The 19th Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, recently wrote a book entitled Together: The Healing Power of Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.
In it, he explains that in his early experiences as the child of immigrant parents who tried to cultivate community and in his life’s work as a physician, he has become increasingly aware that there are many who feel “a lack of belonging” which leads them to “[feel] homeless even though they [have] a roof over their head.” Though social isolation and its effects are increasingly recognized as a threat to public health, he admits that he “was never trained to assess or address loneliness” as a doctor.
Murthy also pinpoints overemphasis on efficiency and task orientation or a “transactional” understanding of relationships as problems which lead to loneliness. Chapter 3 of Together is particularly relevant to welcomers because it explains the difference between individualistic and collective cultures and imagines the possibility of a third option that keeps the strengths of both while letting go of the weaknesses of each one.
The possibility of a third option is exciting, isn’t it? Our experiences interacting with immigrants from more collective/communal cultures can shed light on the hyperindividualistic American culture in order to provide some balance and point the way toward an increased sense of belonging both for immigrants and for locals in the USA.
I’d recommend the whole book for a thorough and wise analysis of the problem of loneliness in America, and quite a few good ideas for how to cultivate belonging instead, for immigrants and locals alike.
Buy your copy of Together here!