Of Human Bonding

Of Human Bonding

by Susan Rosenthal

Human beings are social beings. We need to feel valued, and we suffer when we think we don’t measure up. This is what my patients teach me. Two of them, John and Jane, encouraged me to tell you their story.

John had been depressed for years, despite taking medications. Drinking with his friends helped him feel better, but Jane was very angry and threatened to leave him if he didn’t stop drinking. They were causing each other unbearable pain, yet neither wanted to end their marriage of 40 years.

As I listened to them complain about one another, I tried to put myself in each of their shoes. John thought Jane was angry because he didn’t meet her expectations. Unable to please her, he felt hurt and hopeless (thus the depression) and drank for relief. Jane thought John was spending so much time drinking with his buddies because they mattered more to him than she did.

They were suffering from a social problem that is especially common among working-class people.

We live in a society that teaches ordinary people not to be needy, not to talk about their needs, and not to recognize that they all need the same things. The less worthy people feel, the less they expect, and the more employers can profit by overworking them, underpaying them and discarding them when they are no longer productive. By devaluing the working class and depriving millions of what they need, a tiny elite has become obscenely wealthy.

People who are devalued tend to devalue themselves. And when people devalue themselves, they have difficulty accepting love. It’s just too confusing to be devalued and valued at the same time. This inner conflict can cause us to push away our loved ones in the mistaken belief that they really don’t value us (or not enough to take away our pain).

People can accept love only if they realize that they are and always have been valuable. They have been treated as not valuable because they live in a social system that profits by devaluing people. Think about it.

If all people were valued from birth to death, they would never accept bad treatment, exploitation or oppression. They would never accept capitalism. They would demand a society where human needs come first.

By valuing John and Jane, I became a bridge they could use to reconnect with each other. Through me, they could see how much they mattered to each other. Until then, each had assumed that they valued the other more than the other valued them. This sense of not being valued, created by capitalism, lay at the root of their most intimate misery.

After several months of therapy, John stopped drinking, he no longer felt depressed, and he looked 10 years younger. Jane was no longer angry because they were talking more and spending more time together. They were working as a team, instead of against each other, which made their problems more manageable.

Therapy can heal individual wounds, but it cannot change the world. To do that, we need to organize a mass movement that can end capitalism, the source of all human pain.

In the process of building that movement, we will discover our value. And we will gain the strength and confidence to go after what we want and deserve – a society based on strong social bonds, not one that tears them apart for profit.

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