We Are Not Alone: The Wonder of Universality

Are we alone in our innermost thoughts and feelings? Why we relate to one another more than we know.

Human experience is both relative and subjective, allowing for each person to take in certain aspects of a condition through their own lens. We experience things differently, and more importantly reflective of our history.

I first heard the term “universality” while in graduate school, in my group psychotherapy class, and it transformed my viewpoint about connection between people. “There is no human deed or thought that is fully outside the experience of other people (Yalom, 1985).” My fundamental takeaway from this is that we are not alone in our feelings...and we are not an island, contrary to popular belief (as evidenced through our continuous efforts to individualize and deviate from homogeneity).

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“There is no human deed or thought that is fully outside the experience of other people.”

 -Irvin Yalom

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In working with group dynamics in practice, the presence of universality allows for client relations to thrive in a way that other forms of therapy, whether individual, couples, or family work, simply cannot offer. To sit within a group and share inner struggles that have been hidden by guilt or shame, and then to have those thoughts validated, is not only inspiring but liberating.

The idea of interactions and the importance of being able to relate to one another is imperative not only for our own development, but for interpersonal growth and the strengthening of bonds between one another. After an intense psychotherapy group, I recall a client coming up to me and expressing animatedly, “I thought I was the only one who felt this way, I cannot believe I shared and actually got support from others who can relate to my struggle.”

The message that universality gives is that; whatever it is that we are feeling... to the core of what we are feeling...within the deepest, darkest moments or layers of what we are feeling...we are not alone. At times, these feelings can be difficult to grasp and impossible to share, however, through universality, these core feelings are completely relatable to one another. The bond that one can forge through this is unbreakable and magnanimous. We seek connection to grow, but also, and most importantly, to relate on some level or dimension. Universality supports this in the notion that, as fast paced as our world is today, as independent as we seek to be, we are all just part of something greater.