The Power of Belonging

The Power of Belonging


I was born in Milan, moved to the U.S. when I was 6, spoke French as my first language, and grew up in a predominantly Lebanese culture with English, Arabic, German, Italian, and French often spoken at the same time during family gatherings.  When people ask me where I am from or what nationality I belong to, I tell them the human and I really mean it.  All of these issues with race and culture fascinate me; but I can see why individuals want to belong to something; it actually makes psychological sense; but, just like everything else in life, when we take belonging to the extreme, we get ourselves in trouble.


Hunting and Gathering


Humans have banded together in bands, tribes, and nations for economic, social and political advantage from the beginning of recorded history.  We don’t even require studying history to see how modern hunters and gathering society (yes there are a few left) depend on each other for survival, as well as higher level psychological needs.  It’s fair to say that a sole hunter and gatherer would not survive as well alone.  Even if that individual would survive well by themselves, they would not have the psychological interaction that we all need in order to be psychologically happy.  We are all connected emotionally; it’s what gives humans their strength.


The Advantages of Modern Society


In our modern society, we can clearly see that we have certain advantages.  We have information at our finger tips, the ability to easily travel safely (relatively) to anywhere we wish, and the power to provide for our families in unique ways that help our society progress.  Because of our ability to provide food in a mass produced fashion, individuals in our modern society can specialize and do different jobs that expand our knowledge base and contribute to our advancement as a species.   The advances I am talking about are advances in knowledge that will help us to bridge the gaps between race, religion, and any other obstacle that divides us as a species.  Our ability and craving to belong contributes in a positive fashion in these circumstances; we all come together in times of need and disaster, helping each other when we need it the most (911 and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, where almost 300,000 people lost their lives).  


The Disadvantages of our Modern Society


This knowledge and technology does have a dark side, however.  Our sense of belonging drives us to our social media accounts where we can get lost in a virtual world, taking us away from genuine human connections.  These distractions often make us feel more alone than we would be if we really were alone.  Inflated stories of happiness from our friends drive us away from our real relationships, in search of something that we may never attain, perfect happiness.  We need to recognize that our drive to belong may backfire in these situations, and adapt a more “hunting and gathering” lifestyle, at least when it comes to belonging.

Real Connections and the Road to Belonging


As much as I enjoy technology just like the next person, one has to realize movement away from belonging that our technology can bring.  How much real human interaction do you have compared to how much technology induced interaction? If you have more hours spent with real interactions than technology induced ones, then you are on a positive road to belonging and psychological health.  I believe that this may be a large reason why we have so many individuals that suffer from disillusionment in our modern society.  The lack of human interactions is causing us to become less human.  I remember as a kid visiting the big cities of New York and London.  I also remember that individuals in those cities, surrounded by concrete and steel and bombarded by stress induced by technology, would behave differently than individuals in the smaller cities.  In today’s society, our brains are hacked by modern social media systems like Facebook and Youtube.  Brain hacking is a real phenomenon that works for the advantage of those that profit from having us online, and away from real human interaction.


Summary and Assignment


We can see where our deep sense of belonging and emotional attachment as humans can be a great advantage to us all.  This sense of belonging helps us in times of stress.  We reach out to each other and band together for survival.  At times, this sense of belonging can be negative, such as when we band together to divide our race or culture to put others down.  Our sense of belonging can make us vulnerable to social media, where we are drawn away from real, face to face connections and into a world that wants to keep our brains hacked to make a profit.  This week, make a list of hours of real human interactions, time spent truly alone, and times spent on a device of any kind where you interact using social media.  What did you come up with?  Hopefully, reading this article gives you a sense of where you stand in the circle of belonging, and how this sense can both be an advantage if used correctly and a disadvantage if not managed properly.


“Lean into it!”

Dr. N