Feeling As If You Don't Belong
loves me for me!"
I was talking to a bright professional who had come in for
counseling. She functioned well and associated broadly, but
still she felt some painful and paradoxical absence. Most
certainly, she is not alone. Persons who seek counseling
often complain of something missing in their relationships,
marriage, family, work group or community of faith. Most of
us sense "belonging" is essential to our happiness
motivates our wish to connect? As our bodies need air and
food, so our inner self needs recognition, appreciation,
and affirmation--someone to hold us in "esteem." And
once we ourselves are reliably nurtured, we in turn become
the nurturers, looking beyond ourselves for some larger
belonging--another relationship, a broader community, a
shared ideal to bring us together.
most, our family was our first place of belonging, and
where we learned the rules and roles of belonging. We tend
to continue those behaviors that were met with approval,
and squelch those that were met with disapproval. From
our small family-tribe, our social world then grows bigger
and bigger, where we meet new challenges, satisfactions
and frustrations. Some, who have felt the absence of belonging
in the past or present, decide not to commune with others
but rather to make themselves "immune." Since
this need will not go away, however, we may end up substituting
a deformed belonging, such as an addiction or abusive relationships.
contrast, healthy belonging is a two-way street of mutuality
and self-giving. We bring our gifts, our talents, our dreams,
and our selves to the other. We expect the other to do likewise.
When we predictably also reveal our faults and flaws,
we trust others will love and accept us anyway. And we in
turn accept theirs. In fact, sharing these untoward experiences
can form incredibly intimate bonds. This ideal is easily present,
and most of us spend a lifetime learning how to relate authentically.
is an old Hasidic story about Heaven and Hell. "I
will show you Hell," the Lord said to a rabbi, and
led him to a room of famished, desperate people sitting
around a large circular table. In the center was a pot
of stew, enough for everyone. Yet no one ate. All they
had was a single long-handled spoon; long enough to reach
the stew, but too long to then get the food into one's
own mouth. "Now I will show you Heaven," said
the Lord. The rabbi entered another room, identical to
the first. They had the same table, same stew, and same
long-handled spoon. Yet everyone was full, flourishing
and exuberant. "I don't understand the difference," said
the rabbi. "It is simple," said the Lord. "You
see, the people in this room have learned to use the spoon
to feed each other." I am slowly learning to let myself
be fed, and to pass it on to others.
The Samaritan Counseling Centers
out more about pastoral counseling.