‘Don’t we need close friends and healthy relationships to be happy?
No, despite what the gurus tell you. It’s a common myth and a cruel one. I dread to think how many people mistakenly believe they are destined to remain unhappy because they don’t have close relationships.
As explained in the introduction, we evolved to have an innate need to feel valued, and to feel connected with those around us. That is evolution’s way of getting us to stay in the tribe. If we feel part of the tribe . . . connected with the tribe . . . we satisfy our ‘deep need to belong‘ and are rewarded with core happiness.
(When we don’t feel connected with the tribe . . . with those around us . . . we feel anxious. That is evolution’s way of nudging us to change the situation.)
Having close relationships is a wonderful way to satisfy our need to feel connected. But it’s not the only way. We can satisfy that need if we feel connected with the people around us – the shopkeeper, our neighbour, the gym staff, the people we meet . . . When we feel connected with the people around us we feel connected with humanity. And that’s enough to satisfy our ‘deep need to belong’. That’s enough for core happiness.
We don’t need to have long conversations with these people – often a smile and a nod will suffice. As the proverb goes, ‘The shortest distance between two people is a smile.’
Some people talk and talk, but that doesn’t mean there is a quality connection. (Often, poor conversation skills lead to disconnection.) As corny as it sounds, if you feel comfortable wishing a passer-by ‘good morning’, and mean it, there is a good chance you will feel connected with the human race, and satisfy your ‘deep need to belong’.
So, don’t let the happiness gurus tell you that you need close relationships to be happy. You don’t. You just need to feel connected with humanity.
But if you do have healthy, close relationships, enjoy them and look after them.
Q. ‘But some people really need to be surrounded by friends. My sister finds toilet cubicles lonely.’
Your sister needs to find another way to get a sense of belonging, to reduce that dependency. Otherwise her neediness might result in her being exploited, easily influenced, or hanging out with ‘the wrong’ friends.
Having quality connections with the people we meet in life allows us to be more discerning about the relationships we do choose to have.
Q. ‘Mr Bashful, Kathleen Puckett wrote in the magazine, ‘New Scientist’, 4th September, 2011:
“. . . During my 23-year stint as an FBI special agent, my colleagues and I looked into what Kaczynski, McVeigh and Rudolph (three mass murderers) had in common. The results were startling. All three were highly intelligent and well educated, with no previous history of criminal violence. But they all shared a profound inability to forge meaningful relationships. . . . (They were) all repeatedly unable to connect socially to the groups whose ideology they shared.”
‘Mr B, doesn’t this indicate that we need meaningful relationships?’
No, but it might indicate we need the capacity to forge meaningful relationships. If those murderers were unable to forge meaningful relationships there is a good chance they were also unable to connect well with anyone. As I say, it’s the quality of the connections we have with all people that matters.