There is a negative connotation to the term "sheep" when applied to people. Oh, yes. Sheep will follow, but sheep mentality has benefits. Sheep are healthier when they are touching other sheep. They are calmer. They become stressed and harder to control when they can't see other sheep. They herd together for protection. They can't be picked off so easily when they are together. In comparison, humans literally do better when they are together. Not just in the same office building, but together. Not just in the same house, but together. You see?
I've been in a position to consider the changes in my life from today, backward to exactly twelve months ago. A conversation with a close friend about our lives without marriage and without children brought home the understanding that I never want to go back. The mind's power is such that changes in circumstance and surroundings can make a shocking walk down memory lane. My current life sees more involvement and more awareness of other people struggling in Life with me. That is to say I pay closer attention to people as a whole: not as laboratory specimens, but as a community.
The biggest lesson I've learned in twelve months is that regardless of what we think of the human race, we benefit from being here together. We may not want it that way, but it's the truest truth we've ever known.
From years 19-32, I was contact-avoidant. I saw no point to involvement or contact with other humans. An eventual first-hand experience with immense stress and depression--which exhibited the feeling of an unseen black cloud that robbed my sight of colour and light--changed my mind. I desperately needed to see other people. Being contact-avoidant robbed me of the chance to put myself in a vulnerable spot to ask for the opportunity just to be with someone. Typically, I trust only myself to solve my problems. I'm pretty sure I know just precisely the response I'll receive. If I know what they'll say, why have the conversation? Right? I was frankly surprised. I didn't actually know they would say what they did say. When I finally admitted what I was going through and had eye contact with someone who wanted me to succeed, I literally saw the light. When I confided to a close family member and received hugs and support, the black cloud dissipated.
Studies have concluded that physical touch is necessary for human life to thrive. Thriving is not the same as existing. Being involved with other humans is necessary for life to thrive. Not just "be around", but involved. One can feel alone in a crowd.
Human touch calms you down when you are upset. Just skin in contact with other skin calms your brain. Literally. And I don't mean "literally" in the current figurative sense. Touch hunger is a very real thing. When my children are beyond calming, I pick them up, and rub their bare backs, or put my hand on their arms or hold their hands. Tears subside. Little bodies relax. They lay their heads on my shoulder. I can talk to them now. My Mommy Arsenal contains human touch as a strategy. Thing is, when I'm frustrated with them or pretty high on the emotional scale, hugging them to help them helps me.
You and I have heard the phrase "God didn't mean for us to go through life alone". I've waved away that sentiment more times than I can remember. I've put it down to more I-need-someone-to-love-or-I'll-die stuff. However, that phrase is not simply about marriage, or sex. It's about life and community. As much as we want to be lions, or lone wolves, we are more like sheep than we really want to be. We cannot be what we are not no matter how much we try to pretend, or try to fashion ourselves to become.
When our herd is a safe place and led by a shepherd who only looks out for our well-being, sheep mentality is the good thing, not the bad. We thrive. We separate ourselves and push away human contact when we are stressed beyond our resources to process it. So, find touch when you understand you need it. And when someone near you doesn't understand when they need touch, hopefully you'll understand what they need for them.