It’s All About Relationships

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The other day I entered my local bank as I do every Thursday afternoon. I was acknowledged by name by a couple of the staff, and then a conversation evolved as one of them had seen me out walking my dogs.

As I have only lived in Corona del Mar for the past four months, I was surprised they knew who I was and remembered something about me. Being recognized and having a genuine interest beyond me being a customer felt good. As I left, it put a smile on my face and a little more energy in my step.

I stopped to think through this. I had been going to the same bank in another city for 11 years and had never felt acknowledged, let alone have anyone remember me by name.  So what is this about? It is all about relationships. We need relationships. It is the “why” and “how” we exist.

And yet we are living in a world that dictates independence. “Be strong,” “do it yourself’ attitude.

Quoting Mother Teresa, she stated, “The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love…”

As a society, unfortunately, we have swung to the extreme of independence and underplay the importance of actually depending on each other and to help regulate each other.

I tend to lean more towards what Gandhi believes: “Where there is love there is life.” In other words, we need relationships to feel truly alive.

Think about it, if we do not have relationships, are we really living?

Dr. James Coan at the University of Virginia conducted a study inducing a stressful situation to women participants to activate the hypothalamus. Each group of women was told they were going to get a mild electric shock. The first group was told alone and as expected the hypothalamus lit up due to the stress.  The second group of women got to hold a stranger’s hand before being told about the electric shock, there was now less activity in the hypothalamus. While the third group of women got to have their hand held by their husbands, the dip in activity in the hypothalamus was much more dramatic.

So what does this mean? It means that when we have love or connection to others, we can go with the bumps in life much easier.

I can relate to this as I had an MRI done a few years back, which I was anxious about until a friend volunteered to go with me. I had no anxiety at all, and I know it was because she was there. While I was having the MRI I noticed I kept looking at her every so often and it made me feel calm. Think about how people, especially children look at someone for reassurance and how it instantly calms them down. We help regulate each other in our lives even by just a glance, a smile, a hand being held, a hug, or a text.  Never minimize how important each of these are. Yes we need each other–not just one on one, but on a larger scale.

One of the reasons I moved to CdM was that it is a community. My neighbor called me when there was a large package left on my doorstep, another neighbor said if I need help with anything to let them know. People are always stopping and talking to me as I am out front watering my plants.

I feel part of something. I feel known and seen, and feel grateful that I get to live here.

Dr. Shelly Zavala can be contacted at [email protected] or




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