S3E9 Connection

Dr. Rubin introduced the idea of connection as something that is not measurable, and humans are in need of it. Of course many of us are still recovering from the pandemic and what it meant to connect during this time versus returning now to the present moment and re-learning how to connect. Dr. Pete is able to bring it to the East so that listeners can see how to weave the behavior of connection with the eastern spirituality practice. There is no moment other than this one; this one as you read and click to listen to this episode and learn about tools for stronger connection with other humans, values, and life.




Nikki: Well, Pete, today we are talking about something that we thought we'd already talked about, but we hadn't, which is connection, right?


Pete: Hey. Yeah. I mean, it seems like something that we often talk about, because we do, so now we're going to just give a whole episode just to connection.


Nikki: Yeah, I know. I think you're right. Like, I think we say the word connection all the time; we talk about like, connection to values. We certainly did an episode on Sex and Connection; we talk about connection to those we love. But, you know, I think it's like a word that honestly, it's funny, I've been thinking about this quite a bit recently. I feel it's been coming up in my, my work a lot where it's maybe something that we don't always define, you know, it's like one of those, it's kind of like values in general. People are like, I know I have values, but I guess I've not really sat down and like got really clear about what it means. And I think connection is one of those experiences that don’t get operationalized that often.


Pete: Yeah, because perhaps people are afraid of losing connection. Because sometimes you think you're connected, but you're not, and yet we all have those friends that perhaps we are super connected with, where we might not talk to them very often. And then what we do, it's like we spoke yesterday. I know you like my definition so, actually one of them is a supplier of narcotics, but that's not what we're talking about.


Nikki: Oh, that is hands down not what we're talking about at all here. No.


Pete: It's funny that that came up, but it's a connection in which a person thing or idea is linked or associated with something else, you know? But what does that mean in terms of psychology, I guess that’s what we're going to talk about today.


Nikki: Yeah. I think that definition is definitely a Miriam Webster, is that what it is?


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: Yeah, that sounds very like of the physical world. Kind of like I was connecting this microphone to my Ear Pods, you know what I mean? That's a kind of connection, but like how does it factor into psychology? And I think like maybe that's where I can provide my own definition here operationalized, if I may.


Pete: You may. 


Nikki: Yes. So it's interesting, I think it's technically not tangible right? Like, we can't see it. We can't measure it. A former supervisee of mine, we used to talk a lot about like the vibes that you feel and she told me, shout out to Olivia if she listens to this. She told me one day she's going to create a scale to measure vibes and she's going to name it after me. And I was like, thank you, that's very kind. So it is something they're saying like, we can't see it and yet we all know when we're connected and when we're disconnected both to ourselves or to other, I'm going to say living beings or actually nature. We know the feeling of being connected and it's just interesting because it's there's like a resonance to it. There's a depth, there's like, this is where it starts, I think get a little bit intertwined with values or even spirituality, right? 


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: It's a very nourishing experience. And the thing I've been thinking a lot about recently is how connection and love is not the same thing. 


Pete: Oh yeah.


Nikki: That I think about like, we often think you're really connected to people you love, but I think they're people that I love very deeply and that there's times where I feel more or less connected to them for whatever reason. So I'll pause for a second. What do you think about my definitions?


Pete: Well, I want us to clarify them just a little bit.


Nikki: Sure, sure.


Pete:  And I think that we're going to see a lot in the East, you know, you mentioned spirituality and I think connection is something. Because some of our listeners will get it, but like you said, you can't measure it but yet we've all known when something feels right. And that's what connection is, and that's the vibes. It's totally vibes. Especially, you know, in the practice of therapy.


Nikki: Yes, yes. And again, it's probably hard maybe kind of going back to like, why do we not define it? It's because like, in some ways it's hard to define like language. You know, we talk a lot about this on this podcast. Language has a lot of limitations and like, words don't exactly capture it.


Pete: Pause there for a second; I think that's probably the definition.


Nikki: Words don't capture what the experience of connection is?


