Oct 162017 0 Responses

The Hidden Problem of a Hurried Life

We have a condition and we don’t even know it. The symptoms are well-defined, but we have wrongly diagnosed the true issue. We think life is busy, we have no choice, or something is wrong with other people. What we don’t see is that we are living at a pace which no human being was ever intended to live.

Relationship Hypoxia

A potentially fatal threat to pilots is hypoxia. It’s a lack of oxygen to the brain and even before it causes death, it greatly impairs judgment. In aviation, hypoxia occurs in two ways: either a pilot in a small plane (without a pressurized cabin) flies higher than legally allowed or a large plane loses pressurization in the cabin. If cabin pressure is lost suddenly, it’s dangerous but a pilot might have time to put on an oxygen mask. It if happens slowly, the pilots risk suffering from hypoxia without knowing it.

The trouble with hypoxia is that its symptoms are subtle. Some might feel a slight pressure behind one eye. Others might experience a subtle headache. Some might experience euphoria. Symptoms aren’t universal. Each person experiences differing symptoms, but everyone enduring hypoxia suffers from impaired judgment. The problem is, they don’t know it.

In order to avoid a potentially fatal situation, pilots must learn to recognize the symptoms of hypoxia. They must realize the pain behind their eye isn’t stress or a subtle headache isn’t the result of a long day. If they fail to recognize their unique symptoms, they risk hypoxia impairing their judgment to such an extent that they won’t be able to land the plane. Left unchecked, hypoxia could turn the pilots into dead men flying.

Many of us are experiencing symptoms of relational hypoxia and we don’t even know it. Our relationships are not getting the oxygen they need in order to thrive. This results in a disconnect between us and others. Because we were created to be connected with others, being disconnected creates negative symptoms in our lives. (See: The Defining Characteristic of Long-Term Friendships)

We feel:

  • unknown
  • bored
  • unsupported
  • misunderstood
  • isolated
  • depressed
  • lonely
  • exhausted
  • frustrated
  • restless

We see the symptoms, but we wrongly diagnose their cause. We think they are the result of the wrong job, a bad marriage, growing older, not having enough money, a frustrating boss, irritating co-workers, dysfunctional family, dashed dreams, etc. While they might play a role, a greater indicator of our emotional condition is the state of our relationships. To the extent that we feel connected with others, we feel safe, understood, loved, supported, valuable, engaged, and encouraged.

Connection and Joy

Harvard released an 80-year study on what creates happiness in humans. Feeling connected through meaningful relationships was the number one indicator of a person being happy. They were so surprised by the correlation between joy and connection that they concluded the two words can be used synonymously.

Consider: if you ever think I wish I was happier or more joy-filled, what you are actually thinking is “I wish I was more connected.”

While our relationships can’t be credited for every negative emotion in our lives, we must first assume that most problems are relationship problems. It’s not a sign a relationship is struggling, but it is a sign we need to reconnect or spend more time together or take time for one another.

When I feel frustration with Jenny, it often shows that we haven’t spent a proper amount of time together. The disconnect expresses itself in a frustration over another issue. Whenever I feel skeptical of the motives of a co-worker or friend, it often reveals I haven’t connected with them lately. As we spend time together and I’m reminded of the goodness of their heart, I better understand their perspective regarding the issue I was struggling with. It doesn’t mean I agree with them on the issue, but I have a better ability to understand why they hold the opinion they possess. (See: Fixing Broken Friendships)

The key is to connect the negative emotion with the state of the relationship rather than using it to judge another person’s heart. First I should try to feel connected, then I can properly evaluate the situation.

Breath Relational Air

When a pilot recognizes symptoms of hypoxia, they have to act quickly. Failure to do so leads to death. To save themselves (and others), they must get oxygen. Either by taking the plane to a lower altitude or by putting on an oxygen mask, pilots must intake oxygen so that their judgment isn’t impaired.

So too, when the symptoms of relational hypoxia are present, we must breathe the dense air of healthy relationships. A meaningful connection is the only answer to many of life’s problems. To deny the symptoms or to wrongly diagnose them is to seal our tragic fate. To connect with others is a certain step to alleviating many of the problems in our lives.

With whom do you need to connect today?

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