The unbearable pain of disconnection from meaning and purpose

One of my super powers is the ability to absorb other people’s emotions. It’s taken me a long time to understand it and identify it as a super power.  It sometimes confuses me – is this my emotion or the other person’s emotion. Why am I angry for no reason in the middle of an idle Sunday afternoon? Ahh. It’s not me. The other person is feeling anger. Why?

There’s a point to this tangent.

I meet a lot of people. And I pick up and feel these people’s emotions. These emotions that people can’t even put into words - it’s like when you have a vivid dream and you want to remember it. But you wake up and the dream, which a few seconds ago felt so intense, so real, is now a fuzzy haze.

For a lot of people, there is this constant feeling of discontent, of disconnect, of something is not right. But it’s not something they can articulate. They feel it. It’s a real, sometimes intense, pain but they don’t understand it.

I believe this pain of disconnect is the modern-day pandemic. From what I’ve observed, it’s the pain of disconnect from two things:

1. The pain of disconnect from meaningful connections

We are now more connected than ever via technology. But people are lonelier than ever. They have 3,000 Facebook friends and 2,000 Instagram followers. But when they are sick who is there to call and check up on them? When they move, who is there to offer a helping hand? Is there anyone they bare their soul to? Show true vulnerability to? I feel lost, overwhelmed, stuck. I am desperately unhappy despite all my achievements and material success. I have this amazing job but it’s not what I really want to do. I’m scared.

For hundreds of thousands of years humans lived in tribes – a close knit group of family and friends. The tribe was essential to each tribe member’s survival – not only for physical survival but for emotional support and well-being.  In our modern world of hyper shallow connections, we have forgotten the lost art of meaningful connection. And the ability to show up and be vulnerable. To speak our truth, even though it may be hard.

2. The pain of disconnect from a meaningful life purpose

About 50% of people work in jobs they don’t like. That’s 1 in 2. If you’re reading this, the chance of it being you is high.

Have you heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Essentially, once we meet our basic needs for food, shelter and security, we need to fulfil higher needs such as love and belonging, self-esteem and self-actualisation. These are needs. Not desires. And as real as your need for food, water and shelter.

If you have a place to live and feel comfortable and secure about where your next meal is coming from, it’s only a matter of time before the feeling of disconnect arises. You start to crave meaningful connections with people. You want to achieve more with your life. You want to fulfil your full potential in a way that is meaningful to you. This is how we are wired.

It took me such a long time to realise this. I always felt there was something wrong with me - until I understood this. And I couldn’t articulate it in these terms. I just felt the pain. Sometimes it was an unbearable pain. As real as any intense heartbreak, only I didn’t know whom I’d loved and lost.

I now understand that it is akin to heartbreak. But the person you are losing is you – your true, authentic self. That inner, vibrant child, who is precocious enough to say I want to change the world. I want my life to matter. I want to help others. I want to be of service. I don’t want to die with all my gifts and talents unexpressed. I don’t want to leave this world with my song unsung, my book unwritten.

I don’t want to leave without having even tried.

This pain of disconnect is real. You’re not going crazy. You’re probably not depressed. If what I’ve written resonates with you, don’t just ignore it.

Well, to be honest, you can’t ignore the pain. It’s always there – until you start to do something about it.

Emotional pain is just a signal that something needs to change. So, knowing what you now know, what are you going to change?