July 11th is National Cheer Up the Lonely Day, and Springer Publishing Company wants to draw attention to the importance of healing presences in our lives when we are lonely or in need of help. People often overlook social acceptance and feelings of love as basic human needs, but it doesn’t take much to cheer up those around us and make them feel appreciated with a helping hand or a friendly face.
The following article has been adapted from Peter R. Breggin’s The Heart of Being Helpful: Empathy and the Creation of a Healing Presence.
There are many alternative ways to list or to describe the array of basic needs. There are needs for love and esteem; for emotional safety and security; for relief from extremely painful emotions such as loneliness, guilt, shame, and anxiety; for autonomy and independence; for recognition of one’s identity, individuality, or unique self; for authenticity, genuineness, sincerity, or honesty in our relationships; for the exercise of our cognitive, creative, and spiritual capacities; for the performance of useful and worthwhile activities; for purpose in our lives; for knowledge of our place in the past, present, and future history of our family, culture, and planet; for meaning beyond ourselves through family, country, humanity, nature, or a higher power.
We do not live by bread alone; often, we do not put bread ahead of our ethics and values - our more social or spiritual needs. Many of the basic needs are expressions of love, and bonding is both an expression of love and a method for satisfying a broad array of human needs. Bonding is a mutual relationship in which people assign great importance and meaning to each other. When people bond, they form a loving partnership to meet each other’s basic social needs.
Sometimes people act or talk as if they reject some of their basic needs, including bonding. Instead of pursuing love, they withdraw into relative isolation and loneliness. Whether destructive impulses are built into us or not, all people are sometimes motivated or driven in directions that are harmful to themselves and to others. Even with a relatively good upbringing in a more ideal society, many people would probably continue to struggle with self-defeating, lonely, or destructive feelings.
Therapists, family members, ministers, teachers, coaches, friends, and sometimes even strangers - all must approach “being helpful” as a way to help another person become more independent. While placing limits on the mutual satisfactions provided in helping relationships, we must not reduce the interchange to one direction only. In creating healing presence, we must recognize that the other person - the person we are helping - has the need to give to us as well. Most helping relationships become bonding experiences. In general, we cannot create the conditions for meeting other people’s needs only by talking about these needs. We create a healing environment by being helpers who radiate love, respect, or caring and who accept these expressions from others.
Everything good flows from love. Everything good is an expression of joyful awareness. A healing presence communicates this love; it addressed the need to love and be loved. Through the creation of a loving aura, healing presence encourages the resolution of hateful inner conflicts within the other person. People not only need to love each other, they simply need each other. There is too much emphasis in our society on what might be called pseudoindependence—making believe we don’t need or affect each other, which is essentially the failure to relate disguised as independence, which leads to loneliness. Therapists too often tell their clients, “No one can make you feel unhappy or make you feel happy. It has to come from within yourself.” Nonsense. People have an extraordinary capacity to make each other miserable and to bring joy to each other. One of the keys to successful living is to learn how to surround oneself with loving, empowering, ethical people, and to try to be one of those people for someone else.