Pursue What Matters
Episode 118: Are You Disconnected?
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
In a connected world, we are more disconnected than ever. How on earth did that happen? And more importantly, what can we do about it?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:11
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters Podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So what if I told you that we have a serious crisis on our hands? Now, I’m not really interested in fear mongering. But this is one of my biggest concerns when I think about our society, and our relationships. So this crisis that I’m talking about is not a global pandemic. And yet, it might just be as dangerous to our health and well being as a plague. So what am I talking about? I am talking about disconnection, it is the primary malady of our modern day. And you don’t have to just take my word for that. There’s some really great research out there that is honestly kind of troubling about the the extent of the emotional disconnection that most of us struggle with in our modern society. So as I talk about disconnection today, one of the resources that I am using is an excellent new book called connection, of course, what else? And so it’s called connection, how to find the life you’re looking for in the life you have. And this is by Dr. Kristine Klussman. I will link to her work in the show notes. And she is a researcher on this topic. And so she brings us some really great clarity about this topic. So this is something I’ve been concerned about for a while. And boy, I just think it’s getting worse and worse. So let’s, let’s pay attention to why is this connection, a problem I go, what’s going on?
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:17
So the first thing is that there is so much about how we live and work and interact with others everyday that actually reinforces disconnection. So whether it is the marketing industrial complex, right, that’s my term, that continuously tells us that we are not enough that we need more, more more in order to be happy. So right, like marketing is big. And I’m a fan of marketing. But I think we want to be intentional. And we want to be aware, so that we don’t get taken for a ride. Because I think, you know, when marketing’s really when marketing is effective, right? It can be really powerful to help change our beliefs, and our desires. And so one of the ways that disconnection is reinforced, is when we are when we are constantly inundated with these messages that tell us that we’re not good enough, or that we need this product, right? Or we need this paycheck in order to be happy. Or, you know, we think about the connected world of the internet and social media. Wow, like almost everyone’s on social media these days. And, you know, social media, if you’re not careful, they show us constantly images of how we don’t measure up what we’re missing out on, and how others are getting life, right. I mean, you can spend time on social media and feel absolutely horrible about yourself, if you’re not really careful and intentional about how you use it. And so right you see these images of others that they just seem like they have it all together, and that they’re getting life, right. But of course, we know when we take a step back, this isn’t really a thing, right? Like, we’re all trying to do our best and yet those images, and those messages can be so deceptive, right? And here’s the other thing that everyone’s totally honest or genuine on social media. And so they may be showing something or depicting something that might not actually be reality. And so if you have any struggle with self worth, which honestly is most of us, you are particularly susceptible to these insidious messages that tell you that you are not enough.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:38
And so according to Dr. Klussman in the excellent book Connection that I mentioned, she argues that the connected age via ubiquitous digital connection has not made us more authentically connected like it has not served like the technology hasn’t served as a bridge for meaningful connection and she argues that it has actually caused more disconnection than it has resolved. So I want you to think about that for a minute and think, you know, think about whether you agree with that or not. I mean, she’s got good research to back that up. But do you see technological connection, right digital connection, we think about social media, the internet, email, all of that as something that has been a bridge to meaningful connection, or has it blocked, meaningful connection. So she points out that while social media and email are really great for facilitating communication, although right, like a lot can get lost in translation, what she argues is that they don’t facilitate connection, which is where the real meaning in life comes from. And, you know, as I look at this issue, it, it really concerns me, we have so much vying for our attention at any given moment of the day. And then you add to that fact, having a perfectly built distraction machine in the form of our screens, our phones in our pockets at all times. So these two things, right. So we have a so much vying for our attention in this digital age in this information age. And then you pair that with having distraction, machines, right, our phones in our pockets all the time. And this honestly is a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for serious disconnection, heartache, loss of purpose, and meaning in life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:36
