|Developing a Sense of Belonging|
As I did in my two prior articles, I'm using the character, Elena Greco, from Ms. Ferrante's novels to illustrate how change, which includes developing your sense of self as a separate person from family and friends, can be challenging and how this challenge can be overcome.
Others, who find it too difficult, might take an all-or-nothing attitude by either leaving behind all the traditional customs in order to blend in and feel that they belong in their new country, or by resisting all new customs.
A sense of belonging is a basic human need.
|Developing a Sense of Belonging: A Sense of Belonging is a Basic Human Need|
From the time that we're born, we're hardwired for attachment to our primary caregivers and without them, we can't survive.
Similarly, from the days of cave men and cave women and beyond, survival depended upon belonging to a tribe. No one could go it alone and survive. During those times, being banished from the tribe meant death.
At first, she was ashamed because she felt inferior to the classmates she met in Pisa. She was mostly aware of how different she was from them, and she felt she didn't belong there.
- Look for and Accept Opportunities For Connection: Before you get to know people, you might make certain negative assumptions about them. But you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that your assumptions aren't correct when you take the time to get to know people. If there are opportunities to connect, accept them, keep an open mind, and get to know others.
- Get to Know People as Individuals: It's not unusual, at first, to see people who are part of another group as being all the same. But, in reality, we are all individuals, so it's important, to get to know each person as an individual rather than making assumptions about them because they're part of a particular group.
- Discover Common Values: Common values can create bonds. While you might not share the same exact values, looking for some common values can be a start towards developing a sense of belonging. So, for instance, even though you might be from a different religion, you and the new people that you're meeting might share a wish for there to be peace regardless of religion. This can be a powerful bond. Or, for instance, you might discover that others have had similar losses and a similar understanding of what it means to cope with loss and emotional pain. This can also serve as a powerful bond.
- Strive to Be Non-judgmental: Acceptance is different from agreement. You might not agree with everything about the new group but, in most instances, you can learn to be nonjudgmental. This doesn't mean that you take on values that you might not believe in or that you're not discerning about what's best for you. It does, however, mean that you don't automatically judge someone as unacceptable because you and s/he might have different views.
|Developing a Sense of Belonging: Getting Help in Therapy|
You're not alone. Many people before you have struggled with the same problem and have learned to overcome it.
|Getting Help in Therapy to Develop a Sense of Belonging|