Until 12,000 years ago, approximately 90 percent of human history functioned off of food foraging. Our communities were simple with simple tasks and roles. It seemed the simpler our society, the easier it was to live comfortably in supportive communities where people truly helped each other. Perhaps in communities, relationships are naturally cultivated and nurtured. The more advanced our civilization has evolved, the more competitive and autonomous we’ve all become.
We triple lock our doors, scoff as we wiz by the neighbor with the morning coffee in hand and hope that no one else interrupts our perfectly sculpted routine. Today, especially if you live in big cities, it almost seems impossible to say you live in a real community. Back in the day, we used to be able to knock on our neighbor’s doors to borrow a cup of sugar. We used to wave to familiar friends as we jogged down the street. While some people can genuinely say that they’ve managed to find the best and most friendly community to live in, I’m going to say most people have naturally become more shut off. It’s like the more you crave community, the more it shows that you are weak, needy, and even insecure?!
According to an Applied Social Psychology (ASP) article there’s a difference between communities and the lack of physical sense of a community. The article defines community as the following:
“A community is defined as a usually small, social unit of any size that shares common values. The term can also refer to the national community or international community, and in biology, a community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment.”
But then, it equally points out the flaw in this definition in that, “Most people, unless extremely lucky, do not live in areas that they would describe as a true community. They may live in the same area, but the sense of community is just not there.”
I have lived all over the country (former military brat) and will say that there are more welcoming places to live than others. But, you have to be willing to reach out and do your part. Even still, people can close the door on your attempt to foster a situation of mere acquaintance to graduating the interaction to a level of friendship.
Over time, religion, organizations, and other such commonalities might help build communities around very active members and participants. But, even still, I’ve gone to various places with their own spiritual practices and ways of worship only to experience people shuffling off after service, as fast as they can. I do not profess to be religious. Though, I am spiritual in my own way; and I do not belong to one organized religion; however, I do see the value in it for some, if not all, people.
Being mobile and flexible to change has always been a part of my former military brat life style. It has had both its ups and downs. I can say I’ve traveled and have seen more parts of the United States than most and can brag that I once lived in Spain when I was a youngster. But, I cannot say that I have found my community yet. I do not currently have one, though I have made numerous attempts to cultivate, foster and build relationships in an organic way. No one wants a fake or superficial partnership with any other human. We all to some degree prefer the real thing, and it ought to happen naturally rather than be forced upon someone. Unfortunately, from personal experience and in researching depression and its direct link to loneliness, this is not the case.
In a UK article one out of ten (approximately 4.7 million people) reported that they lacked close friends and even felt unloved. Nowadays, people are told that having boundaries is imperative, that the more walls you erect the more you seem to demonstrate a sense of self, independence and autonomy. So, we become comfortable with those we choose to let in and closed off to everyone else. We’ve become a highly untrustworthy culture, one of which it’s better to run to your door and lock it quickly behind you than to take a moment and speak to a stranger.
I love speaking to strangers. I enjoy opening myself up to new experiences and welcoming new friendships. I have no bubble I live in but have found that this is not the case for most people. Depression has been a life long battle for me. But, I know now what has fueled and made mine much worse. I know that isolation can trigger loneliness, that lack of friends or those in close proximity can often make things worse. Researchers have found that depression was reduced the more people immersed themselves socially and as they became more a part of a social group. Social groups have been known to encourage members, feed their need for human connection and reduce depression linked to loneliness and isolation.
I ran into a woman who didn’t live in the area, but was visiting from Florida. She and her daughter commented on my beautiful daughter, our little bundle of joy, and we talked about babies. She said, “We were afraid to approach you because we’ve had such bad run-ins with people here.” I asked them to elaborate and they went on to describe some of the cold, snooty behavior they’ve experienced. They looked concerned because the lady’s son was going to move into the area for school. She asked, “Is everyone like this in this area? So cold, shut off, snobby and unapproachable?” Unfortunately, I told her that, this had also been my experience in Los Angeles, Southern California and the South Bay.
The Bottom Line:
I’ve had some really good conversations with people and positive interactions, but many people are really closed off. The likelihood of forming real long-term friendships around you as a part of making you feel like you belong to a community is extremely challenging. It seems that if and when people are nice, they want to keep you at “hello” and file you away in their head and heart as only an “acquaintance.” But, if you’re anything like me you refuse to stop being open, approachable and kind hearted. You won’t let social cliques define your self worth. I refuse to give up on finding and forming my community of loving, approachable and genuine humans that really do want to bring you close to their hearts. And if you’re a loving person in search of your community, I hope you don’t give up and that you never stop being approachable or open to new experiences. You’ll find that one day your love and willingness to embrace the world around you, including strangers and people different from you, will reward you in the very end.
This entry was posted in Depression, Relationships, Self Help and tagged Community, Culture, depression, Family & Friends, Friendships, Home & Life, Interpersonal Growth, Isolation, Life Balance, Lifestyle, Loneliness, Long Form Writing, mental health, Mental Illness, Moral Support, Self Help, Social Issues, Society.