Now, I’ll tell you why this really concerns me. First of all, it concerns me for a lot of reasons, because relationships really matter, right? Or connections really matter. But the big one is that when we are disconnected, we we are blocked from purpose and meaning in life. And you know, I’m pretty passionate about helping people pursue what matters. And because this is the this is this is where we actually connect to, to understanding ourselves and to serving a greater good, right, having purpose and meaning helps us to get through hard times. And so when we’re disconnected, we lose a sense of purpose and meaning. And that right like, that’s where we where we get into depression, hopelessness, suicidality, anxiety, and just right, the loss of the the meaningful opportunities, in love and in relationships, and with colleagues and with friends. And so I really feel like this is the real plague that we are facing today. And so today, my goal is to help you to better understand disconnection, and why is a problem, and then assess how it might be showing up for you. Because right disconnection is a challenge for all of us, every single one of us, right? If you live in the digital age, unless you are off the grid, right disconnection can be a challenge for you, right. And then I’m going to wrap up our time together today by sharing three things from the research that you can begin doing today in order to reconnect and then I hope you will join me for next week’s podcast where I will be talking about the seven keys of self connection, so that you can really take some practical action to help yourself this is, this is big picture stuff. But it’s also practical. And so we want to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the big picture or practical application.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:41
So of course, every week with a podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters. by strengthening your confidence to lead I try to do that in one of three areas, leading with clarity, which connects us to a sense of purpose and meaning, right, that’s really important, leading with curiosity, which is all about developing self awareness, self leadership, and self care. And then the third area is leading and building a community. And of course, when we’re talking about being disconnected, we’re really talking about all of these, that especially clarity, when we’re talking about purpose and meaning in life. And then the second one is curiosity, because what I’m hoping to do today is help you increase your awareness, increase your curiosity, about how disconnection might be showing up for you, so that you can shift that towards more connection.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:35
Okay, so let’s start with the first question, which is, what is this connection and why is it a problem? So some of the signs and symptoms of disconnection we all see this all the time, right? Maybe you’re with a friend and they’re distracted, or you feel a lack of emotional attachment in your relationships. You know, you love your people, but you’re just like you can’t feel it in your heart. Maybe it’s being busy, it’s being distracted. It’s not listening. It’s going through the motions, but not having any emotional heart connected to what you’re doing. Always being in a hurry, always rushing to the next thing, a lack of presence, you’re there, but you’re not present, anticipating the future or living your life, always towards the future, which can really reinforce anxiety, by the way, following the social script, because it’s what’s expected. It’s what you do. And a sense of insincerity. Right? So think about, think about this in your own life. Think about this with interactions with with others, right? So we hear about individuals who maybe have just reached a huge life goal, and yet they are more miserable than ever. This is disconnection, right? When we are disconnected, it’s not that our goals aren’t worthy or meaningful, because often they are. The problem is that we can’t connect to that sense of purpose, or joy that comes as a result of achieving worthy endeavors. So it’s not that the goal that was a lousy goal, right? Like I think of the awesome Disney cartoon, tangled, and they’re talking about, I have a dream, and they have this awesome song. And at the end of the song, right, so the the guy Flynn Rider, right? His dream is to live on an island by himself with bags and bags of cash. And at the end of the song, the other folks say your dream sucks, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:44
So when we think about disconnection, it’s not that our dreams suck. It’s not that our goals are not worthy. But in the process of accomplishing the goal, sometimes we focus too much on the outcome. And we don’t enjoy the journey, right? Like we’re, we’re, we’re not present to the growth because right a goal is is is about who you become, in the process, and who you become is a function of being present and being connected. And so when you achieve a worthy goal, but you you cannot connect to joy, or you get anxious about what’s the next thing. This is disconnection, it’s having moments of thinking, I totally love these people. But why am I so miserable? That’s disconnection. It’s that nagging sense of there’s something that’s not right, that there’s more.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:37
And I remember, this was Oh, probably at least a decade ago, I had a day off, it was in the middle of the week, my kiddos were at school, and I went shopping. And like, I’m not a big shopper. But I went shopping. And I remember pulling in to the parking lot of the store, and just having that horrible, nagging sense of something’s not right here. And so I would write like, that’s never a good feeling. And a lot of times when we have those feelings, right, it’s not a good feeling. So we try and push it away, as soon as we can, instead of getting curious. And I tried to I really wanted to push that feeling away, because it was not a good feeling. But I wanted to understand it. And so I did get curious about what was going on. And what I understood for me is that I was not spending my time in a meaningful way. And there’s nothing wrong with going shopping, right? Like it’s it can be enjoyable there can there right, like there can be purpose in it. But what I recognized in that moment, was that I was not choosing wisely. For myself, I was not choosing wisely relative to purpose, I was not choosing wisely, relative to meaning. Now there are other times right that I’ve certainly gone shopping, and I felt just fine about it. But this ability to, to feel those moments of something’s not quite right. And if we can get curious in those moments, then we have the opportunity to be taught what we do care about what does matter to us. And what does bring us a sense of purpose. And it doesn’t have to be in a judgmental way. It doesn’t have to be in a guilt laden way but it can it can be that gentle tap on the shoulder to say, what about this? What about meaning? What about purpose?