Pete: Yeah. So we'll say what it's not. But that's really, I think, what it is because you can't truly measure it, you can't see it. Well, maybe someone could see it. I mean, maybe it's going to be in our episode of psychedelics, you know? Because I think there are things of like aura right?


Nikki: Sure. But, even that I would say like, it's still not the experience. Those might be things that like hint at or suggest or represent just like words and language represents connection but it's like, you know when you feel it and you know when you don't. And I certainly think about that a lot of, like, I know when I feel connected to people in my life or to animals. I know when I feel connected to nature or not, I know when I feel connected to my own spirituality or not. And you know, like, obviously like I don't feel connected to everything all the time. I think that's also important to know too, is like we, we will feel disconnection, that's part of living a human life you know, we're tired or whatever.


Pete: Absolutely.


Nikki: And not having enough connection or not returning back to it is very, maybe like draining, or needs to burnout. I don't know. Does that resonate with you?


Pete: Yeah. I think we did something on compassion fatigue. So it could right? Because if you're super connected you're having passion, compassion and yeah, you could easily get burnt out. I'm curious because you started this by saying you've been thinking a lot about how connection and love are not the same, so, could you maybe just say more about?  


Nikki: No, I think what I was saying a moment ago in terms of, I don't know, I guess I've always thought about like, when you really love somebody, you're really connected to them. And I've just thought about certain relationships in my life at this stage in my life where I feel less connected to some people. And I don't mean less connected, like not talking to people I mean, like a depth of connection.


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: And I don't mean this as a bad thing by the way, I just mean it like experientially, but that doesn't actually negate or water down the depth of my love for those people. And I think that's just something that in my own self, I kind of was like surprised about. I always think about feeling disconnected, like, you know, in a partnership or friends, like sometimes you feel connected, sometimes you're not, whatever. But I thought, oh, sometimes there are times where, you know, given somebody's own self-growth or self-evolution they're just not able to go as deep for whatever reason. And that's going to impact how deep of a connection you can feel with somebody but that doesn't mean you don't love them. It's like; you can really love somebody that you're not as connected to.


Pete: Yeah. And when you say that, I think of like psychological insight, right. Because if it’s hard to say be connected with someone that you're not at the same level of psychological insight.


Nikki: Yes. 


Pete: And so it does take some values or similarities to connect.  And, from the East we have yang and yang.  And so, you know, ying and yang, most listeners have heard of that. And it's sort of a homeostatic approach to life that everything needs to be balanced out and so even in some part of connection, opposites do attract.  So I want to be clear that the far listeners, it's not that we have to have all similarities, like the same level of psychological insight or cog or intellect or interests, you know.


Nikki: Well, I think that's interesting because I hear what you're saying and I think that's true. I'll use this as an example. I'm thinking of like, people talk about in like therapy a lot. For example, maybe they have a parent who is kind of like not understanding something in their life for whatever reason. Or the parent has certain kind of psychological limitations.


Pete: Sure.


Nikki: And so, the patient doesn't feel that connected to that parent, but the person might also really love their parent.


Pete: Oh yeah.


Nikki: And I think that's more what I'm talking about because that part I think sort of like surprised me when I started to notice that or think about it, right. Because sometimes other times we really, really love somebody and we also feel really deeply connected to them at the same time. And I think it's just important to know, like if you have someone in your life that you really love, but the connection isn't as deep as you want it to be, that's okay. Like, there's love there. It's like that's, they're different things.


Pete:  Yeah. Well, they're mutually exclusive perhaps. And what I was actually thinking is how do we foster connection?


Nikki: Now how do we cultivate it?


Pete: Yeah. 


Nikki: Well, I was going to ask you since you were thinking about it, you know.


Pete: I was thinking to ask you, but Okay.


Nikki: Yeah.


