Humans are social animals. Again and again, the necessity for social connection has been demonstrated. We have had the unfortunate, but informative, chance to witness what happens to social creatures when they are denied social bonding.
In Romanian orphanages during the World Wars, children were raised on merely food and water, with no education or care. The children died in shocking numbers due to a lack of satisfaction of their fundamental social needs. Harry Harlow’s controversial experiment on the deprivation of social bonds in monkeys showed us that their behaviour and general well being rapidly declined without other monkeys. Numerous experiments on rats show us that a rat who is left alone with a dopaminergic trigger will literally kill themselves via deprivation of food and water, all they want is the dopaminergic trigger (in most cases a lever that triggers their dopamine centre in their brains). Rats that are kept in a cage with other rats will leave the lever alone and socialize.
Our social needs are not avoidable, they are a necessity for our health. Brain scans of people who have been deprived of social connection are dramatically atrophied. There is something about social connections that satisfies an essential need, just like food and water.
Something dawned on me the other day while I was watching a T.V. show. A character died and the scene showcased the memories of that character in her friend. Her friend felt pain when the character died because of the relationship which would be suddenly severed. We care about people in so far as we have a relationship with them. We might hear about someone being brutally murdered on the news, and sadly, we couldn’t care less. But if that person is our friend, the tragedy could destroy us. Why the massive difference? Aren’t both lives important? The answer is yes, but we only have a relationship with one of them.
I realized at the moment the T.V. show showcased the memories of her friend, that the fundamental way we interact with the world is through relationships, that is to say, socially. It is no surprise that the way we interact with the world is through relationships, as we are social creatures, but the degree is uncanny. We literally interact with everything as a relationship, everything.
We talk to ourselves like we are another person. We refer to our future selves as different people other than ourselves. We refer to ourselves as an I, as another human separate from ourselves. We refer to our body’s as “my body”. Who is this “my”? It is an expression of our social nature.
The way that we interact with our homes, our work, objects, people, Being itself, is fundamentally relational. We get sentimental about T-shirts that we have had good experiences with, or that people we admire give us. We hate lamps and laptops! Hate! They are inanimate objects! The reason why we can feel like houses are haunted is that we believe they have personalities. We interact with objects like they are other people! All because we are social beings.
Relationships are of essential importance. The relationships we have with work, our homes, our spouses, our lives, are what make life meaningful and worth striving for. There is a reason why married men make more money, have more successful careers, and have overall higher life satisfaction. The people with good relationships have an obligation to strive, to succeed and do their best, for the sake of the object related to.
Every successful marriage places the relationship as the utmost priority. No one person is prioritized above the other because the relationship is more important than either person’s personal well being. The successful marriage can teach us a beautiful lesson of how we should interact with the world, prioritize the relationship.
With all things, make the relationship the most important, not yourself, the relationship. People gain immense meaning from a relationship with God because it is like having a relationship with Being itself. Make sure that you serve the object related to, and that object serves you. A one-way relationship is never successful.
The game of life becomes the puzzle of turning every relationship into a positive sum game, where both parties benefit. This is the puzzle before us, and it is fundamentally relational.
Hustle it up!