenges - now we need to give ourselves permission to trust and reach out to others to help us. Taking the decision to ask for help can improve the quality of our lives rather than trying to do everything alone and getting exhausted into the bargain. Instead of wasting energy pushing support away we need to learn to ask for help and welcome it when it is given.
Since the stressful period when she wrote Isolation (see above) my friend has come a long way towards accepting her limitations and allowing others to help. Furthermore she has become aware that as much as we need to be loved and supported we are also capable of giving love and support. The stress pioneer - Hans Selye found that the best way to be loved was to act lovingly towards others. He described this as “altruistic egoism”. Whatever we put out is mirrored back to us - when we extend love and care we will receive the same in return. Often it helps to focus on others problems’ rather than our own. This can be done in so many ways –join a campaign or a support group, get involved in neighborhood activities, or get yourself a pet.
Research has shown that heart attack victims who have pets live longer. Even watching a tank full of tropical fish may lower blood pressure, at least temporarily. A study of 92 patients hospitalized in coronary care units for angina or heart attack found that those who owned pets were more likely to be alive a year later than those who did not. The study found that only 6 percent of patients who owned pets died within one year compared with 28 percent of those who did not own pets. Animals bring out our nurturing instinct and through a caring connection with our pet we feel relaxed and healthier.
We can all do something, in our own way, to reach out and make a difference to the world. Taking the focus off ourselves and spending time helping and loving others helps us to feel valued, included and contented. Get yourself connected by both giving and receiving support and enjoy the benefits that come with knowing that you are an integral part of the web of life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vicki Mckenna trained at The College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Leamington Spa with Professor Worsley from 1981 gaining her Lic Ac. in 1984 and has been practicing acupuncture in Scotland since then. She is author of “A Balanced Way of Living”. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org