Food, water, shelter, belonging. All of these are basic needs; however, we may not give them all equal weight; at least not consciously. There are times, however, in people's lives where having a sense of belonging is critical. The holiday season can bring up feelings of connectedness or disconnectedness; loneliness or community; frustration or acceptance. Early in life, being connected to your caregiver as a child is so important, that the lack of such an attachment can lead to many years of trying to find a substitute. And then there's junior high, oh man... junior high. How badly we all want to fit in. But fitting in is not belonging, is it? There is an element of conformity to fitting in. Belonging, on the other hand, is acceptance of who you are within the connection you have with others. Belonging is about being in the presence of others, without judgement, and feeling like you hold space in their lives and in their hearts, and visa versa. Did you feel that sense this holiday season when you were amongst others?
Not having a sense of belonging can be isolating and lonely. Sometimes it is hard to see where we belong when everything seems foggy. Depression, for example, can make it difficult to see the connections you already have, and can prevent you from making new ones. Anxiety can make it seem as though every connection you have is hanging by a thread just waiting for you to mess it up. In other words, feeling like you belong takes effort, and this can sometimes seem hard, even during the holidays. When found, belonging can lead to increased motivation and contentment.
Personally, I have found that sense of belonging in the running community. Take the group that my coach has formed in the Solo Sport Systems team. There are a beautiful array of souls: male, female, professional, retired, slow, fast, young, old, big, and small. There is a universal sense of belonging. We are all runners and athletes, of some kind. My coach always said that when it comes to running specifically, unless you are an elite runner, there will always be someone out there that mops the floor with you that you would never have guessed would do so. In my first marathon, a man that looked to be easily twice my age completely crushed me. If I may be so bold- he was one bad ass old man. But see, that's the wonderful thing about running and walking. We all belong on the road, outside, being active.
Belonging is a human need that we all seek. There is another place where acceptance and belonging is at the core. The therapeutic relationship is a place where acceptance of your internal experience is at the foundation of the work that is done together. It is also a place where you can examine your own conscious and subconscious. You can determine when disagreement with another person can co-occur with acceptance. You can consider how the holidays left you feeling renewed and connected, or stuck. In therapy, you are not alone. You belong.