The need for belonging, love, and affection is a potent force that shapes various aspects of a person’s life. Whether one admits this inherent need for companionship or not; it exists, and is ingrained within us from the point we gain consciousness.
Sure, the need for companionship exists in every human; but why does it exist? And how can we fulfill such needs in a constructive manner? The question has been asked numerous times in every age, and psychologists have been striving to determine definitive answers to the conundrum. Understanding the reasons behind the need for companionship can culminate in improving relationships and companionships for a person, leading to the achievement of serenity in one’s life.
Separation Anxiety – An Evolutionary Perspective
The oldest attempt to answer the reason behind the need for companionship suggests that humans are intended to live in packs; just like most animals. We tend to feel secure and more at ease when in a group. Of course, this doesn’t mean that one should have a hundred friends; having just two or three constitutes a group too!
Depression and feelings of loneliness are byproducts of the need for companionship not being fulfilled, since our mind experiences anxiety when separated from the pack: an evolutionary response!
Expressing Ideas and Emotions – The Need for Feedback
You are probably aware that all pack animals have some means of conveying thoughts and emotions, that is, communication. To do so, one needs companions with whom to communicate- a primary reason contributing to the craving of companionship among humans. If you intend to express ideas and emotions, you are bound to expect feedback from others. This need is fulfilled by having companions with whom you form emotional connections.
You’ve probably heard the adage ‘like attracts like’; well, this perception of like personality is formed through a mechanism in our brains known as ‘mirror neurons’. Thus, we are essentially biologically constructed in a way to find like people with whom we feel comfortable sharing and expressing ideas and emotions, subconsciously expecting the feedback we want to hear. We are hardwired to feel the need to interact.
The Nature of Love
We have the need to love and be loved, which contributes to the need for companionship. Scientists and psychologists have been studying romantic love from a wide range of perspectives and have come up with some very interesting theories; tying in the need for companionship and romantic love.
Renowned human behavior researcher, Helen Fisher, has an interesting take on the subject. She says that the nature of love is twofold. First, there are people who love another person to get a sense of completeness, security, and affection. Then there are those who love in order to share what they feel for the other person. This need to share, of course, necessitates the need for companionship. Sharing love is all about empathizing, communicating, and engaging with others.
Commonly, companionship usually triggers the thought of having a romantic partner. While this constitutes a major portion of companionship, it certainly isn’t the sole reason. The role for friends as companions is often overlooked when companionship is considered, and is one of the least understood areas of psychology.
Respected writer at Psychology Today, Carlin Flora, has coined a very appropriate term to emphasize the importance of friends and how such relationships shape our lives. The term friend-fluence encompasses the effects that friends can have on us. From defining out priorities, to how we mature and act in relationships; the influence of friends is found everywhere, thus the term friend-fluence.
Lifespan Longevity and Companionship – Related?
Apparently so! A study spanning a period of 10 whole years indicates that people who still have close relationships with friends tend to outlive those who don’t by 22%! A few years ago, a woman was found dead at her apartment. When the police discovered the body, the woman had been dead for nearly six months! With no one to buoy and maintain spirits, it appears that not having companions can reduce the will to live; whether the person admits being lonely or not. Imagine having no one who would call or visit for months on end, and then dying alone one day. Food for thought!
The Apparent-Loner Perspective
We’ve seen and have definitively proven that the need for companionship exists. But what about that group of people who are adamant that they don’t feel such a need and they’re happy on their own forever? Psychologists and researchers have conclusively proven that such line of thought is simply a defense mechanism; all humans have the need for companionship whether they admit it or not! Humans are social animals by nature, and cannot live happily without companions of some sort. These ‘apparent-loners’ find socializing distasteful and consider those who interact as weak. Truth is, we humans are indeed weak; weak for the need to have someone.
Ridding Yourself of Loneliness
When the need for companionship is not fulfilled, one tends to feel a void inside, creating the fear of being lonely. Not everyone finds it easy to simply approach people and make friends. For many, socializing takes a conscious effort; not because they don’t feel the need for companionship, but because they have a distinct fear of rejection.
First off, you need to understand that loneliness and solitude are not synonymous. A person who enjoys solitude isn’t likely to feel the negative effects that are associated with loneliness. If you do want to socialize instead, but aren’t able to, consider joining a class or take up activities at your nearby community center. These are a great opportunity to find like companions due to the diverse locale that is present. While loneliness can cause depression and anxiety, it is not something that cannot be overcome with focus and a bit of effort on your part. Do not lose hope!
For a person to be happy, finding the right companions is critical. If you find yourself down in the dumps, call up some friends and hang out. Barring that, just go out and engage in anything which involves interaction, whether it is volunteering for social work, or just spending time with your kids.