The Hazards of Non-Belonging

By Paul Dunion | August 27, 2015

An old definition of the word belong is nearby. One implication is that we are motivated to bring our bodies, minds and hearts closer to a place, person or group when we experience belonging. Authentic belonging is accompanied by a comfort to reveal who we are. There is buoyancy to our experience of belonging when what we reveal is welcomed and received warmly. It can be challenging to admit a lack of belonging in places like family, where we expected it to be real. If our background is riddled with ridicule and disapproval, then we may find ourselves enduring an extended stay in the land of non-belonging.

Remaining In Non-Belonging
Marriage or committed relationships, and place of employment are two places where extended non-belonging tends to surface. I am not suggesting that we should take on a cavalier attitude toward moving out of a marriage or quitting a job. Let’s examine what might keep us in a job or marriage where we do not belong.

*Responsibility and obligation can keep us in non-belonging. This is especially true when feeling responsible is laced with heroic energy. We easily conclude that someone or group can’t make it without us.

*Fear can keep us bound to non-belonging. Often it is the fear of being alone. Of course, if we remain somewhere we don’t belong, we will feel alone and be alone.
*Ignorance can keep us where we don’t belong. In which case, the question of genuine belonging is not raised.

*Minimizing the power of belonging can keep us in non-belonging. The absence of sincere belonging becomes simply the loss of an incidental sentiment. However, it is important to get clear about the losses accompanying the absence of belonging.

Consequences and Losses
There are several significant consequences of an extended experience of non-belonging.
*When we are enduring non-belonging, we are relinquishing our roles, whether in a family or at work. For example, if a husband believes he does not belong in a relationship with is wife, yet stays in the marriage, then it is likely that one of his children will take his place. His non-belonging constitutes an abdication of his place in the primary relationship in the family. This creates an emotionally incestuous relationship between the child and the mother. Emotional incest has a number of important consequences. Among them include: the emotionally incested child typically called into an adult role with an inordinate amount of confusion about where he or she belongs. When experiencing any helplessness in their adult relationships, they either resort to being highly self-sacrificing or attached to illusions of power. Both are attempts to escape from the early helplessness they felt as a child striving to fill the shoes of the abdicating adult. When non-belonging happens at work, it is common for a co-worker to begin taking on the responsibilities and privileges of the employee who doesn’t belong.

*Another serious consequence happens due to our compromised participation. Skills supporting a higher level of spousing or achievement at work are sabotaged.

*Extended non-belonging easily generates attitudes characterized by pessimism, cynicism, emotional isolation, as well as a loss of faith in life.

*Non-belonging typically reflects a measure of adaption and compliance, leading to a degree of a loss of self and/or a contentious protest of what others are saying or doing. The protest reflects the evolving resentment that happens when we experience a loss of self due to excessive compliance.

*Sometimes in order to cope with the emotional price paid for staying in extended non-belonging, we create a fantasy person or group where we attempt to augment our deep need to belong. Our imaginary experience of belonging is destined to leave us empty and wanting.

Healing Non-Belonging
It may be our essential spiritual responsibility to foster our sense of belonging and bring healing to our loss of belonging. There are several suggested steps to the healing process:
*Trust your gut accompanied by some judicious curiosities. Am I aware enough of my own uniqueness in order to decide if others are welcoming me? Have I expressed myself amply enough in order to test whether my uniqueness can be welcomed here? If I am welcomed, how do I feel about it? Do I feel seen and heard here? Can my affiliation here support my emotional and intellectual development? Is this a place where there is mutual trust and respect?

*If you fear moving out of non-belonging, then find someone with whom you feel free to speak about it.

*Get help. Acquire an ally who can support exploring your tolerance for non-belonging and help you learn how to gradually generate permission to let go on non-belonging.
*Give yourself permission to grieve as you let go of the people and/or place where your non-belonging has lived.

*Slowly begin to notice where and with whom you feel seen and heard. Bring more of your truth to the encounter, remaining aware of how you are received.

*Commit to support the deep development of your belonging to yourself and devotionally bringing acceptance to your feelings, your beliefs and your choices.

We have explored the nature of non-belonging, how it is created, the losses and consequences and what it means to bring healing to it. It is important to allow for differing levels of belonging with an inner circle of friends being where we feel most welcomed, understood and accepted.

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