How do we experience a sense of belonging?
My most recent reflection on belonging was triggered by a radio broadcast interview with a former Neo-Nazi. His chief motivation for initially hanging out with Neo-Nazis was a desire for a sense of belonging. He did not know what these men who were interested in him believed. They gave him attention and he felt connected to them. He assimilated to the group and was taught by them what they believed so he believed. He began to target for recruitment others with a yearning to belong. He easily spotted them, mirrors of himself.
Next, I heard the story of a recently appointed Minister of Loneliness in England. This also pointed to the pervasiveness of human disconnection in our world. Where do we turn? Where can we turn? For many in our country today, we have narrowed it to just a few others, often a spouse and/or family. This has been touted as the preferable model and many have early memories of belonging within family. These childhood experiences not only can root that sense of belonging, but also imply that this is the only way to achieve it. Boy, is that tough if your family doesn’t provide that!!
Even if you achieve that sense of belonging, what happens if a parent or sibling dies or there is a divorce? What happens if you leave that family without starting another? OR what happens if the family you created falls apart in some way?
What happens to your sense of belonging when interacting with a “screen” more than with another human? The “reaching out and touching” through a digital world often feels like connection as we widen our circle. After hello or shared joke, is there contact AND connection? How often is there contact and an illusion of connection? Social media enables more contact, sometimes connection, and can also accelerate a sense of separation, such as when anger is unleashed toward you or your group. When someone is professing confidently her or his truth as THE TRUTH and it doesn’t match yours, disconnection often results. It’s the judgment that primarily promotes the disconnection. Judgment has grown as ease of contact has grown. If strong enough and/or widespread enough, judgment of others becomes judgment of self and disconnection within. Underpinning all of this is often the belief that we achieve a sense of belonging only from other humans.
There are times when I easily notice my inseparable connection with fellow humans. Then there are the times when I seemed to stand alone from those around me. Where I have reclaimed my connection, that wonderful sense of belonging is immersing myself in the natural world. There is no judgment there. No matter how I am feeling, the natural world holds me and gives me all that I require to live in this world. I have found that this is the surest way for me to reconnect to my true self. The separation from myself is the most painful. As I have come to recognize and KNOW that I am of nature, not separate from it, I have the strongest sense of belonging. It includes humans and is not exclusively human. When obscured, I easily reclaim my belonging to myself and the entire natural world by immersing myself once again in the loving and accepting natural world.
I continue to want and enjoy a sense of belonging with other two-leggeds. That connection with any particular human or human group can strengthen or weaken, come and go, and remains a part of nature where we all belong all the time. When I hold and feel my oneness with all, the loneliness evaporates. I am not lured into a divisive world created by judging another to know that I belong. My belonging is a by-product of being alive now. Any divisive world is an illusion from this perspective.