Pete: So ways that people can cultivate connection could be through vulnerability.  So that's what that would mean, it would be sharing, you know, so sharing some stories with somebody about something that you're feeling challenged about or not . You know, or something that's going really well. It could be meditating together or praying together. You know it could be going hiking on every Saturday so, things that you can do to try and foster it. It's interesting because I hear exactly what you're saying in terms of the relationship with love and anybody that's loved something or someone knows that there are times in that where you don't feel connected, and that's okay.


Nikki: And that's okay. That's just human and I think what you're bringing up is also important in that it gets a real dialectic here, right. Because yes, there are things that we can do to deepen connection and you know, there's sharing activities, sharing your own emotional world. Vulnerability is actually like a necessary ingredient to deepen connection, right?


Pete: Absolutely. 


Nikki: Guess there's, this is like different types of connection, different levels of it.


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: And I was actually thinking when you were talking like, another aspect of it is like practicing authenticity, like being yourself, like being holy yourself. And that, you know, tends to also attract others that are also being holy themselves and there's, I don't know, room for connection in that. I think that's something that I've experienced quite a bit of.


Pete: And so when you think about that, what would you say about connecting with colleagues? Because I think, so you said there's different types of connections, so we're thinking about, we've mentioned family, you know, maybe friendships and there is probably a spectrum.


Nikki: That's what I was just thinking. It's like a spectrum or degrees and it's like how everything is, and all of the degrees along that spectrum are all valid, right?


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: It's just exactly like what's workable for you with this individual, this situation, this person or animal. I think, look, it can be tempting, you know, having human brains right. To like, put really deep connection up on a pedestal. And I would say yeah, deep connection can be very nourishing. And, we also need just like light connections sometimes too. Sometimes, you know, maybe you're just like to be honest, like you can feel a sense of connection just to humans like if you're walking around your neighborhood. Like feeling the energy of the people around you, you know? I think that's just important too, that there's like variability in the ways we can experience it. And it's important to check in with yourself about like, where do I want and where do I need connection and then how do I get that right?


Pete: Yeah. Because all of us have probably been on a subway or a yoga class or a plane and maybe not even spoken with somebody and yet felt connected, you know, because we had a shared experience.


Nikki: Yeah, a shared moment.


Pete: Yeah. A shared moment and so that is something that we could also think about. You know, in the east, the teaching here is like interconnectedness right? This idea that everything is connected, you know, the air we breathe is connected and that we all share the same light. So, anyone that's ever taken yoga when you say Namaste at the end, you're saying like, I see the light inside of you that's inside of me. And for me, when I first started studying the Buddhism I started with more of the Tibetan literature, which was more about that.  And so I remember like in grad school kind of walking around and looking at trees and trying to create connection,  because that's a lot of what they taught. And then I'm a slow learner, so it wasn't until like years later I recognize like tree hugging. And I was like, oh, right, it's sort of a pejorative thing to say, and it's a very powerful experience to truly feel these living things that have been here for hundreds of years for some of them.


Nikki: I'm glad you're bringing up the concepts of interconnectedness because I think we want to make sure that we say is obviously, and Pete and I always make sure to, you know, bring in context here and cultural context, and we're Americans, right?


Pete: Yes.


Nikki: And American culture is highly individualistic, and that's not bad, I want to be clear. It’s not bad; it's just a version of society, of value that's valued here. And so I think that interconnectedness is often a very difficult concept for a lot of Americans and probably other cultures that you know, ascribe to an individualistic worldview.  Because we think of ourselves as separate right? And what I think is really interesting is that you know, the concept of interconnectedness, which is talk about, and obviously all these eastern spiritual traditions, it also aligns. I love my physics, you know?


Pete: Yes. 


Nikki: You know, we can also think about through like a western physics lens, nothing is separate. Everything is made of atoms.


Pete: That's right.


Nikki: Everything is made of, you know, molecules, atoms that we tend to think of space, literally like the air as like, oh, my skin ends and then there's air. It's like, no, no, no, no, no. Everything is made of atoms.


Pete: Right.


Nikki: Separateness as an illusion.


