TEDx: Interconnections

Wired for connection.

That’s my line…it comes up more weeks than not during my weekly time on 680CJOB with Hal Anderson.

I talk about our essential need for vital relationship in workshops, on blogs, in therapy and well, basically everywhere.

When Ian McClausland interviewed and photographed me for his fiftyX50 project, it was only natural for me to ask him to photograph me in front of the picture that sits above my clients’ heads during session:

Photo credit: Ian McCausland

The hands extending to each other on Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam remind me that we are wired for connection. We need relationship like we need food, water, and oxygen.

So, when a friend encouraged me to apply to speak at TEDx Winnipeg, it wasn’t hard to know what the topic would be:


I’ve been in private practice for a long time. Long enough to have redecorated. I thought back to the picture that used to be placed above the love seat where clients would sit during session:

Sequoia picture on wall above the couch in counselling office years ago. On blog about Carolyn Klassen's TEDx talk
Yes, there was a time when we thought that was a beautiful yellow to have on the wall. 😉

I’d always loved the sequoias and they reminded me of a time in my life when I learned so much.  Grad school was a rich time of learning, not only in the classroom, but just as much outside the classroom, including travels around the state…and the sequoias were an important part of that.

For me, sequoias have long symbolized the network of connections that keep us strong in difficult times. I was so captivated by these trees and what they taught me, that I bought a poster to hang above the love seat of the first office when I opened my practice. Those were the days of my first marriage, and Former Husband had it mounted on a stiff back as a thoughtful gift.

It hung there for years.

And the TEDx talk developed out of this awe at what the sequoias had taught me about relationships:

I’m a science geek who always liked the science television about research. That, combined with years at the University of Manitoba teaching Master’s students, made it a priority to include convincing evidence in the TEDx talk.

I compiled some of the research on the value of relationships in people’s lives. To recap:

Research has found that women with breast cancer with a large network of friends were four times more likely to survive as women who were solitary.

Swedish research found that those with extensive social networks have a lower rate of dementia.

John Cacioppo and his colleagues found that when people had active social lives they recovered faster after illness.

Julianne Holt-Lunstad’s analysis of 148 studies found that people that have better social connections have a 50% reduced risk of early death. The risk of social isolation is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and carries more risk than obesity or air pollution.

Strong bonds help cardiovascular health, strengthen immune response, keep brains sharp, and slows cellular aging. Relationships are an integral part of mental health.

Robert Waldinger, the current head of Harvard Study of Adult Development, says that the clearest and most conclusive message that we get from this 80 year study is that: “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.**

I told three deeply personal stories in the 2018 TEDx Winnipeg talk. Three stories out of many, many that I might have told. I have a front row seat in my work with clients in the therapy office and in workshops about how deep and significant relationships having a profound effect. I couldn’t tell therapy stories, but I could tell my own. Updates from those stories:

  • My Thursday morning coffee times with Mary have continued. I cancelled twice over the summer, but we just show up the next week. Cuz that’s what we do. We showed up. I showed up for her when her mom died this summer. We met for coffee on Thursday morning before Friday’s funeral. It was an honor to listen of her experience of sitting vigil for her mom’s journey to the other side. The week after the funeral, she teared up about how she needed to avoid the grocery store aisle with the chocolate bars and scotch mints—something she no longer picked up to give to indulge her mom’s sweet tooth. Her brother and his family slept in my basement when they came for the funeral. She has shown up for me in my sadness…I was there for hers.

Listen to the sequoias...let your roots reach out on background of beautiful sequoia trees on TEDx talk Carolyn Klassen

  • Husband met with his Widower’s club a couple of weeks ago. Another one got married recently…and still attends, of course. They could hear of the joys of his new marriage along with the inevitable tensions that a second marriage brings.

We were meant to grow in a forest of humanity. to have lives intertwine with our. On blog re: TEDx talk Learning from the sequoias

  • Bonnie continues to be a significant support to my son. They don’t meet as regularly as they did last summer, but when we as parents hit a rough patch with him, we ask him if he would like to talk to her. He pulls out the Starbucks card I’ve given him for that purpose and off they go. She helps him figure out how to teach us to parent him better. Every parent should be so blessed as to have a Bonnie in their lives.

We are wired for connection on blog of woman looking at sequoias

And Bonnie still takes him for his haircuts.

**For more about the profound effect on relationship, read The Village Effect by Susan Pinker.

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