Hi, I’m Katharine Di Cerbo. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by. Let me tell you a little bit about my story.
Growing up, I felt like the loneliest, most rejected girl alive.
On my way to discovering The Connection Crafts (which saved my life), I went through many phases.
As a girl, I didn’t think much about how I interacted with people, I didn’t know the “rules.”
My mother, grieving for my deceased father and working hard to assume his small-business, didn’t have time for friends. I had no model for how friendships “worked.” I wasn’t involved in any “playdates.”
I’ll tell you a funny story (well, funny in hindsight) to show how my typical girlhood interactions went down:
Around the ages of 7 to 9, I was OBSESSED with gem stones. I loved the gorgeous crystals produced by the earth, and I especially loved all of their colors.
Back before the internet, the only way I could see and learn about gemstones was to watch QVC (which I did for HOURS at a time) and, when I had the chance, to lurk around jewelry counters asking a lot of annoying questions.
I started to learn about the cost of different types of stones (peridots, and aquamarines, and garnets, oh my!). And I also noticed that QVC used to sell a lot of man-made diamonds. I discovered that “real” diamonds were very expensive.
And so, during recess at school or whenever I had the chance to freely interact with other grade-school students, I would observe their jewelry, too.
I would ask them questions like “Is that necklace “real?” or “How much did that cost?”
If they would insist that their necklace was “real,” and if I was suspicious, I would tell them so. I would lists my arguments matter-of-factly.
Then, I would pause and eagerly wait for them to reply with enthusiasm and interest! I really thought this would be a great way to get a conversation started!
And as you can imagine, I didn’t make many friends in grade-school.
In fact, I was routinely teased quite badly.
I would cry to my mother, but she was too busy to help me figure out how to change my situation.
As a teenager, I believed that the way to get love was to try to impress people.
I decided that the reason I was getting rejected by my peers must be because I was better than they were – they couldn’t understand me, you see.
But if I rubbed my “superiority” – the good grades I slaved to achieve, the nice clothes I spent all of my income as a lifeguard to buy – in their faces, I figured they would start to give me the love I so desperately craved.
Haha, joke was on me.
I perhaps managed to inspire a little bit of envy here and there, but I didn’t get any closer to feeling loved. I was going in the absolute wrong direction.
As a young woman, I recognized the importance of appealing to others, but I thought I had to be “fake” in order to do it.
Eventually (after years of unhappiness) I realized that I wanted to share love with other people, mutually and vulnerably.
But I thought that if I shared myself genuinely, as I had tried to do as a little girl, that I would accidentally alienate people or turn them off.
So I started to do things that I thought would make people like me.
I would look for excuses to give people compliments (even if they weren’t always sincere).
I would try to be especially nice to people who themselves were socially awkward and didn’t have many friends.
I would hide everything about myself that didn’t match up to my idea of what a likable, virtuous person looked like.
I was making some progress, but I was still so empty inside. I didn’t feel loved at all.
I didn’t realize that I wasn’t really connecting with people, I was pandering to them and patronizing them.
The Connection Crafts taught me about genuine emotional connection.
Finally figuring out the secret-sauce didn’t happen in a single “a-ha” moment.
But there was one very influential experience in my life that really made a big difference in my “figuring it out” and finally feeling loved and connected to other people. I want to share it with you because of how much it helped me.
When I was preparing to apply to graduate school in psychology, I discovered that I needed to get some experience working with “clinical populations.”
In other words, I had to spend time working with people who were depressed, had eating disorders, anxiety, personality disorders, or any other disorder represented in the DSM-V.
By this time, I had tapped into my empathy for others (which is why I planned to study clinical psychology in the first place), and so I looked forward to this experience.
I expected that I would probably intern in the psychiatric unit of a hospital and help teach people techniques to handle their ailments. I would show them what they were doing wrong.
But the work I ended up finding was answering the phones at a suicide-prevention hotline.
Every week for a year, I spent 10 hours speaking to very distressed callers. Not everyone I spoke with was actively suicidal, but everyone did feel very, very hopeless.
To my surprise, my job was not to convince these people that their situations were workable and to give them therapy-based advice. My job was not to cheer them up or to make them feel better.
My job was simply, to LISTEN to them.
I would let them hear the empathy in my voice, and I would encourage them to tell me more about what they were feeling and going through. And that was pretty much the extent of it. Giving advice of any kind was expressly not allowed.
A lot of my friends would ask me – isn’t that so depressing for you? Doesn’t hearing people talk about their husbands beating them or their whole families abandoning them and not being able to do anyting to help make you feel terrible?
And to my surprise, it did not make me feel terrible.
Because when I (and others just like me at the hotline) would really hear and validate the pain of others (by expressing our simple empathy), we would share in a true emotional connection.
And it was profoundly mutually healing and nourishing.
Even though we couldn’t directly change the callers difficult life situations, we could offer them this balm-to-the-soul.
And much more often than not, the callers would then tap into their immense internal resources for the first time in a very long time.
Hearing a caller go from deeply hopeless to calm, hopeful, and resourceful was among the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life.
All they had really needed was to feel understood, empathized with, and really seen. Not lectured or patronized.
Discovering the elegant simplicity of true emotional connection was life changing for me. And that is what The Connections Crafts is all about – finding ways to create and nurture real emotional connections in our lives everyday.