Pete: Right.


Nikki: And so I just think that's a very difficult concept conceptually for the way that you know, and at least American society, we tend to frame things. It's like, I am the individual and my skin ends, and then there's this thing on the outside of my body, as opposed to like, no, no, no. It's all made of the same stuff here.


Pete: Well, and that's where we say there is no I. There is no me,  and so sometimes as I've done like interviews, or they'll say like, oh, what are your credentials and all this stuff, and I'm like, none. You know, they're like, wait, what? It's like, well, because they don't matter. And, that's also like this like eastern idea of emptiness, which is often like directly linked with interconnectedness or interdependence. You know, emptiness is the idea that sort of what you're just saying is that it's all empty too. Like, you know, molecules and the fuels and the protons, neutrons, electrons that like, there's no starting or endpoint to any of it.


Nikki: Right. And I think, you know, I've mentioned this before, it's like where the translation, I think to English also makes it hard to understand, like, the term empty is probably not a great word, right. That even though it's what's used, because it's like our brains are like, yeah, nothing. And it's like, no, no, no. It's the opposite of nothing. It's filled with something.


Pete: With something.


Nikki: Yeah. And so, we've been talking, Pete and I, we need to do an episode in psychedelics, neither him nor her. Or experts in the new psychedelic therapies we definitely want to have a guest on that. But, you know, if anybody out there has read any of the articles about some of the literature I've read, I went to a really interesting training about it. One of the most common things in psychedelic assisted therapy, or if you a listener or anybody you know has ever used psychedelic substances, one of the things most people report is this experience of like losing the self and the connectedness to everything.


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: And I think that's so powerful and obviously fascinating. 


Pete: And it made me think that I just with a client recently I was saying, but what also think about like a geriatric like someone who's like 80 or 90, like what are they worried about? You know? And, and so they get to a place of less worry. You know, especially as they've done, what is it integrity versus despair. You know, Eric’s in this like last stage of sort of reflecting on life and what I've done, who I am. And then at that point none of that actually matters. You know, you're really just in the moment, which that could be seen also as emptiness. You're right, with the translation piece. There's also this idea of like zero, you know, in some of the other translations which do the interconnectedness piece as well, you know. And I guess like you started off by saying, is our brains and especially in the west, do not like this, right? We want a hierarchy, you know.


Nikki: We want a math problem everything. I mean, I literally just referenced physics we want logic and we want things to be neat, right? Like thinking of our bodies as separate it's just like more contained. I mean, it makes sense. And again, whether you live in a western culture or not, you have a human brain and so, some degree of this is going to exist in all of us. And it seems like Pete and I, we really got a little bit away from our initial sort of. But it's like, ultimately what we are getting away from is to see like, this is about connecting that like letting go of the self and seeing the connectedness of all things. And they're just, you know, there is no such thing as nothingness, everything's made of Adams. It's like connection is available literally at any moment in all situations and varying degrees, you know? But we have to be willing to open up to that, I would say.


Pete: Yeah. And you and I are connected.


Nikki: We are. That is true.


Pete: And so as we're wrapping up, like what are some sort of last things about ways of connecting or, so for maybe a listener out there that's wanting to…., like we said, some of them, but I'm wondering, you know, ways that you and I stay connected from on the east and west coast?


Nikki: Yes. I think it's like what you said, Pete, which is like, obviously, there're the sort of tangible practices of making time and space for the people, places and things that are important to you and you experience connection around. But I also think it's about a willingness to open up and to be vulnerable and to be oneself. And I think you know, listeners if you practice that you can you can get curious and reflect on like how is that impacting my level of connection? And if I want or need more, what can I do? This has been When East Meets West, I'm Dr. Nikki Rubin.


Pete: And I'm Dr. Pete Euconomou. Be present, Be brave. This has been When East Meets West. All material is based on opinion and educational training of doctors Pete Euconomou and Nikki Rubin.


Nikki: Content is for informational and educational purposes only.