Totality: The Power of a Shared Experience

I was one of the lucky ones to have been in the path of totality this past Monday. It’s hard to describe and capture the extraordinary rush of emotion that passed fleetingly in the two minutes of totality.
However, this snippet from The Atlantic might help encapsulate what the short two minutes felt like:


“The experience of totality scrambles the senses. It packs recognizable emotions – anticipation, awe, dread – into a washing machine and hits spin. Totality comes after hours of anticipation, of quiet pleading with fleecy clouds to get out of the way before its time. As the moon passed in front of the sun on Monday afternoon, taking bigger and bigger bites out of the sunlight, the temperature cools. The edges of the shadows cast by bodies, tents, and trees sharpened and shortened. Then the moon slid over the sun like a manhole cover. There was one last burst of light before it was gone, and in its place emerged a white loop, set against purple shades.”


An Experience Like No Other

When totality arrived, an eruption of applause filled the air as people took in this extraordinary dance of nature. And then, just like that, the sky filled with light as if the whole event was a figment of our imaginations, a thing of the past. However, something remained inside of us.


Strangers in a parking lot who had never met, and probably will never meet again, hugged and shared as if we were friends for years. In the airport and on the flight, we felt connected. We spoke about our shared experiences, listened, and understood. We felt connected. An invisible chain of the extraordinary united us. Two minutes brought us forever together.



The Proper Way to Experience

According to research, sharing experiences accomplishes two things: it intensifies the experience and connects the individuals who experience it. People connect through shared experiences and that connection helps humans retain information.


On the other end of the spectrum, texting a friend during dinner or checking your Facebook feed while walking your child effectively “unshares” that experience. An experience that goes unshared is a lost chance to increase the emotional pleasure of that experience and connect with others.


If you can, take a moment to experience and connect to those around you. Be with those you love and take in a sunset or savor the taste of food. When you look back at the experience, in addition to the pleasure of the actual experience, you will cherish the pleasure of the togetherness exhibited within that experience. This is how connections are built, what memories should be made of. This is how humans fully experience life.




Did you have an opportunity to experience Monday’s totality? Did you do so in a group or individually? Please share how you feel about the author’s message below.

Yocheved Rabinowitz, LCSW
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