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:36
And you know, I think for sure what happens is so many of us move directly to emotional numbing when we have those unpleasant feelings come up. So we deny we avoid we find something to distract ourselves. And right we’ve got our phones, right, right with us. We’ve got social media that is always an endless scroll. And so we find something to distract ourselves with. Yet again, and then the vicious cycle of disconnection continues. But here’s the thing to know. And this is why it’s vicious, right with every evolution of the cycle, it becomes harder and harder for us to rescue ourselves from disconnection due to the numbing effects of avoidance. And so we need to learn to turn towards our emotional distress. It can, right like as a psychologist, I feel like that is one of the biggest things I’ve done over the years, right first, to help people live in their reality, to accept reality, and to tolerate their distress to know it’s not the end of the world, to know that you are not powerless in the face of pain and challenge and just emotional overwhelm. So we want to lean into our challenging emotions, our painful thoughts and difficult feedback, knowing that we can be resilient.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:55
So why then is disconnection a problem? Hopefully, you already have a sense for that. But you know, in addition to needing community in order to feel secure in life, right, which is something that happens as a function of connection, we also need to understand who we are as individuals, and the purpose of our daily lives. And so when we I want you to think about connection as kind of two levels, right? There’s connection with ourselves, and connection with others. And so this connection with ourselves actually sets a firm foundation to understand who are we? Who are you as a unique individual? What is your purpose? How do you find meaning in your daily life, and that as you build a foundation of self connection, that helps you to then expand right and move into connections with others. So it’s very difficult to have meaningful relationships, connected relationships with others when you are self disconnected. And of course, disconnection leads to loss of hope, broken relationships, lack of purpose, depression and anxiety over time. So we can see the fruits of this disconnection everywhere we look. Right, so one of the phenomenons that we have in the connected world, right in the digital world, is that it’s so easy to find our tribe or our people online, while losing meaningful face to face connection in our lives. And boy, that has really been exacerbated in the last year with the COVID pandemic.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:32
So you know, the social fabric of communities and church and the public square, it is fraying more and more as we turn to our online tribes and communities, rather than our neighbors and local communities. And it’s not that online communities can’t be valuable, they can be very valuable. But I want you to think about the online world, right, or the connected world as a bridge to meaningful connection. Because the way that we would the way we use those communities actually really matters. And so a couple of the ways that this shows up is, first of all, when we congregate online, it’s easy to block ourselves from ideas that we don’t like, right, and in a very real way, our connections, our conversations online, become an echo chamber. So it’s easy to find people that agree with you, and you run the risk. So this is the other thing that happens, you run the risk of developing more polarized beliefs as a function of these in group dynamics. Okay, so then when you’re faced with ideas that oppose yours, it’s much easier to judge label and hate the other person because apparently manners are not a thing on the internet, right? You don’t actually know the other person, you’re not meeting them at church, you’re not meeting them. In town, you’re not running into them at the bus stop. And so it’s it’s so much easier to label hate and judge from afar. And so right, just think about that, if you are having a vigorous debate of ideas with someone face to face. Everything about our physiology is geared toward being cooperative, maintaining civility, and working toward understanding and why is that right? It? Because this is how we survived for millennia, right? Like this is an evolutionary process.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:30
Because right if every time you had an argument with a neighbor, it came to blows, your neighborhood would not be around for long, right? Because you’d all decimate one another. But in the connected world, we can have our extreme beliefs, right that become potentially more extreme over time, so we can have our extreme beliefs unchecked. And then we tend to vilify anyone who disagrees with us, because we may never really run into them in real life. And of course, this is a problem and and not only breeds civil unrest which I’ve spoken about before on the podcast, and boy, we’re seeing a ton of that these days. But it also prevents meaningful connection. It blocks understanding it blocks, there’s no listening happening most of the time in those situations. And so in these ways that the connected world actually breeds disconnection. And right, not only that, but hate if we’re not careful. The other point is that in our global society, we are so much more mobile, right, which means we’re more disconnected or more isolated, or we live farther away from family and friends.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:46
