Seeking shared experiences

One winter day, I rode with my family in our car to a local museum. It must have been the deepest part of winter because the landscape was bitter and gray. We turned off the highway to the long entrance of the museum and directly in front of me, I saw a bird of prey fly in from high to low to capture a small animal. It was picture perfect, as if a movie director had carefully planned and executed the scene. Something we don’t see very often.

Did you see that?

Unbelievably, no one else in the car saw what I saw.

But isn’t that how it is? The moment we witness something remarkable, whether it’s an unrepeatable act of nature or a let’s-watch-it-again funniest home video, we seek to share the experience. We want others to see what we see, to feel what we feel.

Turns out there is a reason for this. A study published in the Journal of Social Issues suggests that individually, we seek to revisit our initial emotions through sharing, but the value-added bonus of the shared experience is a strengthened social bond. We feel closer to those around us when we share something we observed. We seek to connect and are rewarded when we share something significant.

What’s even more fulfilling is a connection gained when we experience something awesome as a group, in other words, when everyone sees what we see at the same time. This is why flash mobs are so memorable, and also why tragedies touch us so deeply.

While we can’t plan freak shared experiences like automobile accidents or rainbows, we can seek to connect with those around us through day-to-day encounters. Next time you are forced to stand in line, resist the urge to check your email on your smartphone. Instead, look around you. Make eye contact with those in line. Offer an empathetic smile; you are in this together, after all.

Next time you walk through a doorway, hold the door for the person behind you, even if you have to pause for longer than a moment to do so. Chances are that person will move more quickly to honor your offer, providing you an opportunity to smile and acknowledge appreciation. Plus, no one likes to have a door slam in their face.

In other words, keep your head up. Spend this day looking outside yourself in every way you can. Actively connect with others around you.

Your goal is to feel connected, but who knows? You may experience something amazing at the same time.

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1 Response to Seeking shared experiences

  1. Beautiful! While sitting in the living room in St. Joe, I caught sight of a huge turkey vulture landing in a tree in the woods behind our home. Its wingspan must have been six feet, if not more. It was awesome — and a bit unsettling. Of course, I made Doug get up off the couch and have a look. I had to google it, to make sure I had the right bird. Interestingly, I learned that Native Americans consider the vulture a symbol of cleansing, not necessarily an omen of death. Whew. Loved this post, Claire. And especially what you said about keeping your head up and talking to people, being aware of the what’s around us.

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