In 1947, psychologist Harry Stack Sullivan wrote:
“In most general terms, we are all much more simply human than otherwise, be we happy and successful, contented and detached, miserable and mentally disordered, or whatever.”
Sullivan believed that human struggles can be linked to the delusion that we are alone in our suffering and are alienated from others in our problems. He wrote that we mistakenly assume that no one has the troubles that we face, and that we suffer in isolation, apart from everyone else. He called this construct “the delusion of uniqueness.” (I call it “poor me.”)
Over 65 years later, I believe that Sullivan is still correct. Many of us are caught up in the notion that we are alone, that we suffer alone, and that no one understands the pains and pressures of our lives. For me, mental health stems from the awareness that, in fact, we are not at all isolated, but instead we are vastly interconnected. We are not unique in our problems. We do not struggle alone. And the belief that we do makes us miss countless opportunities for connection, and the healing that connection offers.
Sullivan’s theories also focused on the social and cultural aspects of human psychology. He sought to understand and to teach the interaction between the person and society. We know ourselves, he said, through our interactions with others. And we shape and are shaped by our social influences. We do not exist in isolation at all. Instead, we come to be how we are through ongoing interactions with our social world.
In this blog, I hope to address the ways that we humans are more interconnected than we are disconnected. I hope to highlight the ways that connection teaches us about ourselves, each other, and promotes health. I also hope to discuss the impact of larger societal structures on the ways that we understand ourselves, and, ultimately, how we can find fulfillment through knowledge, connection, and openness to each other.
For, after all, we are all more simply human than otherwise.
©2013 Stephanie A. Heck, Ph.D.