What if we lived in a way where we insisted making contact with one another?
Some folks might see this question and they might think “Eutopia!” while others see this and think “Hell.”
Contact is defined as those moments when we connect on a deeper level, when we really see someone for a moment. This can look like eye contact with a stranger at a cafe, an honest moment with our partners or family over dinner, or even that moment during a fight when you see yourself clearly even if just for an instant. Contact, happens with yourself first, when you see the reality of your life, the reality of the consequences of the choices you have made, and sometimes we don’t like what we see. When we make contact with ourselves, we start to be able to see others more vividly, and with more clarity.
When all is said and done, everyone wants contact. We want contact, and we are either scared of what will happen, what we will see in ourselves, or we don’t always have the skillful means to ask for it. Others think these moments just happen and they happen out of our control.
In some ways, these moments do “just happen.” They surprise us at times, and they happen when you least expect them. They happen during that moment in the parking lot, or when you sit down for coffee in the morning, or when you think you are minding your own business and out of nowhere, you see someone or something in your environment that brings you into the moment. We never know when these moments of clarity or deep connection will happen, and part of our skill is not to reject them.
When we step onto the path of deciding to make contact with our lives, with others, we start to chose the path of connection over agenda over and over again. When we chose the path of contact, we end up with deeper connections with everything, and intimacy with the world. We feel more. We feel ourselves, our experience, others’ experiences, others’ needs.
Depending on where we are, we either love this or hate it. To be polite, we walk around not asking others to make contact with us. We ask someone, “How are you?” really wanting to know the truth and we settle for “fine” as they look at the ground holding back tears. We learn to shut down, make jokes, give advice, go up into our heads and talk instead of checking in and staying open to what comes next. We have taught ourselves not to see, not to be hurt, not to feel, so we can live a life where we don’t have to be honest, be real, and be vulnerable.
One thing I often see, is that when someone decides to take the path of contact, often because picking any other path has become too painful, they suddenly feel alone. They see that they live in a society that doesn’t connect, that doesn’t hold their hand open and say “when you are ready, take it.” They feel that and they want to hide behind their armor, put on a fake smile and say, “I’m fine.” We want to protect ourselves from feeling alone, from feeling that raw vulnerability, from maybe feeling at all.
We are finding that making contact helps with drug abuse, helps with anxiety, depression, helps us in relationships, in finding more joy in life, and helps us be more clear on who we are. Yet, to step on this path takes courage, in takes the lion in our hearts to step forth and break through stereotypes that we have made for ourselves and what others have made for us.
Do we have the courage to hold our hand open and wait? Do we have the courage to ask for depth? Do we have the courage to step away from anything that makes us unseen in hopes of being truly seen by others?
Healthy horses insist on congruency and contact. They insist that if you are sad, you show it, angry, frustrated, you show it. They want to see you or they don’t trust that you can be a partner, leader, or herd member. They do this so they can rely on one another to be there when they need you. They do this to be safe, to bond, and to stay regulated as a group. They insist on healthy community because their emotional stability depends on it.
I don’t think we are that different. Many have just given up. We have given up living in a way where we do make contact, where we allow ourselves to be impacted by others’ lack of connection, and one where we don’t insist that others make contact back.
If you do decide to take this path, you are not alone. Others will follow your lead in time because they will see the beauty in it, when they are ready. If you want others to make contact with you, you can not force it. You can only take responsibility for yourself and ask that others be influenced by you. Just like Mary Oliver says in her poem, The Journey, the only life you have is yours.
“…there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.”
Kaia Livingstone is a psychotherapist who runs a private practice outside of Boulder, CO. She specializes in helping horses and humans bond in order to help them relate and connect on a deeper level.