Some of us are lucky. We are born into a family or a society where we feel like we belong. For others of us, because of our terrible self-concept (which is the result of shame), we feel the only places we belong are places we wish we didn’t belong. And for others of us, the lack of belonging we feel plagues our life. We feel fundamentally disconnected. We don’t feel like we belong anywhere. We don’t feel like we belong with anything.
Belonging is one of the highest frequency vibrations in this universe. In fact, we could consider oneness, love and belonging to all be different “tones” of the same color. But it is not simply that. It is also a basic human need. So many of us in the spiritual field believe it is not only possible but also good to transcend human needs. We use our spiritual practice to work against our own biology instead of with it. But it is not possible to un-need something that you need. It is only possible to meet that need in a different way. We need to feel as if we belong in order to feel ourselves to be connected with or one with anything in our lives instead of completely alone. We are social creatures. Human beings that are isolated die in a similar way that a plant dies if it is not given water. But the sad thing is, without a sense of connection and belonging, a person will die even if they are surrounded by other people.
To belong is to be a part of something. But true belonging is to be so much a part of something that you can’t not be a part of it, even if you wanted to. For example, to belong to a club you simply have to be a member of that club. But that is not true belonging because you can decide not to be a member of the club and then, you don’t belong to the club anymore. With true belonging, it doesn’t matter if you leave or if you don’t want to be a part of it anymore, you are. The best explanation I can give you is to see that you are a human. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to be a human, you are. You belong to the human race and the only way out of that belonging is death.
I want you to grab a piece of paper and imagine that part of that paper doesn’t want to be part of the paper. Rip it in half. Place the two halves of the paper on opposite sides of a table. They are separate now. But did you manage to make the paper not be paper? No. There was no way to take the paper out of the paper. There is security in that level of connection because you cannot break the connection.
In true belonging, you are held and contained by something. It is the most positive expression of ownership in existence. In this kind of ownership, all parts are indivisible from the whole so you cannot do harm to a part without harming the whole. For example, if someone belongs to you and with you, you take them as part of yourself and so you cannot hurt them without hurting yourself. This is the complete opposite of the form of ownership where something doesn’t belong to you, you simply possess it and so you can harm it without perceiving any harm to yourself because you don’t see it as part of yourself.
To love something is to take something as part of yourself. It is therefore obvious that belonging and love go hand in hand. If you take something as part of yourself, it belongs to you. One of the problems on the planet is that we get into relationships that are absent of belonging. Our relationships are entirely conditional. We don’t ever take the other person in as part of ourselves and so we cannot consider their best interests as a part of our own best interests. We exclude them from us. The opposite of belonging is exclusion, isolation and ostracization.
The reason some people have such an aversion to belonging is because they haven’t actually experienced belonging before. There is a saying in the Christian religions that the devil’s greatest disguise is to pretend that he is Christ. Ironically, it is so true of many things that the most opposite vibration of something you want often comes disguised as the very thing you want most. The worst villain will come disguised as the victim. The same is true of belonging. Isolation and non-belonging will often come disguised as belonging. We can call this type of belonging shadow belonging. It is this type of belonging that gives belonging a bad reputation. The best example of shadow belonging is cult groups. In these groups, to belong is to no longer be free but to be owned like an object. In these groups, the wellbeing of the individual members or lack thereof does not impact the overall group. In fact often the detriment of the individual is what most benefits the group. In these groups, belonging is determined by exclusion. They are defined by who doesn’t belong vs. who does belong. They are exploitative. And first and foremost, punishments including ostracization are a consequence of not conforming to the group. Looking at this shadow belonging, which isn’t actually true belonging, you can see that many religions, social groups and even families fit into this category.
A common form of shadow belonging that happens in families, occurs when a parent demonstrates narcissistic personality traits. In this family, one child who does not please this parent is typically ostracized from the family sense of belonging. We call this child the black sheep or the scapegoat. And another child learns that pleasing the parent by erasing their own best interests and even letting go of their entire identity to become what the parent wants them to be is the only way to belong in the family instead of being punished or ostracized. We call this child the favored child or the golden child.