So I come from a family of farmers. And I add, so myself and one cousin, are the only ones that live farther than 30 minutes away, because my whole family, they’re tied to the land, they’re tied to their hometown. And I think that’s a really unique phenomenon these days. Because we know that people are there, they’re much more mobile, they’re moving more often, right? Just think about my own life, born and raised in the same community, didn’t move away until I think I was 19. And then as a function of schooling and career, I think I think we moved like five or six times in the course of a decade, right. And of course, there was more disconnection with family members. And, you know, you have to work harder to maintain those connections.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:41
So you know, you may move to a new city and not know anyone for years at a time, which is so so sad, right? Like you don’t really get integrated into a community potentially, right. And, of course, you can lose your connection to your family, your history, and the meaning that comes from these rich relationships. Right now, I’m not saying these relationships are always easy, but they are rich, right? There’s a lot, there’s a lot there. So these are some of the ways that we see disconnection, right, we see the symptoms of disconnection. So now let’s go to our second question, which is, are you disconnected? And I want you to assess how disconnection might be showing up for you. And remember what I said, we all live in a connected world, right? Unless you’re living under a rock, or you’re totally off the grid, which in that case, you’re probably not hearing this podcast. But living in a connected world makes us susceptible to disconnection.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:42
Okay, so as you listen to these questions, I don’t want you to feel any guilt or shame, right? Because these are things that many of us are challenged by. And so I want you to listen up as I asked these questions, and just give a silent answer to each of them for yourself. So do you ever feel like you are just going through the motions of your life, but your heart just isn’t in it? Boy, I know I have felt that way at times. Do you feel distracted or checked out? Do you have chronic health concerns, right? Because that happens as a function of physical disconnection, physical and emotional disconnection, right? Because we don’t manage our stress. Do you struggle to feel true happiness or joy? in your life? When’s the last time you felt joy? When’s the last time you felt truly happy? Do you feel complacent about life? And relationships? Like you’re just caught? caught with the flow, right? Like you’re just going with the flow. And don’t don’t have a lot of direction like you don’t, you’re not self directed. Do you ask what’s the point? When it comes to life when it comes to goals when it comes to growth? Are you worried about upsetting others? This really shows up right when we are trying to follow the social script. We’re trying to do what the marketers are telling us to do. We’re trying to do what we see on social media. And so we we become people pleasers. We are worried about upsetting others. Do you lack empathy or compassion for others? Right? When we’re emotionally disconnected, it is hard to access compassion. Do you struggle with motivation? Right? This happens because we lose our connection to purpose. Purpose is very motivating. Having something that you deeply care about is a huge motivating factor in life. Do you find yourself doing things because it’s the right thing? or expected? Not because you want to now this can be a big one, I would say especially for you people pleasers, women. That might be maybe people pleasers. This can be a really Big one, right, like feeling so obligated. And I know for myself when the pandemic first hit, and everything really shut down, it was such a good opportunity for our family to assess why it really matters. And what what I realized is we had all of these obligations, that we’re not necessary, right? And that if you’re not careful, your schedule gets away from you. And you just you, you get put through the machine of life, and you’re not actually making intentional decisions.
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:32
So I think that was one of the best gifts of the pandemic personally. For me, there were lots of challenges about it, that it served as a reset button to really be intentional about my choices and my use of time. So are you indecisive? Right? When we’re disconnected, we really fear making the wrong decision. And think about this, when you’re disconnected, it’s hard for you to be in tune with your own needs, your own desires, your own sense of purpose, right? And so you, you get scared about making decisions, or you’re looking for, you know, the social cueing about decisions? Do you keep others at a distance? So you just you don’t risk vulnerability? Are you in physical pain, right? Because a big way that disconnection shows up is with the physical body. So saying, like, I know, I need to get in, but continuing to put off the health concerns. Do you seek external validation? Right? So we look to others for direction about what matters and what we should be doing in our lives? Rather than looking inside? Do you worry about making the wrong choice? Right? So again, we are disconnected from what we want what we desire, Do you sometimes make harsh judgments of others? Now this again, comes through that that disconnection from compassion. So it’s easy, very easy to make quick judgments, and to label people? So these are all signs of disconnection. And if you answered yes to some, or many of these questions, or recognize the signs of disconnection, others, well first of all, you’re in good company, but don’t go telling someone else that they’re disconnected that will not be that will not help with connection for sure. But start with having some compassion for yourself. About Yeah, like, This is hard. This is not this is like I’m not actually living my best life, right? Like if we think about that idea. And so, you know, this can often look like managing relationships, versus connecting in relationships, it can look like doing versus being, it can look like distracted versus present, there can be, again, that mind body disconnect. There are many factors that contribute to disconnection.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:54
