When a couple has an argument, they may think it’s about money or power or sex, or how to raise the kids, or whatever. What they’re really saying to each other, though, without realizing it, is this: “You are not enough people!” – Kurt Vonnegut
You think of yourself as one person, but you just aren’t. Our identities cannot fit into the one life we are trapped by. We invest parts of ourselves in other people. This is the reason we miss our close friends when they move to another city – they take away that part of us with them. When a close relative dies, a part of us dies along with them and we mourn this loss. This is also why opposites attract. We are attracted to people unlike us, for they can do things we can only aspire to do.
There is another way of looking at this. We wish to achieve more than we could in one lifetime, and try to live out these aspirations by investing ourselves in several other people. In the process, we partake in their joys and sorrows. Empathy – feeling the pain of another person is a defining human trait. And so is vicariousness – living out our dreams through others. This is also why loneliness is depressing. When we do not have somebody to invest ourselves into, we do not feel alive. Human relationships based on care and empathy are the single most consistent determinant of our long term happiness.
This interconnections we feel with the people around us is in contrast with our self-centered egos, or the individualistic social structures that the world is evolving – especially the developed world, where individual empowerment is sacrosanct and obviates the need for community support. Rich people world around spend a smaller proportion of their time socializing.
Human life is a celebration of our interconnections. The more we embrace this fact, the happier we can become. The more we contract our identities, the deeper we are likely to sink into loneliness and suffering.