“No man is an island...”
“No man is an island,” is a quote from a poem written almost 400 years ago by John Donne. This quote is just as relevant today as it was almost 400 years ago, as it speaks to the past and the present proclivity of man to isolate, separate, and go alone when in reality we have an innate need for relationship. Why do we go alone? Why hole up on an island? More often than not it is because we are afraid. We fear being hurt, betrayed, rejected, disappointed, taken advantage of, feeling flawed, unlovable, and most of all we fear losing control. We believe maintaining control helps to prevent these unwanted feelings and experiences, but in actuality the false sense of security remains for only a short time. At some point we begin to realize that our need to control is interfering with our other needs, most commonly the need for protection. Our need to protect ourselves from pain often presents itself as protecting or pushing away from others. It can become very lonely living on an island. Isolating, separating, and protecting ourselves from people feels like a safe bet, but it ultimately leaves us susceptible to depression, anxiety, insecurity and deep dissatisfaction.
Our true nature breeds both the need and desire to be connected as human beings—to be known, accepted, and loved. Having the desire for interconnectedness is one thing. Admitting and accepting that we have a need for connection to others is a whole other challenge.
Acknowledging our need for people is a huge step towards opening ourselves up to relationship, to be seen and to be known. Revealing we have a need for others can be terrifying; what if no one wants to meet my need? What if admitting my need is just confessing my weakness so someone can use it against me and hurt me? If I let my guard down will I get hurt? Will I lose myself? These are some examples of the fearful thoughts that easily overcome us and drive us to continue the cycle of self-protection.
We can all present the hard cold facts and reasons as to why our fear of relationships is real and why our self-protection is necessary. What we need to ask ourselves is whether this fear and self-protection is interfering with our current relationships. Do you feel lonely, disconnected, unknown, insecure, dissatisfied, or anxious?
We can detach from these powerful emotions and learn to live freely and independently in the midst of relationship. It is in the midst of relationships where we actually have the opportunity to be our true selves, the true selves that have needs. It is possible to be authentic and be in relationship with others mutually and independently. Let us work through these fears and needs together that we may thrive with one another.
Jessica Ramoska, MA