When we are doing what social responsibility dictates, whether or not rules are imposed, how do we maintain our connections with people? As we are witnessing, there is a lot being written, discussed or displayed that underscores how crucial it is to be close to other human, and living beings.

Over 50 years ago, Harry Harlow, a psychologist, tested the notion that babies bond with mothers because of satisfaction of physiological needs such as food and water. Contrary to that hypothesis, it turned out that his subjects, rhesus monkeys, sought maternal contact as the primary motivator. Postulating from animals to people, contact comfort is extremely important to us as we navigate through life. Just look at the increase in pet adoption in these few weeks, not to mention the focus on the adverse consequences of isolation.

So what do we do now, when we practice social distancing? While I hugged friends and even some acquaintances, how do I get that closeness hormone, oxytocin, replenished to maintain my emotional balance? No wonder that this isolation exacerbates anxiety and depressive thoughts. On the other hand, what about those who now have to be with partners or family 24/7? Too little or too much of a good thing?

Here it might help to think of the difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness refers to the sense of lacking any connection to others and being in a negative state of mind. This is why one can feel lonely even in a group of people. In fact, perhaps one can feel lonelier in a crowd than by one’s self. Solitude is a positive state of mind where you enjoy your own company, find nourishment and healing in reflecting and being by yourself.

It is clear from personal communication, social, visual and print media that this is a time of challenges to our love life, and relationships. Family members who cannot get together, friends who cannot meet one another, lovers and partners who are either in different locales or frankly, who might want to be in different locales…We all experience an increase in our levels of stress. Mike Allen of Axios AM remarks today that: “ if past periods of emergency are any guide, this enforced togetherness could deepen relationships for years to come.” (http://tinyurl.com/yx5c89m5) To reach the other end, with our connections strengthened, we need to focus on priorities for our and our loved one’s physical and mental health. Towards that end, we can look at this time period as a respite, a gift that reinforces what is the key to a happy and balanced life: Emotional connection, love, kindness and compassion.

“We all need each other.” ~~ Leo Buscaglia

Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577