Review: Together The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World

Together The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World Together The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World by Vivek H. Murthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews on Goodreads 

Whether you are an extravert or introvert, connection is an important part of being human, and while we each differ in the kind of ways we connect, we need certain kinds of connections in our lives to be happy and healthy. “Together” is an engaging guide to what connection means, how it benefits us, and how to built it.

While we sometimes need solitude , the absence of the appropriate connections in our lives can lead to loneliness, which has a larger impact on the quality of our lives than we expect.

Murthy describes the 3 kinds of connections, all of which are necessary:

• Emotional (close confidant or partner)

• Relational or Social (quality friendships, social companionship and support)

• Collective (hunger for a network of community of people who share your sense of purpose and interest)

According to Murthy, the presence of one of these kinds of connections, o matter how strong, is unlikely to compensate for missing the others. Even with the strongest marriage, we can still find our selves feeling lonely without close friends, or a community we belong to. Aside from the practical value of a community network to help us through challenging times, loneliness can be a significant health problem. Murthy makes the biological connection between loneliness and depression and anxiety. Loneliness can also trigger some of the same fear instincts that cause us to be suspicious of others who are not ‘in our tribe.’ It thus makes it hard to forge connections to bootstrap away from loneliness. This connection to anxiety can be the source of acting on our biases and resisting connections with those different than ourselves.

Having explained the risks of loneliness, Murthy discusses ways to get out of the rut that loneliness leaves us in, including service to others. Being in a place where we stay open to connections can help us help people step away from dysfunctional situations and mindsets.

Since connection and community is such a universal part of human existence, while reading, I found myself thinking of other books that touched on the topic, including Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language, Adam Grant’s Give and Take, Kate Murphy’s You’re Not Listening, Malcom Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers, and even Dan Levitin’s Successful Aging. Together has a different focus than all of those books, namely physical and mental health, but as I read, I realized that the value of community to our physical and mental health means that by building community we can benefit ourselves in unexpected ways.

Personal stories make this a relatable read. When combined with pointers to more information and discussions of organizations that build community which you might be interested in connecting with, it’s also a very actionable one.

The book ends with a story that conveys the importance and power of what Murthy calls “not the family chosen for you, but the family you choose.” As someone who grew up without a lot of extended family near, I’ve grown to understand the value of the friends and neighbors who’ve become part of what I consider to be my family. Reading Together helped me to truly understand just how valuable those connections are. It also gave me insight into how to do a better job of building them at home, work, and in the communities I’m a part of.

Together is an important guide for our times about why connection matters and how to built it at various scales: for yourself, for your family, and for your larger communities such as your workplace and town or city.