Why We Need Community To Thrive

Human beings are social animals. Community is the biological plan of our species. We need others to survive. This need for social connection and bonding continues throughout our lives.

Frog Family Gathering

Community has a powerful influence over the way we think, behave and feel about our selves and those around us.

This is particularly true when we are small, vulnerable and dependent. Mother Nature intended for babies to bond with their parents to insure they are nurtured and nourished. The mechanisms of human bonding are powerful. They include chemistry, memory and emotions and possibly other systems not yet identified.

Humans, however, are complicated and biological intentions can get thrown off track. Mother might not connect with baby, father may leave or die, financial pressures may take precedence over childcare, and neglect or abuse may arise. As a result, children learn adaptive patterns of behavior to insure their survival. These patterns work to varying degrees when we are children but can be limiting when we grow up.

We often learn to suppress our natural inclinations, to hide our feelings, deny our desires and redirect out attention to fulfill or rebel against the expectations of others.

We learn to tamp down who we really are and lose track of our gifts and our dreams. This has consequences for our adult relationships, our community as well as our particular life path.

In my own case, I was born into the community of a young and inexperienced mom and 2 other children. We failed to bond. I bonded instead with my father. This blissful connection was suddenly and traumatically severed when I was two and he was transferred to Japan. By the time we were reunited, months later, our bond was broken.

To attract the attention and nurturing I needed, I became a people-pleaser. This worked pretty well. I excelled in school, received many awards and completed my Ph.D.–one of two in a class of forty.

The limitations of my behavior showed up in my first teaching job. My students really needed me to lead but all I knew was to please. I lost that job and was devastated. Instead of changing my pattern, however, I adapted. I only took jobs where my bosses needed me more than I needed them. I undersold my education, my intelligence and my gifts for the assurance of acceptance.

Many of us stick to our childhood patterns because they are deeply ingrained and unconscious. Very often it takes a crisis to wake us up again.

When we lose a parent or a spouse, our children leave home, we get laid off or receive a life-threatening health diagnosis, our reality shifts. Crisis takes us out of our familiar everyday routine and puts us into the moment. Once the numbness and disbelief wear off, there is a void, an empty space between worlds that can become a profound opportunity for self-discovery and change.

In my own case, I might have continued underselling my talents and education forever had my first husband not left me. The shock of his abandonment made me rethink my life.

My first response was to avoid personal relationships all together. I joined a spiritual community in which the only valued relationship was with the divine. It was very healing because it came with a supportive community. Also, my spiritual teacher seemed intent on breaking my people-pleasing habit. He didn’t completely succeed but he did create some new awareness.

The best news was that the spiritual practice re-opened my heart and reconnected me to myself. By the time I met my current husband I was ready for love. Well … not quite.

In my efforts to re-bond, I became aware that I had behavior patterns that were sabotaging my efforts and I did not want to blow this relationship.

We cannot solve our problems with the same kind of thinking we used to create them. — Albert Einstein

I decided I need help, so I immerse myself in a 13-week emotional healing program. This was followed with 2 years in therapeutic support group. Although intimate relationships are always a work-in-progress, I am pleased to report that my husband and I have celebrated our 15th anniversary.

Not too long after I connected with my new husband, my mother died. It was her loss that awoke me to my life purpose, my true calling – to empower others to face their fears so they step into their power. I will share this part of my journey in my next blog post.

If you are dealing with a  major life change or feel like you are stuck or have lost your way, perhaps I can help you. Please check out my Event Page for a current listing of free local workshops and webinar opportunities. Or you schedule an introductory Discovery Session with me to find out what you really want and what is holding you back.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Dr. Michelle Peticolas is a national speaker and expert on the topics of loss, emotional wounding and unresolved grief. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology and over 18 years experience coaching people through major life challenges.  If you’re ready to change the habit of rushing, download and listen to her Stress Release Body Scan audio recording. Find out where you are holding energy and learn to release it. www.releaseandthrive.com

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