Connecting

September 11, 2013
BY Pam Weissman

There were two telephone lines in our New Jersey home. Liberty 8-7722 was the family line, and Liberty 8-4492 was my dad’s business line; 7722 was my line from 9:30 p.m. to midnight. No phone in my bedroom. I dragged the spirally, burgundy phone wire with the receiver attached to my ear all the way into the dining room, put my body under the dining room table and talked, laughed, cried, counseled, studied and even philosophized with my friends well into the night.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has expressed tremendous satisfaction for helping more than 12 million people connect. Commercials for every major telecommunications company boast, “It’s not complicated.” Is this how true relationships are built?

I keep trying to figure out why I find this new form of connecting so mystifying and less satisfying. I keep hearing myself think, “chadesh ya-me-nu k’kedem,” “refresh or renew our days like those from the past.”

In the developmental psychology field, we learn that bonding is essential between caregivers, parents and infants. It actually impacts a child’s ability to thrive. Attachment comes about when the child’s needs are addressed and the seeds of trust/connection are planted.

If a baby cries, hearing the voice of his mother can bring solace. But it is not only the soft sound of that reassuring voice or the tenderness of Mom’s touch that harnesses homeostatis for a baby, it is also the baby looking at the parent. This is true for adults, too.

We are taught that with eye contact and a kind gaze, the brain develops and thrives in ways that without this eye-to-eye love it would not. Simply stated, when we respond with our senses to notice, to reassure, to listen, to tune in, we are advancing development and heightening a bond that impacts the life of a child: a child’s ability to better cope, to handle stress, to be resilient and to take on his or her world.

I remember noticing medical doctors in shul on Shabbat who were quietly “beeped” and inconspicuously slithered out of the sanctuary to handle a medical emergency. “How important they truly are” was my thought. It seems that today, at least from Sunday through Friday, everyone thinks he or she is as important as a doctor. We keep our sacred communication devices with us always — during meetings, while we shop and while we are having lunch with friends.

While checking out at Seven Mile Market, customers talk on their phones. Moms talk while pushing their strollers. Every communication is now of emergency proportion, requiring instant feedback.

God bless Shabbat. We all — be it at the Shabbat table or at a Kiddush or wherever — have to look at each other when speaking.

In the quiet of my private practice office, the ultimate no-tech relationship, I give my clients the same attention I did my high school friends when I was on 7722.

When I am with my family and a knowing gaze, a secret smile, accompanies a laugh or a cry, I could not be more thrilled and more connected because I could not possibly feel more love in my heart than I do at that very moment.

Pam Weissman is an area psychologist and freelance writer.

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