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30 April 2024

Strangers Together - A Simple Belongingness Model

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We’re all strangers here to this world. 

We have a deep knowing that we do not belong here. Some of us feel more connected to a different era, a different culture, a different role, a different person. For some, it’s medieval times, living as a magician in a high tower. For others, a time on a different planet, and so on. 

Whatever other time resonates most with us, we might not feel like we belong here in this one, this culture, this era, this planet, this body. 

And yet, we all carry on as though since we are here, it must mean that we belong here. And besides, everyone else seems to fit in so well to being here in this world. We then believe: it must be me. I’m the only one who doesn’t belong here. 

What if we all didn’t belong here? And I don’t mean “This world is not our home” in the way I sang as a child with my Christian family to express our deep longing for a real mystical place called heaven. No. I definitely don’t mean that. 

Still, what if we’re all trying to find some “place” and time where we belong? 

And so, what if nothing is wrong with us for feeling like this world is not our home? What if that feeling is actually right? We do not belong here.

A Simple Belongingness Model

What if we don’t need to help each other belong? How do we belong to a place that we don’t belong to?

Ironically, our sense of belonging comes from the acknowledgment that we don’t feel like we belong, and having those feelings acknowledged and validated by others (mostly others with some power) who also feel like they don’t belong. Then we discover that together, we don’t belong. And from there, a deeper sense of belonging emerges. This belonging is not tied to a place, an organization, a culture, nor any entity or group. From this shared experience of non-belongingness, a deeper sense of belonging emerges. 

Belonging then is not a problem that can be fixed. It is not a polarity to manage either, for my polarity-loving friends. Non-belongingness is a quality of being a human being, like having eyes. We need something way more basic and often overlooked for us to address non-belongingness. I think of this “something” as the ABC of being a human being.

A: Acknowledgment. Acknowledge that we’re in this world together, even as we might feel like we belong somewhere else. Acknowledge that non-belongingness is a shared universal experience. If you’re a leader, share some of your experiences – past and present – of not feeling like you belong. Do not pretend as though you have an Exceeds Expectation on the belongingness scale or use some spiritual by-passing lingo like: wherever I go, there I am; or I am citizen of the world and therefore belong everywhere. Blah, blah, blah. Please don’t say those things. 

B: Be Here Now. One of the funny things about being a human being is our relationship to time. This is not a laughing matter though. We sometimes attach ourselves to the past, whether to heal some wounds, relive the good ole days, or punish someone, including ourselves, for something they did. We fixate about the future – worry about what’s going to happen, avoid it the way we consciously choose a different route because we don’t want to damage our car on that bad road, or we plan for how we want things to be. Just another 2 years and I’ll be out of this job, relationship, financial situation, etc. Our mind seems to naturally avoid the present like a plague. One effect of this relationship to time is we miss each other while traveling to nowhere in our phantom Time Machine. The past and future shield our vision from seeing those who are here now in our presence, in our world. And we can only see them by being here now. This is a magical quality – being present to what is happening now, to who is here now. 

C: Compassionate expression. You likely saw this one coming. We need to be gentler with each other and with ourselves. What would you do if you knew that everyone in your family, on your team, in your business or organization or church, living in your country, etc was suffering or was hurting somehow? What would you do if you found out that someone close to you is heartbroken? Or is feeling sad? I hope you will not ignore them. I hope you would at least send them virtual hugs and kisses. Or pat your own heart as you make eye contact with them. Or send them flowers, a thoughtful handwritten note with something like: “I think you’re amazing. That’s all.” I suspect that we all have a well of compassion that we are each yet to find the bottom of. Let’s keep digging. 

That’s it. The ABC of being a human being and living in a world where so many of us feel like we don’t belong. And my simple belongingness model. Of course, I have no empirical data to back this model up. I haven’t written a book or given workshops about it. That doesn’t mean you should dismiss it though. I want to say something like the world would likely be a lonelier place if you do, but that’s not true. The world won’t get any lonelier because of you. However, it might feel less lonely for one person if you consider and take some kind of inspired action based on what you’ve read here. That’s my hope, my invitation. Acknowledge someone. Be here now. And explore and express the depths of your compassion. 

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