By YOUSEF NASSER
Maybe it’s just me, but the holiday season is one of obligation. People travel long distances to see their families, make too much food and sit around in the same room for hours.
In the chaos of the heightened, frenzied atmosphere, I’d often find myself alone. For instance, at my grandparents’ house, most of the holiday congregation sat in the kitchen and family room area. A trickle might flow over into the living room. And definitely, more likely than not, someone was always in one or more of the bathrooms. But the bedrooms and the two porches were often empty.
I can remember finding a cousin sitting alone in a bedroom playing a videogame, or my uncle sitting by himself out of the porch looking across a lake and enjoying a breeze. And nowadays when we don’t travel and it’s just my immediate family that is celebrating, I notice the same thing. I’ll be downstairs watching football, my brother will be in the living room playing video games, my sister on her computer upstairs and my mom reading a book in her room.
In the summer of 2013, I took an online Introduction to Communications course. From this course, I learned a valuable lesson that helped change my perspective on interpersonal relationships and ultimately made me want to major in communication.
The concept I learned about is called autonomy vs. connectedness. The concept falls under the broader concept of relational dialectics, which contemplates the idea that the closer two people grow in a relationship, the greater the challenges become to sustain that relationship.
Autonomy vs. connectedness can be viewed as the contrast between wanting to express your individuality and wanting to feel connected to others. Both are valid and natural feelings.
It used to bother me when I found myself alone in social settings. I would often wonder if there was something wrong with me. The class I took and the concept I learned about helped me better understand social interactions and I think about it often and perhaps especially during the holidays.
Autonomy and connectedness lie at opposite ends of a spectrum. In any relationship, at any point in time, we all find ourselves moving back and forth between the two in a pendulum-like motion. The reality is that we may never reach an equilibrium point, which is okay.
We shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to spend some time alone. It’s only natural. But we must always challenge ourselves to make connections with other people when the time is right.