Feeling Connected to a Bigger
Sense of Self and Selflessness
By Lynn Seiser, PhD, MFT
When I was a child, I loved playing connect the dots. It was one of those games our parents gave us to keep us quiet. It’s a picture, but you only find out what that picture is by connecting the dots. Usually they were numbered so we also learned to count. I especially enjoyed the ones where you really couldn’t tell what they were until you were finished. As I got older and better at them, I was often able to see what the picture was before I even started.
Another game is called “Seven Steps from Kevin Bacon.” The game begins by somebody naming another Hollywood star #1. That star #1 played in this movie with another star #2. Then star #2 played in another movie and played with another star #3. Star #3 played in a different movie with a different co-star #4 who had played with, you guessed it, Kevin Bacon. It’s a great game. You really have to know your cinema. It also shows what a small world Hollywood really is.
What’s the point in telling these two stories? The point is they show there is a connection. The dots are connected to make the picture. The stars are connected to make Hollywood. We are all connected. One symptom and cause of depression and anxiety, which are both epidemic, is a sense of separation.
We no longer feel connected to our families, our community, our world, or ourselves. This lack of connection has caused many people to begin a journey of soul-searching and spiritual awareness. I once stated on a Christmas card “mental and emotional health was being okay when you are alone” and “spiritual health is knowing you are never alone.”
I often refer to my family, my wife, and children as “mine,” not in a possessive sense, but in a sense of connectedness. That connectedness implies that we affect each other and have responsibility and accountability for how we affect and react to each other. I feel a deep humble pride of connectedness when they refer to me as “my father,” “my husband,” “my brother,” and “my friend”.
How did we become so disconnected from our environment? By environment I mean the people close to us, the community around us. How did we become so self-centered and self-absorbed that we lost touch with everything else? Our society, and modern psychology, has been under the false assumption that if we feel better about ourselves, we will feel better about everything and start taking better care of things. I say false assumption because this idea hasn’t seemed to work too well.
The stronger our sense of self, the more separate and detached we feel from everything else. We begin to not care about the effect we have on others and our physical environment. If it doesn’t affect us directly, without connecting too many dots, we are no longer concerned. I know this is politically incorrect to say, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
Instead of making our sense of self smaller, perhaps if we made it larger to include our environment we would take better care of it. There doesn’t seem much benefit in having this smaller, shrinking unconnected sense of self, so let’s try to expandpast our learned ego identity. Looking past ourselves and seeing the bigger picture can find a greater sense of self. A greater sense of self comes from being more selfless, not selfish.
Take a deep breath and relax. As you let the chatter in your head quiet, isn’t this stuff you already know? How many dots do you have to connect before you see the bigger picture, the bigger sense of self? How many steps does it take to connect you to everything else? Now relax even more and feel even more connected to all that is.
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing this journey.
Lynn Seiser, Ph.D., is an internationally respected psychotherapist and author with offices in Long Beach and Tustin.
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