I recently watched a fascinating interview of comedian Dave Chappelle. He was being interviewed by Maya Angelou as part of Sundance Channel’s Iconoclasts series. I jumped for joy when Chappelle explained to Angelou that his creative process and growth as an artist requires doing his work with others. He needs people, he said, and the feedback loop that occurs when working collectively.
As a group therapist who sees the profound benefit of people doing their therapy as a team, I loved the point being made: There’s just more richness to riffing off of one another, versus staying in one’s head. I believe this is the case with emotional and relationship health as well as with creativity and innovation.
Needing people, as Chappelle put it, is essential. And it is hard. We are exposed and vulnerable when we let people in and let them impact us. And, we live in a culture that values independence, self-sufficiency and individuation, the epitome of mental health in the annals of mainstream psychology. There is a mistrust of the collective, and “groupthink” is synonymous with brainwashing and lost autonomy. Basically, this is the formula: We are “Individuals” when “Independence” = being healthy and protected; therefore, “Dependence” = being unhealthy and too vulnerable. However, we all know that interdependence is the only way we will have a shot at surviving and thriving.
Viewing the human experienceas only individual (me with you, or me against you), is extremely limiting. There is a richer, more human, holistic, fulfilling way to live our lives that does not require this independent-dependent dualism. It requires seeing and valuing our togetherness and interconnection.
Living our daily lives interdependently is what I mean by socializing: sharing, being open to others, giving what’s going on for us, letting others have an impact on us, asking for help, asking for and giving feedback. It is hard — and healthy.
Thanks Dave Chappelle for your courage to state proudly that you need people.
In solidarity with him, I invite us all to practice ‘socializing‘ — share something with someone in your life that you wouldn’t normally share because it’s too private, scary, or humiliating, and let yourself be changed by the responses you receive… comment here to let me know what happens!
Jennifer Bullock, M.Ed., M.L.S.P., LPC | The Philadelphia Social Therapy Group