Community, Connection, and Compulsion


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Let’s just say the last few weeks have been unsettling if you live in the United States.

Here are just a few examples of stories that have hit the news feed:

– Three members of University of Virginia football team slain in shooting.

– Four University of Idaho students were slain in their beds while they slept.

– 5 killed after gunman opens fire at LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.

In fact, just last week my family faced our own scare when we had to flee a restaurant in Virginia when a gun was fired in the room next door killing one of the restaurant owners.

Honestly, when these headlines keep coming at us day after day it can feel kind scary. Are any of us safe? What type of world do we live in when there are events like this seemingly every week?

But you know what makes us even more fearful than the current social climate?

Being disconnected.

It’s true. We often tend to downplay our need for connection and relationships, but it’s an essential need for human beings. Communities, tribes, groups – they are a large part of what keeps us grounded and feeling safe.

UCLA professor Matthew Lieberman put it this way in his book, “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.”

“Being socially connected is our brain’s lifelong passion. It’s been baked into our operating system for tens of millions of years.”

And so, when we feel excluded, alone, or rejected, we also feel unsafe. And when we feel continually unsafe, we tend to rely on our brain’s primitive fight or flight instincts to navigate life’s challenges rather than critically evaluating each situation on its own merits.

So when danger is perceived, rather than leaning into the safety of our loving communities, we fight, run, or escape.


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This is why we say community is essential to recovery and why the opposite of addiction is connection.

Because it is the lack of connection, the absence of love and acceptance, and the lack of community that drives us to compulsive behaviors such as porn, masturbation, strip clubs, and more.

Like it or not, we can’t just turn off the innate need for community and love. And so, when these things have been absent or, worse yet, led to abusive situations in our lives, we feel unsafe and seek out alternative ways to feel connected, even if it’s a computer screen or in the arms of an escort. What are referred to as “maladaptive resources.”

The real challenge then for many of us is stepping out of our comfort zones and seeking help from the communities available to us, because the very idea of doing such a thing creates the possibility for rejection and more loss of connection.

It’s a catch 22.

We feel unsafe and disconnected because of the unhealthy relationships we find ourselves in, but opt to stay stuck in our addiction, so we don’t lose those connections as well.


Engage in a healthy community and seek out help, knowing that you may experience the pain of some rejection along the way.

Except here’s the thing…

The unhealthy relationships you fear losing by being honest about who you are and what you need are the relationships that cause you to feel unsafe in the first place.

It’s the threat of rejection.
It’s the anxiety of being seen as inadequate.
It’s the need for conditional approval and acceptance.

These are the thoughts running through your head, making you feel unsafe and disconnected, because the reality is you know those relationships are fragile. You know they may very well fracture if you self differentiate and dare to insist on being seen for the person you truly are, not the person others want you to be.

But living in fear and outside of healthy community is no way to live. Exchanging your health and wholeness for a network of artificially maintained relationships is a bad trade-off.

Pursue genuine relationships based on real acceptance and not only will you feel safer, but less likely to turn to compulsive behaviors in moments of stress, angst, and uncertainty.

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