Precisely a week ago, Together Loneliness, Health and What Happens When We Find Connection had arrived in one of our mail boxes.
A book about finding meaningful connection amid a protracted lockdown felt like a strange gift. So we picked it up, but with mixed feelings.
Penned by Dr Vivek H. Murthy, Barack Obama’s former Surgeon General, the book sheds light on a rather discomforting reality of modern day living spurring global loneliness, and how the deep-seated emotion is currently at epidemic levels.
Ironic, as it would seem, in an era when we’re more connected and accessible to each other than ever before, people feel the loneliest. Why is that so?
Well, it’s clear: disconnection — and an acute lack of healing relationships in our lives. Then, there is that fear of being rejected if we were to show up as our true selves pushes us away from building intimate connections.
The finding that strong relationships are what matter most connects a lot of dots. When people surround themselves with people they share a close sense of comfort with, their lives invariable get a lot stronger, richer and more joyful.
Together — Loneliness, Health and What Happens When We Find Connection, spanning about 300 pages, is peppered with cogent and compassionate explanations for real life issues that hit the spot.
It talks about how most people, although uncomfortable with revealing their true selves, don’t come to terms with the underlying condition, to overlook how loneliness often leaves an aching hole, an inexhaustible void in their lives. Murthy points out myriad ways of how many anesthetize the pain — food, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. But do they suffice? Not really. Are they the solution? No.
According to the author, the key to fighting loneliness lies in honing your skills at making and sustaining friendships. He categorically mentions how those who are skilled at friendship may have a natural defence against prolonged or severe loneliness, pointing out how one is never too old to develop these powerful traits.
That said, while it’s certain that meaningful relationships make a world of difference, the answer doesn’t always end there, the book states.
In fact, the key to starting a real human connection a medical necessity starts from a journey inward. In a nutshell, Together… urges readers to get started on a seemingly simple but immensely powerful exercise: Relating inside out, by befriending ourselves. Across the pages, one might wonder if Murthy’s understanding of self-love differs vastly from that of most of us.
Yet, it cannot be denied that it still strikes a chord. While tackling loneliness might take a lot longer than expected, Murthy’s book reminds us that the journey has a lot to do with being more open, accepting and forgiving with oneself and those around us.
The yearning for deeper/more authentic conversations is a genuine desire at the moment, and people feel the happiest not when surrounded by company but, rather, when they’re encouraged to share their truest feelings and fears.
Remember, the author tells us, some of life’s greatest joys involve other people — be it child birth, falling in love, quality time with great times, etc.
Of course, while sharing his thoughts on the loneliness epidemic most of us the world over suffer, the author himself confesses that the search and the decision to live a connected life isn’t always easy. In fact, says Murthy, it requires a great deal of courage — to be vulnerable, to take a chance on others, and to believe in ourselves.