People all over the world are currently meeting up through friends or work at bars or cafés, or online.
It’s no secret that both in our hearts and minds, the relationships we seek and enjoy are what we cherish the most. We enjoy meeting and connecting with people and despise being separated from our loved ones by distance, divorce, or loss.
According to Ray Baumeister and Mark Leary (1995), humans have “a pervasive drive to form and maintain at least a minimum quantity of lasting, positive, and significant interpersonal relationships”.
The need to belong is a basic human motive.
If you have any doubt that humans are innately social beings, take a moment to reflect on the amount of time you spend with others — talking to them, flirting with them, confiding in them, or worrying for them.
Indeed, the need for belonging runs too deep that being neglected, rejected, secluded, or stigmatized can cause us a lot of suffering.
The Need For Affiliation
As social beings, we cannot help but be drawn to each other. We tend to do almost everything together — playing, working, living. It goes as far as making lifetime commitments together.
We have an innate desire for social contact — a need for affiliation.
When it comes to social interaction, we tend to look for a balance. On some days, we crave the company of our friends and family. On others, we just want to be left alone. In one way or another, we try to manage our own personal needs for affiliation. But what is most definite is that we all want to be with people at some point.
Humans seek affiliation when experiencing stress, loneliness, as well as lack of power or influence.
We resort to affiliation especially in times of stress. When we feel we’re threatened, fear is triggered. That’s when we’re motivated to be affiliated with others, especially with those who have been in our shoes and faced similar threats. However, this only applies when you think that by being with others, the negative impact of the stressful situation will be reduced.
But how can the presence of others reduce stress?
It’s possible that when you’re facing a threat, you seek another person to gain cognitive clarity about the danger you’re in. That is, a person under stress seeks to affiliate with others who can help in coping with the danger.
Stress is not the only motivator of affiliation.
Lack of power or influence can fuel the need to affiliate with others and foster new friendships. In fact, participants that were primed with low power were not only more interested in joining a campus service aimed at fostering friendships but also seeking greater physical proximity to a partner (Case, Conlon, Maner, 2015).
As social beings, we seek affiliation. But when we have less contact than we want, we tend to feel lonely. We feel isolated.
The reality is that we are all prone to feeling lonely at some point in our lives. That’s natural. But it can be particularly problematic when instead of driving us to form relationships, loneliness consumes us so much so that we feel like we’re getting buried in that bubble of ours.
Loneliness can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re isolated with negative thoughts circulating in your mind.
The next time you feel ashamed about feeling lonely, it’s important to remember that the need for social connection is something we all share.
Go out more, meet new people.
You might meet the one who makes the world a somewhat better place.