Written by Francine Baffa, LICSW, BCBA-D and Samantha Wall, LCSW
Edited by Joe DeNoon
“Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them — we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”- Brene Brown
Samantha: Love is such a big part of connection. When you work in a job that requires you to care for another, there has to be a type of love for your work and people. As a therapist, I have love for seeing the ups and downs of my clients, as well as the sight of them truly healing from traumatic events, self-esteem troubles, and learning to manage their symptoms. Love is a big part of my job so I can continue to do it every day, and it is a big reason that I can continue to connect to my clients.
Love is also affected by our own capacities. If we are struggling with love for ourselves, our jobs, and those around us, it can be difficult to love what we do or connect with others deeply. My own experience going to therapy not only helped me have love, connection, and acceptance within myself, it has also helped me love and connect with others.
Francine: Relationships are key to our health and happiness in all the environments we interact in. Samantha thank you for the reminder that work is one of these environments. We as individuals need to cultivate a relationship with both the work itself and the community in which we work.
Researcher Martha Welch hypothesizes that the earliest relationship begins before birth via the co-conditioning of mother’s and baby’s autonomic nervous systems. This is known as the “calming cycle”, and it aligns with your thoughts, Sam, on how self-love plays into this equation. There exists a foundational component of love and relationships from the moment we are in this world.
In fact, purposefully synchronizing behavior, where our behavior and biology begin to mirror those of a social contract, may be one way to increase intimacy and a sense of connection. This, I feel, can be the basis of the bond between patient and caregiver.
Samantha: Becoming part of that social contract is something that is so important for our feelings of love and connection. In an article called, “The Value of Belonging at Work”, it discusses the importance of feeling like we belong at work. When we feel more connected and included at work, it can help us feel motivated and connected to what we are doing. Many of us spend a good amount of our time at work, and for nurses, they can spend a lot of consecutive time at work.
If we are feeling disconnected from our jobs, that can obviously affect our love for the job. There are so many reasons we can feel excluded at work. These reasons can include pay, culture of the job, or how the supervisors address conflict.. A big factor that can affect our feelings of connection with work is how diversity is addressed at our place of work, as well as how diversity is viewed where we are living.
If there are groups of people that face discrimination due to their identity, this can greatly affect their feelings of belonging in many spaces, including work. This is an important conversation I have with my clients that feel disconnected from those around them. If they have a family culture that does not match those around them, how can we acknowledge the struggles of disconnection they feel daily? How can I support them in connecting to places and spaces where they can feel a greater sense of belonging? How can we support them when there is not an opportunity to find that connection? Everyone will have a different way they want to approach these feelings of connection or disconnection, so it can be important to help the individual feel heard and listened to by me and others around them