As a graduate student several years ago, I read comments by the American philosopher Rollo May. He wrote that in Puritan times, there was a great deal of passion but little or no sex; whereas today, there is a great deal of sex but less passion. His comment has stayed with me over the years because I watch people in their relationships sometimes find what they want, sometimes lose it, and often struggle to keep it. What everyone seems to want, but which many still search for, is a form of emotional intimacy, a passionate connection, a tender communion, a soul-to-soul touch, and the warm caress of understanding.
At the same time this is going on, school teachers complain that a high percentage of their students are unmotivated to learn, appear disinterested in the teacher-student relationship, and despite efforts to alter the behavior, many still appear to be treating others poorly. But this is not the gravest issue. Many of our children are trying out experimental sex and becoming addicted to it. It is more common for youth to binge drink to get the maximum benefit of a sudden burst of alcohol and then add drugs, etc. Look at the dramatic increase in the viewing of pornography and subsequent addiction to that. What are people seeking? Is it a buzz or rush, or is it a relief from a painful reality? Or is it something else? It might be both, but all of it seems to warrant a closer look. In one recent study, for example, the number of adults and individuals who are hooked on pain medications have increased dramatically over the least decade. After reading about this, I considered those I had met and talked with. I can say that those who appear to be more vulnerable to misuse not only had need for pain relief but appeared to feel less integrated or connected in important relationships. In other words, they were feeling some form of emotional deficit.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Some have conflict in their relationships and have learned to protect and defend their emotions by shutting them away from other people. Other people live lives of solitude amid shallow communication with others. Still others, having given up on sincerity and honesty, have decided to create alternate realities they live in, which appear to be safer than the reality of their lives. What is lacking is the simple results of positive communication that is varied and stimulating. It includes words that reflect one’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It includes ideas one person has about another and what each may think about what goes on between them. It is filled with phrases that acknowledge one’s existence to another. It is not difficult, but it seems to be one of the greatest needs of our time.