So before you go getting down on yourself, just recognize there are a lot of factors, right from the messages we receive, to having screens around us all the time, to our own personal factors, right, like whether that’s around a desire to avoid or emotionally numb. And so let’s always start with compassion. So now I want to share with you three solutions to help you reconnect. So if you notice some of this in yourself, let’s help you start reconnecting. And then of course, stay tuned for next week’s podcast, because I’m going to be talking about the seven keys of self connection. And we’re going to be really talking about very practical ways, every single day that you can cultivate connection. But you know, we when we think about solutions, right? When we when we’re disconnected, we think the solution is maybe a new body, a new partner, that’s a big one, we get unhappy, and we think our marriage is the problem. A new house, a new car, and expensive vacation, right? We’re always looking outside of ourselves. And we make the fatal mistake. I really do believe this is fatal to our well being. The fatal mistake of believing our happiness, and sense of connectedness resides outside of us that things will make the difference, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:18
So whether it’s the paycheck, whether it’s the car, whether it’s the house, whether it’s the new partner, but when we chase after the shiny objects, when what we are really experiencing is disconnection. Those shiny objects will only highlight the extent of our disconnection. So when you get the new car, when you get the new house, you’re right, it will distract you for a little bit. But if what is at the root is disconnection, you will feel more empty. This is why we see people who accomplish great success be more miserable than ever. This is disconnection And so what we need to get clear on when we’re thinking about reconnection is that the solutions will never lie outside of yourself, they won’t lie in your relationship, they won’t lie in your job, they won’t lie it in a new house right? connection is an inside job.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:20
And from the research, right, there are three solutions, three keys to really help you re-connect. The first one is intention. And so this is where we make a commitment to living a different life, we make a commitment to living a better life, meaning a connected life. The second key is attention. We’ve got to build awareness about what’s happening, happening with us and to us over the course of our day, so that we’re not just going through the motions.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:56
So my hope was with this podcast that it did help you increase your awareness and your attention. And then the third thing is a simple question. And this is a question you can start asking yourself today. And it’s it’s a tool that I’ve been using, and it’s not hard. And it really does help you to increase your intention and your attention. And that question is, am I feeling connected to myself? So it’s a simple question. And you just asked that question several times through the day. So the way that I’ve been using it is all just all put reminders in my phone. And I have it written in my planner to draw my attention to it and I write so when I’m in the car, that sort of thing. I’ll ask Am I feeling connected to myself? And how do I know? Can I feel my breathing? What am I feeling tension in my head? Am I am I tense all over? Am I can I feel emotions? Right? Am I am I feeling happy? Am I feeling relaxed? So when you answer the question, am I feeling connected to myself pay attention to everything you can pay attention to what’s happening physically? Pay attention to what’s happening, happening emotionally, pay attention to your thoughts, are your thoughts all focused on the future, are your thoughts all focused on the past, that’s, that’s probably a good sign that you are disconnected. Because connection is always about the present moment. And it doesn’t mean we don’t make plans for the future. And we don’t learn lessons from the past. But primarily, we reside in the present moment. I mean, that’s true, we, we always only just reside in the present moment. But our minds can be travelers and heading different places. And so those are the three keys to really help you to start reconnecting. So an intention to live your life differently, to live with the intention to live a connected life, and then attention. So awareness about how disconnection shows up for you. Right? So is it Gosh, this darn phone is a problem, I’m gonna put it away. Right? I’m gonna block it at times. And then the question, am I feeling connected to myself and asking yourself that question several times throughout the day, you can journal about that, you can do a voice memo, you can just respond in your head. And then again, don’t miss next week’s podcast where I am going to be talking about the seven things that that the seven keys to self connection.
Dr. Melissa Smith 33:36
So the most self connected people, what do they do? And so head on over to my website to check out the show notes with all the great resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/disconnected So one more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/disconnected and of course where you find the show notes, you will find some good resources including a link to Dr. Klussman’s work on connection. And of course, I’d love to connect with you online right? Online connection can be meaningful, it can be a bridge, so I’d love to hear what you think of a podcast i’d love. If you share a review or you you join me on Instagram and tell me what you think. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai