I began to put the outline for this blog together last week and then my mum had an emergency operation to remove a blood clot the size of a liver from her throat. Needless to say my week got taken over with taking care of my mother’s needs and ensuring her wellbeing.
Normally I write these blogs with the universal ‘we’ because I know we all experience all the things in my book in some way. The need to belong and the fear of being alone is one of the most dominant need-fear cycles I deal with in my work. I believe it's innate. It's tribal. If we don't belong then we have no group to protect us; no one to care for us; and no support. We are all alone and if we are all alone then we are at risk of not surviving.
So many times I’ve had to say to someone “It’s normal to not want to be alone and the need to belong is okay.” I seriously believe this is true. Being alone is an unpleasant feeling - isn’t that an understatement!! It can lead to depression. It is a source of pain for anyone feeling like they have no one to belong to.
Last week, my mother put me first in her life, for the first time in my life. I have always been my father’s daughter. Belonging to my immediate and extended family, to my mother has been my personal heartache. I have learnt a lot about the need to belong over my life. I know that families have rules. There is a level of conformity and of involvement in each other’s lives that goes with belonging to any group.
I’m not very good at conforming. While I would love to belong to my family or even have a large group of friends I never do what it takes to belong. I want to be an individual and belong. Anyone else feel that way too?
We no longer live in a time where dinosaurs and mammoths are trying to eat us. We don’t need the tribe in the same way humans did 65 million years ago. Today our need to belong is an emotional, mental and spiritual experience. It is still real and valid but it has changed from the physical need to survive via a tribe.
Too often, no matter how troublesome we may think our family is we still want to belong to our original family or we form a new family of our own. Marriage still has a strong following because it creates a structure for us to belong to another.
Some workplaces create a 'family' environment and there are companies who market themselves on the fact that you can join them and be part of their family. All this is pitched to those searching to belong.
Most people will compromise something about themselves so they can belong to another or a family or a group. In time this may feel like they have sacrificed themselves to meet their need to belong. There is something about the experience of belonging to another that soothes our innate sense of being safe and secure. The certainty this connection creates gives us the stability to take risks to express all of who we can be. This is an enjoyable and desirable feeling. It is one that we will continue to search for when it is absent.
This is why I believe the need to belong is paramount to our overall wellbeing. Yet often we have other needs that conflict with the conformity and enmeshment that is associated with belonging to others. In reality we choose to be alone because we are not prepared to make the sacrifices required to belong to another. But this doesn’t stop us from still needing to belong. This pull to belong draws us in to our patterns of self-sabotage that demands us to become conscious of our fears and needs to avoid making the same choices we have made in the past.
Now what do we do?
Fears are only fears, they aren’t real. They are stories our mind run. We have the ability to acknowledge the fear and embrace it with love. This is where the BIG-you needs to step in and support and care for the small-you who feels enmeshed with the pain of being alone.
Accept the need to belong but distance yourself from the fears of what it means if you are alone. Our need to be authentic, true to ourselves will scream louder than our willingness to conform just so we can belong. Yet when we experience a natural connection; a sense of belonging that needs no compromise, everything feels easy, flowing and joyous.
In essence, acknowledge the need but don’t feed into the fear.
What steps do you think you could take to acknowledge the inner need to belong without falling into self-doubt, unworthiness and insecurity about being alone?