Where authentic human connection is depression is not. Depression wants to rob you of your most important relationships. It wants to hold you back from forming new ones. It wants to keep you emotionally and physically isolated. It wants to make you appear uninterested and boring. The more it can keep you from spontaneously interacting in the moment with the people you care about the better chance it has to win.
Like we talked about depression is characterized by turning away from life and relationships. You’ve got to fight your urge to follow its lead by forging new connections and increasing your closeness to the people you are already connected to. But those at risk for depression usually have worldviews and negative feelings about themselves that make connecting difficult.
A huge part of being able to authentically connect with others is your ability to love. You can’t love others unless you love yourself, and you may have been dealing with feelings of worthlessness and the secret belief that you are unlovable since childhood.
The first thing to keep in mind is that self-love is not narcissism. In fact it’s the furthest thing from it. That’s because loving is a state of being and does not require objects in order to exist. A loving person will love himself, his wife, his friends, his kids, his work, his culture, and anything else that comes across his path that is worthy of it. If one of these objects is taken away he will still be a loving person. His love does not require an object. Those who are narcissistic are not loving and therefore spend all their time and energy trying to get accolades from the environment to make up for it. They believe accumulating enough objects of love will solve the central issue. But since deep down they do not believe they are worthy of love a black hole is created that can never be filled. That’s why however many accolades a narcissist gets will never be enough.
Making the decision to take care of yourself by working out every day and meditating is making the decision to love yourself. Fighting through the neuroses that have been in place since childhood in order to get to know parts of yourself that are hidden is a decision to love yourself. And having the courage to open yourself up to new relationships characterized by honesty and increasing closeness is making the decision to love yourself and start authentically loving others.
One way to dramatically increase levels of connection with the people you care about is by deciding to stop treating them like possessions. They become people who are worthy of love for no other reason than that they exist. When someone feels he or she is loved by you not for the psychological or material functions they fulfill but simply because they are, you are on the path that all the great spiritual teachers across time have shown us. Remember that Jesus’ commandment was not to wait for someone else to love you but simply to love.
Increasing authentic human connection opens you up to more risk. First of all you risk that people will not like the real you. If you have always secretly felt unlovable this is an especially risky proposition. You also risk creating a better life for yourself only to one day lose it. The people you care the most about will one day die, or they might move on with their lives, or they might change. The more you love them and authentically connect to them the more it will hurt when they leave.
The gain is worth the risk and life is way too short to not experience true feelings of love and to know that you are loved authentically. Not because of what you do for people, but because you are a loving person who is worthy of it in return.