For the ostracized child, their life will be a never-ending search to try to find belonging. For the favored child, belonging is synonymous with loss of self, absorption and self-betrayal. Their life will be a war between wanting to feel connected to people but pushing people away because belonging represents such a threat to self-preservation. In reality, neither child had belonging. Because belonging was completely conditional upon pleasing the parent, one was offered no belonging and the other was offered shadow belonging.
Going off of this last example of the child who learns to feel a sense of belonging by abandoning their sense of self, most of us on earth suffer from this split in our personality between who we are and who we present to the world in order to fit in with the world. The truth is, if we have to present something to the world that is not authentic to who we are in order to fit in, we do not actually belong any more than a wolf belongs in a sheep herd if he is dressed as a sheep. For this reason, trying to fit in is in fact the biggest enemy to true belonging. The only hope you have for finding true belonging is to let your real self be known to yourself and then to let it be known to the world. To find true belonging, you have to give up on trying to fit in. When we do this, we stop trying to belong with people who really wont ever include the real us as part of them. And as a result the people who we truly belong with can find us and we can find them.
I am going to say something that is going to change the way you look at belonging entirely. If it is possible for not belonging to be a consequence of separating in any way from something, there was no belonging in the first place. For example, if it is possible for ostracization to be a consequence of your religion, there was no belonging inherent in that religion in the first place. If it is possible to not belong to or to be dis-included from to your family if there is a conflict or a non-conformity, there was no belonging inherent in that family to begin with. With true belonging, you don’t have to do anything in order to belong or to keep your current belonging.
We could say that you truly belong to Source or God because you are a part of it. You are indivisible from it. You can’t un-belong to it. No matter what you do or don’t do, not belonging to it is not a consequence that even God or Source can give you. But what we need in our physical lives is to have that experience in an embodied way in our relationship with others. If we felt true belonging with others, even if our roles in each other’s lives changes, we would still belong to them and with them. Not belonging together would not be a consequence of divorce for example. We would simply add each other’s next partners to the belonging.
Sometimes, if our self-concept is bad enough, the only way we can feel true belonging is in a way that causes us pain. For example, if I believe I am bad or dark or evil, I may want to belong to a family that is loving and wealthy and that cooks together and that I see as virtuous. But because of my self-concept, I can’t feel like I belong there. I can only feel like I belong in a tattoo parlor with other people who are alone and dark and brutal and in pain and who struggle to make ends meet. Because a sense of belonging is such a strong need, it’s the only way we can feel truly accepted, we will gravitate toward the group we don’t actually want to belong to rather than the one we want to belong to but can’t.
If we live our lives from a self-concept of shame, we end up lonely because we believe people don’t like us and therefore don’t want us to be a part of them. We cannot recognize it when other people ARE actually deeply attached to us and that they are connected to us and that they deeply need us and want us and like us. We don’t feel it at all. If we did, we would feel people being WITH us. But we don’t. Because of this, we end up pushing them away and we end up alone because that lack of recognition of their wanting us to be a part of them, causes us to not take any care of their connection to us, which makes them feel totally unloved and unvalued by us and so they feel hurt by us and so they either turn against us or they simply go away. This leaves us feeling no sense of belonging.
The question in all of our relationships should be “how can I provide a sense of belonging to this person? What would I say or do differently if I considered them to be a permanent part of me?”
Taking this one step further, we are not just giving this shadow form of belonging to each other. We are giving it to parts of ourselves. Any time you give yourself the message through you thoughts or actions that any part of you should be excluded from you, you are telling that part that it doesn’t belong with you. And because it is a part of you, YOU will feel that feeling of inner isolation, exclusion and rejection. For example, if a part of me is deeply in pain or angry and I have the attitude that I want that part of me to be gone; I am creating an atmosphere of non-belonging inside myself. And the result is, this part of me cannot be dis-included from me (because it is me), so all that will happen is it will feel more pain and feel more anger. Therefore, relative to ourselves, we need to ask “how can I provide a sense of belonging to this part of me? What would I say or do differently if I considered it to be a permanent part of me?”
