People are not meant to go through life alone

As a psychology minor in college, one of the first studies we learned about in class was Harry Harlow's famous monkey experiment in the late 1950s.

Harlow wanted to prove wrong a previous theory that the only connection between mother and child is for food and safety. And so deprived baby monkeys were given a choice — to hang on to a fake monkey, made of soft terry cloth, or one made of wire with a baby bottle attached to it. And although it didn't have any food, the baby monkeys still spent significantly more time with the cuddly "mother" than the wire one.

Harlow concluded, "These data make it obvious that contact comfort is a variable of overwhelming importance in the development of affectional response, whereas lactation is a variable of negligible importance."

I am sharing this because I think, for all mammals, including humans, it's in our basic DNA to need others. No matter how independent and strong-willed you may be, I can guarantee that every once in a while, you get an unexplainable longing just to be held, comforted and told, "Everything is going to be alright."

And I don't think seeking the comfort of others makes you, in any way, weak. The world may tell you, "Toughen up" and "The only person you need is yourself," but we were meant to live in a community. Like the lyrics to the 1964 song "People," sung by Barbra Streisand, "People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world."

I have always believed that the ability to swallow your pride and know when you do need help makes a person strong — not weak. It is unhealthy to be emotionally cut off from other people.

I know — trust me I know — that it is hard to let others into your life for fear that they will hurt you. Because yes, when you do seek the help of others, there is a chance you will be let down because people are not perfect. But that doesn't mean you should just give up on people either.

Last month, I dealt with a bout of depression. And thanks to the help of my family, my friends and a Common Ground volunteer, I have come out on the other side. Without them, I would probably still be in that dark hole, not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. But they showed me that sometimes, the love and support of others can cure you — or at least make life not feel so hopeless. And it that's not enough proof that we need other people, then I don't know what is.

If you need someone to talk to, call Common Ground's 24/7 support line at 1-800-231-1127. They can refer you to a psychiatrist or a counselor if you need professional help.

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