The Need to Connect and Belong That Keeps Us Apart

Have you ever thought that your “need” to belong might be keeping you from belonging? That restricting yourself to particular groups, people and relationships is limiting your freedom to belong?

Could it be that the need to belong is simply an inner desire to be accepted and valued; a camouflage for feelings of worthlessness. Yet, self-value, self-worth, and self-esteem cannot come as a result of being right or by identifying with those who agree with us or are “similar” to us. It must come from knowing who we are from within and feeling good about it.

We are all dying to connect and belong yet we find it such hard work to balance creating and living a fulfilled successful life and lasting connections that validate us as valued human beings.

From the word go, our different belief systems, cultural and parental upbringing separates us from each other, yet if we were to see these differences in beliefs simply as different guidelines to living life the best way we each can, we would be more intrigued and curious to know and experience more about them.

Every child is born into the religion of “nature” but its parents make it a Jew, a Christian, a Moslem etc and that makes us see things differently. As Lao Tzu, the spiritual Chinese sage said, “the broadminded see the truth in different religions; the narrow-minded see only their differences”.

Are our thoughts and beliefs our own or are they those of our parents and society? As babies and toddlers we limit our relational environment to our parents and carers out of necessity; we need taken care of! Yet at this early stage in life, we are more adventurous in our discovery of our surrounding objects and environment because we feel safe in the presence of the persons we have attached to.

Encircled by our supportive, caring and loving carers, we believe we know who we are and events and interactions are predictable and comfortable. However as we grow “bigger” and older and “feel” separate from them, everything and everybody appears to be rapidly, unpredictably changing. We are forced to adjust and adapt to this ever-changing environment with only our learned experiences and emotions to guide us.

And so we use the many injunctions from our earlier life plus our own created experiential beliefs and drivers as our sound board to propel us through life events and assist us in creating and managing a life of our own. Unfortunately, these beliefs do not take into consideration our feelings and emotions!

Later in life, we continue to use parental injunctions as guidelines to make friends and associate with other like-minded people and groups; after all these, together with our drivers are the only functional guides we know.

The dilemma to belong or not to belong comes to a head when our free child wants to belong to a group that our cultural parent clearly disapproves of. Do we allow the emotions of the child to take care of the now or the thoughts and beliefs of the parent to take care of the future?

Our parental and communal beliefs are the strong foundations to how we perceive events and interact in society. They regulate which groups we belong to, the relationships we create and how we interact in our relationships. So how come that we are still not “completely” content in our consciously selected groups and relationships? Clearly, these guidelines, criteria or whatever we choose to call them are not fully working! Why do we still have to work so hard to feel accepted even within our chosen groups? And why do we sometimes believe we can only be happy if we “belong”?

Lao Tzu said and I quote: “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”. Non-attachment, especially to one’s self image, is a necessity for personal change. In order to grow, we need to be open to change and new possibilities. Using limiting beliefs to decide who we associate with will separate us from more exciting and interesting groups and people and limit our personal growth?

We attach our thoughts and concepts to what is acceptable or unacceptable! Our interpretations of life situations are simply our personal thoughts, beliefs and concepts and we all are entitled to our personal interpretations of events. Beliefs are deep rooted guidelines that programme our behaviour and provide some kind of safety to our experiences; our belief structures govern our living experience. But don’t we want more; don’t we just yearn for other exciting experiences? Don’t we want to see the world from another perspective?

We need to breakthrough our limiting beliefs in order to experience an unlimited potential of creativity, autonomy, freedom and why not happiness! Only then can we reach our full growth as human beings. Only then can we become self-actualised! We can only evolve and change through the people we interact with! Limiting this change simply to comfortable interactions does not allow for much change if any.

As Byron Katie puts it: “We don’t attach to people or to things; we attach to un-investigated concepts that we believe to be true in the moment”. (Byron Katie, 2002, Loving What Is) She suggests that we not only inquire as to the truthfulness of our thoughts but that we also consider who we would be without those thoughts? We would definitely be interacting differently!

Thoughts precede physical manifestation. Relinquishing, letting go of fixed thoughts and beliefs might just be a way of freely allowing our emotions to express themselves in a positive, adult environment.

The need to grow and contribute should propel us to seek out diverse groups and interactions. Yes, we feel validated when we are around others with similar experiences but we need to use the loving feelings and experiences we get from these groups as a springboard, a support system that takes us out into greater, bigger and unpredictable experiences.

In the spirit of oneness, let’s take care of that need to belong that keeps us apart!