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121 MARCH 2009
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We all want to be connected

It seems that from the moment of birth we are hard wired, neurologically, to connect with other people “to reach out and engage. Watch a baby some time “even the smallest is reaching out. Wander down the street and watch little kids with their parents, strolling along, looking into the faces and eyes of strangers as if to say “Hey there. You. Notice me.” They smile out at you and if you smile back, usually their smile gets bigger.

I could go through the various ages and stages of child development and articulate the ways children and young people reach out to connect “but a few examples will do ... the young girl who asks another about her doll, the young boy who asks an adult what he’s doing, the adolescent who catches your eye as you walk past in a crowded classroom, the adult who nods to you, a stranger, as he walks by. Over time, of course, our desire, our need, to connect becomes shaped by our experiences so that sometimes those moments of reaching out become difficult to recognize “but they are still there.

We are hard wired to connect because, historically at least, we needed to be connected, to be “in relationship” with others “if we weren’t connected, we were isolated; and if we were isolated, we died. We needed the group, the clan, the tribe, the family, simply to survive. And the same is still true today.

I know many of us live in an “independent” world: a world where “me” is central to our way of thinking about what is important. And I know, for example, that angry people sometimes say that they don’t care about others “what others think, whether or not they are liked by others, whether or not they want to be with others.

That’s probably why they are angry, or depressed, or experiencing whatever pain it is that they feel which causes them to live in the world in an angry, hostile manner. Because they feel disconnected and isolated and so need to defend themselves.

We all need to be connected “in whatever role we happen to live in at the moment. And if we do not find connections of safety and caring close to us, we search for connections in other ways “thus the explosion of chatrooms, face-books, and other “social connection” sites. I received a message from someone the other day, from someone I hardly know at all, asking to “be my friend” as is the custom on that particular social networking site, and I remembered how once I heard a young person ask another young person if she could “be her friend” and remembered, too, how sad I felt that one person had to “ask” another if they could be their friend.

As professionals in this field, we also need to be connected, to feel as if we are a part of something, that we are not alone, especially if we do not work in teams where we find familiarity.

If you feel isolated in your work, unconnected, alone (and it is not because you are rejecting of contact) then you need to find a way to be connected. Because if you don’t you will end up like other disconnected people “hurt, in pain and hungry for connectedness. I leave you to imagine what that might lead to.

So, how are you connected professionally? Where do you feel your sense of engagement with others in your work? How do you satisfy your need to belong in a difficult and often stressful work?


The International Child and Youth Care Network

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