This is a most basic need. We all have it, whether we articulate it or not. Belonging is part of our DNA. Without it, we shrivel and eventually die.
Breeding alpacas we see this every day reflected in their behaviour. They are extraordinary herd animals and literally will die if left on their own. They have ‘best friends’ in the group and others they tolerate. But try and split them up and their gentle disposition turns to assertive desperation. And then, bring them back together and everyone utters a palpable sigh of relief – a gentle hum in their case. The whole group relaxes. All is well with the world, even if they are soggy wet in Welsh rain!
For us, as people, this sense of connection and dislocation may be less tangible. We’ve learnt how to be independent, at least we think we have. In the West, our cultivated individual mindset tells us that identity is all about us. We’re encouraged to feed our individual cravings with ‘stuff’, and treat our relationships as transient, disposable if they become inconvenient.
Doesn’t this sound awfully machine like? I think it’s an expression of our industrial age heritage, with individual superheroes or celebrities at the top of the tree. Underneath, we all need real connections.
I am not complete without you
I first came across the phrase ‘I am not complete without you’ whilst working with my dear friend, the psychiatrist Dr Roger Moss. His humanity shone through his amazing openness to the world and to people, and the rigour of his thinking. Through him, I learned more about the richness of who we are and how our wellbeing is communal, not just singular.
As quiet disruptors, seeking others out may not be our first impulse. However, I am realising that if we are to truly create generous space – to enable the kind of change we want to see – then we cannot do it on our own.
This isn’t just about scale, needing more of us if we’re going to make a difference. It’s about what it enables us to become. Neuroscientists tell us of the amazing things that happen to our brains when we are with others. Psychologists echo the synergy that good relationships provide. We are wired for connection from pre-birth. It doesn’t just stop when we are grown-up!
Unfortunately, for a number of us ‘needing others’ feels like a bit of a failure. But that’s just unhelpful chatter from a worn-out culture. Or it might be that we’ve just got so used to going it alone that we don’t realise what we’re missing.
As you have time to make sense of where you are this weekend, I hope you know that there are others like you. And you do belong.
Thanks for reading
I have loved writing this week, exploring different facets as they appeared each day. Being fed by your comments, our conversations and other encounters (including the Right Company Global Gathering). Thank you.