The importance of feeling connected
Having grown up in Australia and coming to the UK in my mid teens, I remember being somewhat bemused by characters in ‘Casualty’ and ‘The Bill’ offering cups of tea whenever bad news was delivered. To me it didn’t make any sense – why would a ‘cuppa’ help if you have just received devastating news?
I have now been in the UK almost 23 years, and although I’m not really a tea drinker (I prefer a coffee), the sentiment of a ‘cuppa’ has convinced me. Generally, we drink tea with others – apart from maybe first cup in the morning. Culturally, drinking tea is a social moment, with ritual and discussion.
Sharing tea offers a format and a structure to get to know each other: Would you like a cup of tea? How do you like it? Strong? Weak? Darjeeling? Breakfast? Milk? Sugar? The possibilities are endless! And in that time, conversation has begun and the ice has been broken.
A significant part of drinking tea is that you don’t need to just sit staring at each other – there is the possibility of small talk and commenting on the tea. For many, this is really important in establishing connection with others. Direct eye contact and front on conversation without distraction can feel overwhelming. Offering tea in the work place is also a moment of interaction with colleagues that may otherwise not occur.
I now fully understand that offering someone a cup of tea doesn’t equal brushing aside the difficult news – it is actually an offering of someone’s time. Effectively, they are saying ‘come, let me care for you and then I’ll sit and listen’. If they are unable to listen, being quiet together is also a wonderful opportunity. Without the tea, would we ever just pause in our day and take time to be still? My guess is not.
Feeling supported and connected to others is vital for us humans. We literally need it to survive. Without positive connection, not only does our emotional wellbeing suffer, but there is also mounting evidence to suggest our physical wellbeing suffers too. Isolation and loneliness are some of the leading indicators for depression, and so it is up to us to keep offering those cups of tea, keep talking to those around us – if not for ourselves, then for others too!
I for one shall continue to both offer and accept tea!
Fancy a cuppa?
The type of psychotherapy I offer focuses on this connection and places a great deal of emphasis on the importance of feeling supported, emotionally held and above all understood and heard.