January 13, 2017
We all anecdotally know that it feels good to be with people. But I think many underestimate quite how important company, companionship and human connection is.
In the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence, the author, Dr Daniel Goleman, discusses the concept of “right or wrong” in society. He argues there is no objective right or wrong. It’s merely a societally agreed abstraction. He argues that a person as a social being is nothing in isolation – they are only something when put into a context of others around them and their relative position within society as a whole.
If you were the wealthiest person on earth, but there was only you on earth – then there’s little point. People only strive to be the best dancer, because it is in reference to all the other dancers that are also vying for this acclaim. Without a point of comparison, and without a community – there is little meaning, relevance or purpose in anything.
In the lab
There’s a famous, yet cruel, early scientific study from the 1970s exploring the connection of baby monkeys with their mothers. American comparative psychologist Harry Harlow, replaced a baby monkey’s mother with a dummy mother made of either wire or cloth. The baby rejected the wire mother for the cloth mother each time.
Harlow then thought it might be due to warmth, so they warmed the wire dummy. Again, the baby monkeys chose the cloth mother. Harlow then upped the stakes and added a bottle with food to the wire mother, meaning the baby could get much needed nutrition from the warmed wire monkey, and not from the cloth monkey.
To Harlow’s surprise, the babies chose to hang onto the cloth monkey – doing this to the detriment of their nutrition and survival. The babies clung onto the cloth monkey for the warmth and psychological comfort that it provided.
These landmark studies concluded that the lack of contact, connection and emotional comfort was psychologically stressful for the monkeys and were shown to be severely disturbed as a result.
In other studies from the lab, he experiments with keeping grown monkeys in isolation – which generated even more extreme results: ” they usually go into a state of emotional shock, characterized by … autistic self-clutching and rocking. One of six monkeys isolated for 3 months refused to eat after release and died 5 days later. The autopsy report attributed death to emotional anorexia”.
These examples illustrate the fundamental animal – and human – need to be connected to and in contact with our own people, and to be functionally participative within a community.
Grant Harvard study
A 75-year longitudinal study from Harvard – the Grant study – found that after 75 years of observing its participants there was only one common component which determined happiness. The key to happiness and a meaningful life was: to have meaningful strong relationships. Across the course of 75 years they found that no other factors, such as money, success, fame, location, gender or race, had any significant correlative effect on happiness.
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If we’re happy, 90% of our daily needs are taken care of. As long as we have our basics covered – such as food, water and shelter, then fundamentally we’re good. We’re simple creatures really. If we’re in a state of bliss, then we don’t really need much else. The body, mind and spirit flourishes when happy – everything works, and everything feels great. Happiness buoys energy, it raises motivation, and psychological and emotional health.
In contrast, when unhappy, the body gets ill, disease spreads, and unhappiness can lead to more unhappiness, and downward spiral can ensue.
Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Need (1943) illustrates the order of which we need things, in order to seek more things in life. Maslow shows that love and belonging is almost a foundational step of life. A necessary step before progressing onto anything more aspirational such as self-esteem or the lofty-self-actualisation.
Maslow determined that as soon as a person locks in their basic physiological needs (food/shelter/air to breath) and their security (free from being eaten by a lion), then the next key requirement is no less than ‘love and belonging”.
So many opportunities to connect
There’s many ways of skinning the companionship cat. Companionship, isn’t all about having a life partner or a house filled with children. These things might be ideals, but they’re just not the reality for everyone.
Companionship comes in many forms. People can form the strongest of bonds with animals for example. Everything from dogs and cats, to parrots, hamsters and gold fish can prove to be great companions. People can get great amounts of fulfilment and companionship from friends, familiar faces, and even just he friendly face at the post office.
Meaningful connections are made at courses, community events, sports halls and book clubs. People that share a similar purpose are far more likely to connect and have positive companionship benefits. These interactions are so much stronger than just random associations.
The essence of companionship is a lattice work of compassion, love, empathy, contact, communication, familiarity and more. Companionship is not one thing, and not one specific blend of things.
Comfort and connection isn’t limited to just in-person contact. Similar benefits can be gained from phone calls, texts and chat with loved ones, friends or associates. Technology can help in this regard. Technology makes it easier to connect with a wider range of people, at almost any time, affordably and conveniently.
Companionship and company is a far-reaching concept. It affects us all. We’re all human. Compassion, empathy, and connection are all part of an international language.
Keeping Good Company offers meaningful company, conversation and companionship over the phone. It’s a basic but brilliant service – a simple concept with fantastic benefits. Keeping Good Company are serving a huge need within the community by offering kinship to our community’s isolated elderly.
This is the essence, and importance, of Keeping Good Company.