One way to culture a sense of belonging is to look for your similarities with the things you want to belong to. When we are in pain as a result of not belonging, we are hyper vigilant for differences that could lead to us being ostracized again. As a result, so much of our focus is placed on how we are different and on how we don’t fit in. What we need to do is to look at everything through the lens of how am I the same as this thing? For example, if I want to belong to my partner, how am I the same as him or her?
In the beginning of our relationships, we tend to feel intense belonging with the other person. As time goes on, we start to lose this sense. This is because when we meet someone we are interested in, we notice all the similarities between them and us. These similarities are how we establish a connection. For example, we notice someone loves horses and we love them too. This gives us that sense of belonging. But as the relationship goes on, we start to notice our differences instead and this makes us feel more separate and less connected and that sense of belonging goes away. From this point on, we now have to actively work at belonging by putting energy into recognizing and capitalizing on our similarities as well as designing our life so that our differences are not a threat to the connection between us. Look for how you DO belong instead of looking for how you don’t belong.
Pain is inherently isolating. It convinces us that we are the only one who feels the way we feel or who has experienced what we have experienced. So one thing we would benefit by if we wish to belong is to see how we are not the only one hurting and to see that other people are suffering or have suffered from the same thing that we are suffering from. This is one of the main reasons that Alcoholics Anonymous even works. The root of every addiction on the planet is a sense of personal isolation. By being in the room with other people who are also struggling with an addiction to alcohol, you have a place to belong and so you feel less isolated and so the root of the addiction begins to go away.
Another way to culture belonging is to accept people. Acceptance is the opposite of denial and avoidance. What does it mean to accept something? To accept is to recognize something as valid or correct. Doing this makes your being consent to receiving it and digesting it as truth instead of fighting to not acknowledge it and not take it in. Acceptance has nothing to do with condoning something or condemning something. It has nothing to do with whether you want to change something or not. It is simply about being able to acknowledge something as valid enough to let that acknowledgement in instead of fight to keep it out.
To accept someone is to recognize any part of them as valid, regardless of whether or not you have the same opinion or feeling or perspective. For example, we may have a child that feels like they belong with us because they are gay and we cannot accept that about them. We push it away and fight against it. To accept it to acknowledge that what is the reality is that they are gay. It is also to see how from their life experience and feelings and perspective, it is valid that they identify as gay.
Validating others builds a sense of belonging. In fact, one could say that validating others is how they know that we accept them. By validating them and accepting them, we are saying that their internal experience is understandable to us. In this position, there is no opposition. It is possible to belong and to be different from one another. For this reason, in order to learn how to validate, I encourage you to watch my video on YouTube titled: The Emotional Wake Up Call.
We have to see the ways we are pushing people and things away from us instead of making them a part of us. We have to observe the words we are using and the ways we are thinking and the things we are doing so we can decide whether those ways of thinking and things we are saying and things we are doing are pushing people away from us or making us separate from them. We have to see the ways we are not creating a sense of belonging for people in our lives and stop doing those things. Only then can we behave in different ways. Ways that culture a sense of belonging in ourselves and others.
There are really only two movements to watch out for in your life. The movement of pulling something closer to yourself and the movement of pushing it away. This is the same as the movement of pulling yourself toward something and the movement of pushing yourself away from something. When we think or speak or take an action, we are doing one or we are doing the other. One is inclusive and therefore creates love, oneness and belonging. One is exclusive and creates aloneness, exclusion and resistance.
The truth is that a human being cannot exist as an island. We cannot thrive alone. We don’t want to be excluded. The truth is we desperately want to belong to each other. And the highest truth of all is that in a universe where oneness is the highest truth of all, there is nothing in this universe that we do not belong with and there is nothing in existence that doesn’t belong with us.