What are the alternatives? What else would you put number one? Some people might say God is more important than people, but in my religion, Judaism, the way you love God is by loving your fellow. People who get lost in God to the extent that their human connections suffer are usually freaks. Nobody looks at them and thinks, “I want to be like that.” All those I know who are so God intoxicated that they are cut off from people are psychological basket cases. They’re wracked with anxiety. They have trouble sleeping. They’re unhappy. Usually they were neglected as kids so they never learned to attach normally. They hate the confrontation and messiness that comes with close relationships, so they lose themselves in religion because that’s easier than dealing with friends and family.
For some of my peers, the most important thing in life is their work. Guys are more prone to this than women. They put everything into their job and then want to coast in the rest of their life. Workaholism, like religion, can be an escape from your feelings. If these workaholics learned to attach to other normally and drop their addiction, they’d likely be more successful with their work, not to mention their life.
For some people I know, exercise is the most important thing in life. They literally run away from their feelings. They obsess about working out because it gives them a feeling of mastery and a way to escape from the difficulty of human connection.
I do think there are exceptional individuals who rightly devote themselves to a cause or to a creation above everything else. We’re better off because the Vilna Gaon studied Torah 16 hours a day and Theodore Herzl founded modern Zionism and Steve Jobs drove Apple and Bill Gates made Microsoft.
It’s funny that I put human connection as the most important thing in life because I’ve failed in this area and have led a disconnected life, but it is precisely because I have the pain of loneliness that I see the importance of connection. I know I never learned to attach normally and so through my life I’ve attached to food, fantasy, sex, love, sports, etc. Yet I have known enough connection that I know in my bones how good it is. Much of this I did not create, but simply received as a gift. People have come along in my life (the Cherry family at Avondale, the Muth family at Pacific Union College, Cathy Seipp,etc) and adopted me and carried me into normality for months and years at a time.
One of the worst feelings is being lonely in a crowd. You stand in a gathering and all around you people attach normally but nobody wants to talk to you. I remember at LimmudLA, this woman I met said to me later, “Sometimes I just looked at you and felt sorry.”
I get nervous at such parties and tear up the lemon in my drink and just stand there holding the rind.
This keen pain of disconnection smashes through my defenses and reminds me that something is very wrong. Normally I arrange my life so that I don’t have to confront my failures but then they get thrown in my face and I realize I have to work through painful stuff.
The thru-line in my disorder is a desire to transgress. These impulses don’t bring people closer to me and the more disconnected I get, the louder they scream. When I’m mixing with people every day, I’m almost normal. When I isolate, I get weird.
I assume that sharks don’t think about water. They take it for granted. So too I assume that people who attach normally don’t think about attachment as much as do I.
If most people called me up right now and asked me to coffee, I’d want to decline so I could concentrate on my writing, a solitary pursuit. I only really dig about 1% of humanity. Now, if someone from that one percent called me up, I’d accept.
Before I understood that I had an attachment disorder, I just thought I was best cut out for solitary pursuits. I took it for granted that I wasn’t good at playing nicely with others, so let me find opportunities where I can just do my own thing. I wanted to avoid growing. I didn’t think I had a choice. I’d failed so much at group endeavors, I just assumed I had to go it alone.
I know there are many things I could do to increase my connection with those I love but I’d rather be lazy. I’d rather write what I wanted on my blog and on my Facebook. I’d rather wear my old shorts and t-shirt. I’d rather say what I wanted. I’d rather think of myself as a heroic iconoclast than as a pathetic loser but there’s probably more growth in exploring the uncomfortable feeling.