Its a very different world, when you live in one in which you seemingly don’t have a true north. Most people are born into families, families in which you have a deep sense of belonging if not acceptance and love. Granted not everyone has the privilege to have divine acceptance and perpetuating love from their families, but undoubtedly, most that have a family relation have a sense of belonging. After all, family is the first group in which any of use “belong” to. Then theres those of us, who had circumstances that led to a sense of unbelonging. Nomad Land, is what I like to refer to it; the place in which you understand you don’t truly belong though you are present enough to have the sense of longing for belonging.
By the time I was old enough to know what belonging was, I knew everything it wasn’t. Unwanted from birth from my father rooted solely based on my gender and discarded by my mother for a man in my early childhood left me at the center of Nomad Land. Success rate isn’t that high for circumstances such as my own, but giving up was never a question. Resilient, I took the necessary actions to remove legal guardianship from my parents, gained a workers permit and continued to overcame every obstacle I’ve ever had as a result.
I understood at an early age, that I wasn’t going to be a victim of my circumstances, that I had a choice, a choice to have a better life than the life I was born to. I was twelve when she left, today I am thirty three, educated with a Master’s degree, led by a applaudable career and depicted by a life composed of achieved dreams and yet its not enough, for that sense of belonging never quite seems to dissipate. It’s the one casualty from my past that has bled into my present. A prisoner of Nomad Land if you will; aware enough to know what it is you need, but unable of providing it for yourself, for this is something in which you attain from others.
To understand Nomad Land, you must first truly understand the significance of belonging, what it is, and how it effects us. Belonging comes from being yourself and being seen for who you are; in short its acceptance by those you accept, and who better to give that to you, than the people you spent the forming years of your life with? Your family, the one’s you’ve always turned to in times of need. A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food or shelter are physical ones; belonging is a mental and emotional need. In fact, most physiologists will argue that feeling you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions throughout the course of one’s life.
True to my form, I don’t deny it, I don’t even try to hide it. Instead, I open up the wound and try to learn from it, try to teach from it. Barren from the emotional depletion of such a basic need as belonging, I begin to take ownership of the faulty need, I begin to look closely at what it truly means to have a sense of belonging. And what I have come to find is that the desire to belong is a universal human need that is found in all cultures since the dawn of time. It’s a powerful motivator that dates back to our caveman days, when belonging to a clan or tribe meant the difference in whether or not one would survive. Needless to say, it is the very DNA of humans to crave a sense of belonging. In fact, much of our behavior, thought and emotions stem from our psychological need to belong.
So what does it feel like, to belong? From what I understand belonging is like stepping up on a platform and feeling like you are fully supported. And as I begin to understand that, I realized just how alienated I was from that concept. I spent my life doing what most people do when they are trying to fill a void, I fell into a consumerism traps with superficial joys and paid happiness. I filled myself as high as I could, I filled my void with materialistic pleasures: exotic cars, foreign lands, designer price tags, and limitless goals merely because I could. Merely because it gave me satisfaction knowing I needn’t rely on anyone for my greatest desires, that I could provide everything I ever needed on my own, or so I had thought. In hindsight I realized the limits I would go to as a means of filling that void, were deplorable. I realized I had been in denial all of these years, for the truth is you do need others to provide a basic need, a sense of belonging. It wasn’t until I understood what I wasn’t doing right, to truly see what I could be doing right.
To understand belonging, you must also understand what it is like to not have a sense of belonging. Again, belonging is engrained into the very DNA of who we are, so it should be no surprise that even our brains are wired to respond emotionally and physically to the sense or lack thereof. Our brain uses circuits to deal with pleasures and pain, so when one has severed relations that result in a loss of belonging not only will the injury cause copious ill effects, but it can also affect our brains in similar ways as physical injuries would. It goes to say then, that human beings have been wired when we are bereft of belonging, just as evolution has wired us to feel pain when we are deprived of our basic physical needs.
So herein lies the obstacle at hand, we have a need, a need that is reliant of other’s that not only must accept, but seek us and support us. Thus, if you can’t obtain belonging from your family, then you must look to others, and most often that is a deeply cumbersome notion to surrender to. The one commonality across the board with people who have a sense of unbelonging almost always are hesitate of trust to others. So here we are, the ones who don’t have the fundamental need we were suppose to be born to have and now we are faced with the realization that we must look to other’s to attain such a need as belonging. To trust others to protect you, to trust that other’s will have your best interest when you didn’t even have that with your family, the ones that were inherently put on this earth to do just that; to protect and accept you. Needless to say, it can be quite a formidable concept to grasp. But a need is a need, and the sooner we realize that we can’t provide belonging to our own self, the sooner the steps to belonging can arrive.
Most physiologist studies state that when one is unable to have a sense of belonging with your first group i.e. family, it is necessary that humans seek out other groups, groups such as your friends, your significant other, communities, social networks and even religion as a means of gaining a sense of belonging. It doesn’t have to be overnight, it can be gradual, it can start with a foundation of trust and lead into vulnerability. But inevitably belonging starts with vulnerability, the ability to be vulnerable with others enough to be seen, to be exposed enough to let others know you on a deeper level. To be successful in vulnerability it must be accepted and reciprocated in order to advance to a sense of belonging. A series of trials and tribulations no doubt, but ones in which can result in attaining a basic need amongst the risks.
I spent a majority of my life believing that “needing” makes us weak, makes us vulnerable, makes us susceptible to pain. All of which is true, but when why then do we deem negative cogitation with vulnerability as well? Needing isn’t something to deem derogatory, it’s at the very core of our existence. We are designed to have needs, needs in which are basic to our fundamentals of living. Often times we understand the basic physical needs we have to survive, but understanding our psychological needs is just as important to living.
Society teaches us as children our most basic physical needs, but our physical needs are not the only needs we have. We often think we know what we need, but more times than not, we don’t truly know it in its entirety until something triggers a loss of a need. Though loss shouldn’t be the main indicator to our most basic needs and I believe the sooner we stop to assess what it is we truly need, the sooner we can begin to live the best version of ourself. So what it is that you need? Do you know?