To belong is to be accepted. To belong is to feel secure. Without belonging, we are alone. As humans, our greatest desire is to know and be known, to love and be loved and to feel confident that those who know and love us will be there for us through joy and trouble.
In this blog series, the Beauty of Belonging, we discuss three aspects of belonging: belonging to ourselves, belonging to each other and belonging to God. This blog post will focus on what it means to belong to each other.
Relationships are the most important part of life. That is a bold statement, but most people would agree. We all desire to be connected to others. The greatest joy a human can feel is the joy of being securely attached to others. The greatest types of pain a human can feel is attachment pain. This type of pain is most felt with loss, rejection and loneliness.
The human brain is actually more concerned with who your attachments are than it is who you are as an individual. It is not that individual identity is not important because it definitely is. The point is that belonging to “our people” is even more important. We all need a place to belong, and the greatest joy in life is to feel the safety and security of this type of attachment.
Loss comes in many forms. Death is the most obvious form of loss, but loss can also be felt when a child moves away, spouses decide to separate or divorce or a conflict separates a once close relationship. Rejection is also devastating. Rejection is more that just the denial of connection. It is a pushing away or a shaming experience that humiliates the recipient. The result of rejection is often self-doubt and self-hatred which leads to hopelessness and despair. Loneliness can be the result of loss or rejection, but loneliness can also be present just because no one is or ever has been present to fill the connection void.
If connection is so important, it is vital that we learn how to do it better in our homes, schools, workplaces, churches and neighborhoods. Sadly, these environments are often places of low joy disconnection instead of high joy connection. There are reasons for this. There are three response styles in every group dynamic that contribute to whether or not a group will experience joy together.
The response styles are as follows:
Predator (Bully) – exploits the weaknesses of other out of fear of their own weakness being exposed – the natural state of all humans
Possum (Victim) – is scared of their weaknesses being exposed and ends up going along with or running away from predators to avoid harm
Protector – has a strong joyful identity, creates belonging, and is tender toward the weaknesses of others – only learned through someone modeling and encouraging this behavior
Low joy environments are led by predators. The stereotype of a bully is the bigger kid in school who steals the lunch money of the younger and weaker kid. However, predators don’t always look or seem like bullies at first glance. This type of behavior is often covert. You can tell you are in a low-joy, predatory environment when people value looks, popularity and possessions over anything else. Those who don’t look as good or who don’t have as much are not valued in the group. When people smile and laugh in these types of environments, it is most often at the expense of others. Any intimacy felt is a false sense of intimacy based on an unhealthy fear bond instead of a healthy bond motivated by love.
In contrast, a high joy environment is one that has a strong gentle protector as the lead. A gentle protector creates an atmosphere of safety where everyone is valued and everyone belongs at an equal level. A protector is strong and secure enough in their own identity that they are able to stand up to predators and set a precedent for how the group treats one another. School and churches, neighborhoods and workplaces desire to create this type of community where their members feel safe and everyone is joyful and can rest in the strength of the connections. These connections are bonded in love and genuine concern and sacrifice for others. Authentic smiles and laughter are a central aspect of these high joy groups. We can grow to be our true selves and actualize into all we were intended to be in these types of groups.
Growing high joy environments and confronting low joy environments is essential if we want to be healthy. Its so important that each of us is learning to face our predatory behaviors as well as the predatory behaviors of others while embracing the idea of growing in authentic joyful connection with those around us. This is not an easy task. In order to do this, we have to look at ourselves honestly, work to overcome negative ways of thinking as well as negative behaviors, and seek help when it is needed.
The therapists at CFT are committed to helping individuals, couples and families face negative habits and behaviors and grow strong joyful connections. If you and your family are struggling with low joy/fear-based bonds, please reach out to us today. We would be honored to help you move forward on your journey to finding true belonging that brings lasting joy for all.
Wilder, Dr. Jim. Joy Starts Here. Shepherds House, 2013.
Wilder, Dr. Jim. Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You. Shepherds House, 2013.