Tanya Ruckstuhl LICSW
I’ve been thinking about freedom versus connection and how we are continually trying to live in balance between the two states of being. Freedom is the ability to experience personal power; to act on our own behalf and make choices without the burden of consideration of others. Connection is security: its being part of something larger than ourselves, being important to another person who is equally important to us, as well as expanding our understanding of the world via other perspectives and ideas.
To be our healthy we need both freedom and connection. In relationships we need to recognize that our own balance is not going to be the same as our partners. My friend S tells me about how her husband listens to baseball on his transistor radio.
“I get mad at him because he’s not available when he’s listening to the games.” She wants more connection and he wants more freedom.
Another friend tells me how her husband wants her to retire like he has so she can be more available to him but she doesn’t want to give up the stimulation of her work.
“I don’t want to sit around watching TV.” She wants more freedom while he wants more connection.
This happens in non-intimate relationships as well and to make matters still more complex, different people connect in different ways.
My friend K loves to chat on the phone. I would rather get together than chat on the phone, but because K is a dear friend and I know her preferences, I will call and talk. She would prefer we talked more often, and thinks of the phone as a valuable tool to enhance connection. I prefer to use the phone as a tool to make plans to get together. Both of these are types of connection, but they are different.
There’s nothing inherently superior about freedom or connection. There’s nothing inherently superior about the phone versus the coffee shop. We all need to find ways to negotiate getting our own needs met interpersonally as well as individually and also-just as important-we need to expect that other people will have their own formula for this same balancing act.
It’s not all about you and it’s not all about me—it’s about all of us.