It appears to me that how we relate dramatically affects the direction of our lives and determines whether we grow or not. Think with me for a moment about how the people in your life seek connection and how this directly affects who they have become.
Perfunctory or Emotional — For some, life is about duty. As long as one is doing all the “right” things, the road through life is expected to be smooth. This certainly makes sense, but unfortunately a perfunctory commitment to one’s relationships is a sure ticket to a meaningless, monotonous, mechanical sort of existence. Life becomes nothing more than going through the motions. Contrast this with a vital, exciting, dynamic relating that is based on close emotional contact and personal relating. The focus changes from doing the right things into being the right person. Growth through connection becomes the focus.
Indulgence or Satisfaction — To indulge yourself with the false, erroneous belief that life is “all about me” is perhaps the most predictable road to despair. Although many aggressively protect this belief, constantly seeking to keep the focus upon themselves, I have never seen this produce anything other than sadly immature, lonely, and unhappy individuals who know that regardless of whatever they may have, it will never satisfy what they truly want. Those who seek to truly be satisfied understand that this can come only through meaningful, worthwhile relationships. Nothing else, not money, status, fame, can replace this.
Withholding or Sharing — Withholding, or inhibiting sharing affection and/or being unresponsive to the needs of others around us is characteristic of many people. It’s not that these individuals don’t feel a need to share affection or be emotionally responsive to the needs of others. Rather, it is fear or lack of courage that prevents them from possibly becoming too vulnerable. Keeping one’s defenses up is safer, but unfortunately prohibits connection. Your willingness to share connection does make you more vulnerable to rejection, but it also makes expression of affection and the free flow of feelings more possible.
Ultimately, how you seek connection will determine whether you predominantly experience feelings of emptiness, irritability, and dissatisfaction — leading to loneliness ... or instead experience feelings of happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, and emotional closeness — leading to happiness.