Isolation — a survival strategy that doesn't work
If you struggle with mental health issues or a substance use disorder isolation might seem like a solution — it’s not.
This was my go to strategy for years and I believed it worked.
Isolation is disconnection and for awhile it keeps our uncomfortable feelings at bay. Over time those feelings grow and end up clouding our thinking and judgement leading to bad decisions.
Initially we feel protected and insulated from our feelings and the world, but ultimately we end up more vulnerable and more isolated, the things we’re trying to avoid.
Isolation disconnects us from the experience of life
Isolation is really good at separating us from the experience of life, the good, the bad and everything in between. It also keeps us from finding a better life, something many of us are searching for.
If you were lost in the forest would you put a blindfold on and think this will help me find my way out? Lost in the forest, running into things, bruised and bloodied would you keep walking the same path? At what point would you stop? Would you stop? I tried all of this and more and none of it works.
I’m not unique. Most have had this experience and it doesn’t feel good. It’s the classic idea of ‘doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results’. When we isolate we lose perspective and can’t see any other way; We end up walking the same path, acting the same way, doing the same things reflexively. We become trapped and frustrated and decisions become difficult to make.
Connection gives us perspective allowing us to find better ways of thinking and doing
It’s difficult, maybe impossible to step outside of ourselves and gain perspective on our thoughts. Think about it. Your mind focused in one direction must step away and look at your thoughts in an objective way, without having those thoughts, feelings, ideas and judgments affecting your assessment. Sounds hard, right? It is, and this is why connecting with others and getting outside perspectives is so important.
Living with PTSD and a substance use disorder has taught me how vital connection and perspective is. Insight into these two ideas leads to a life with unlimited potential and opportunity and the possibility for radical transformation.
Research has demonstrated connection is vital to a healthy life
Connection and relationships are not just important for mental health, they’re important for the health of our bodies too. The mind-body connection is very real and as powerful as any modern day medicine.
Harvard University has studied the importance of relationships since 1938. Their study on Adult Development highlights the following:
Social connections are good for your health
Loneliness is toxic
The quality of your relationships matters
Good relationships protect our brains
Connecting and relating to others may be the most important strategy for health and happiness. Those of us with more social connections live longer and are happier. Those with fewer relationships have more health issues and a mortality rate that’s twice as high—regardless of age, gender, health practices or current health issues.
Relationships can literally calm us down. Studies have shown our stress-response system which releases stress hormones is quieted when we connect, which improves both mental and physical health.
Louis Cozolino, a psychology professor at Pepperdine University states:
“How we bond and stay attached to others is at the core of our resilience, self-esteem and physical health.”
In the end it’s up to us. No matter how we think or feel we need to reach out and connect, because connection isn’t just healthy for mind and body it makes a healthy life.