Fostering Community in a World of ‘Overwhelm’

Most of us are taught to be giving of ourselves and our time to others, and sometimes that message gets distorted into an unhealthy codependency, where we only value ourselves by the feedback we receive from others. It is important to foster a clear and healthy sense of boundaries.

Discussion of boundaries opens up the topic of what is selfish and what is for self and inevitably lands on a discussion of codependency, an unhealthy balance of social behaviors where one’s sense of self is defined by external feed back. Codependency seems to be a term that is thrown around willy-nilly theses days, but it is alive and epidemic among all ages, but most frighteningly influential among our young people.

The need to be “liked,” accepted, and valued is key to social assimilation and survival in peer circles and those more likely to be influenced by their peers are our young people. When the doctored up, photo-shopped versions of people’s lives rampant on social media don’t fit what is the reality of most, if not all of our lives, there is a risk of loosing sense of self – and our youth to the virus of social disorder created by a culture where addiction to being in the “in crowd” dictates next actions whether they are right or not.

We usually think of addiction as referring to someone dependent on drugs and alcohol, but addiction is more insidious than that. I’m not negating the fact that drug addiction has reached epidemic proportion, however more cunning and causal to the dependency on a substance is the addiction to something we can’t see and that is pandemic: the addiction to being “liked.” To strengthen inner resolve and the ability to tolerate the haters, distractors, and critics, I suggest that we look beyond the obsessive behavior of drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, sexting, texting, video gaming, etc., and travel into the more neglected and sometimes lost realm, “the Self” and strengthen our ability to understand how much of our power we’ve given over to external influences. I suggest that we become more self-centered in our self-care and the care of those who mean the most to us and rebuild our communities one relationship at a time, starting with our Self.

Distractions are everywhere, causing perhaps the biggest disconnection from our own inner world of thoughts, ideas, creativity and inner dialogue, aka our “navigation system.” With so much technology and opinion floating around right in our mind space 24/7 who could focus, let alone weed out authentic thought and feeling from the disarray of descensive thinking. Maybe it’s time to start and begin to elevate our thinking by unplugging from influences motivated by an array of agenda that is perhaps not truly our own.

The more disconnected and influenced the more isolated and segregated we become – and the more lost we are in the world and in our lives. Dinner tables turn into dinner trays carried away in isolation because of over commitment, responsibility, and demands that require constant attention. Social media engagement interrupts family time, from desperately seeking connections of friends to the infamous Xbox, various other social media platforms, and the bings, pings and chimes of emails and cell phones.

We seem to have lost the space in our life to a state of being that has been unfairly associated with negativity – boredom. The quiet space of contemplation and reflection, of insight and introspection is under valued. It is from this space that creativity and genuine passion is fueled into healthy authentic living, heartfelt writing, amazing creativity, and genuine conversation and connection with others within our community who may not necessarily be of “like mind” but who are wonderfully diverse people, with interesting opinions, talents and beautiful cultures that build the amazingly unique world we live in.

We need to remember the value of face-to-face communication, where making eye contact with a real person instills the quality of knowing, liking, and trusting another “human being” and piques the interest and curiosity of another that can never be replaced by staring at the screen of a cell phone.

If we continue living in this disconnected state, allowing the overwhelm and detached values of consumerism guide us, we will lose. We will create a desert of loneliness that breaks down the very moral fibers of the society we live in. Community and human bond will become a thing of the past, and our next generations will live life more touched by technology than one another.

Here are some tips to help reinstall values that are inclusive rather than divisive and that allowed us to foster community!

  1. FAMILY (any close member of the community related by blood and/or by bond) TIME: If not every day, make it some form of regular contact with others. I’m talking about face to face, or if they live too far at least voice to voice. Step up to the plate, persist and insist that you connect. Be the one to initiate, don’t wait! And get involved in your family, neighborhood, and community.

  2. OPT IN: Meet others where they are. Opt into their interests. Get involved!

  3. SHARE: Share your experiences, strengths, hopes, challenges, triumphs and beliefs. Get 
involved and be generous!

  4. TREAD GENTLY: Don’t push yourself and your opinions down other’s throats. Be more 
interesting than interested. Allow varying opinions, open dialogue and question and investigate what feels right to them. Start a dialogue and find out what is making them tick. Get involved and be interested!

  5. EARN TRUST: When you are genuinely more interested than interesting you invite and earn trust. You just may find that you are not that different – and if you are, you may enjoy learning about what makes someone else think, what their story is, and how you can admire them or appreciate their experiences, and you will be getting involved in the process of building trust.

  6. RESPECT: Bottom line – respect begets respect. So if you want it you have to earn it by practicing it and getting involved! 

If you would like to see more commUNITY programs and events that interest you, please feel free to email me your ideas at

Jacqueline Muller is Clinical Director and Owner of Dynamic Intervention Wellness Solutions. She is a NY State Licensed Clinical Social Worker.