I am seeking stories of belonging – or lack thereof –
and the impact belonging or exclusion has on your experience of life.
Belonging is commonly accepted as a basic human need (Maslow’s Hierarchy), and we are learning how loneliness is making us sick and killing us, and yet we are not talking about belonging’s impact on our lives the same way we talk about the other needs. Consider how much media and business exists that is focused on physical health, safety, self esteem and self actualization, and then take a look at the results for belong/belonging on Google. In our cultural conversation there is a significant lack of attention to something that researchers have been telling us matters to our health in every possible way – intimate connection with others.
We live in a culture of individualism and exclusion. We form social groups that are based on a shared quality or interest that we have and others don’t. We find reasons to exclude far more than we look for reasons to include – money and class, illness and disability, appearance and skin color. No matter the group we belong to, we seek those who are most like us. We avoid those who are most different. We actively exclude those we consider too different – too awkward for easy connection, too poor to dress like us, too limited by disability to participate in our activities.
One could argue our obsession with romantic relationships is really an attempt to find long lasting belonging. We tell ourselves the story that there is one person out there who can meet our needs to be loved and accepted. When one person can’t meet those needs we feel lost and often leave the relationship to seek another person instead of realizing that we need a community to all of our needs.
After recognizing that the need for belonging is at the foundation of my lifelong search for love, as well as how nurturing belonging is at the root of all of my past projects, I now understand that belonging is my life’s work. I am in the process of writing a book about belonging, as well as exploring potential interactive community art projects that could foster connection and belonging both online and in the places we live. I am also interested in sharing stories for those willing to be open about their experiences living with, or without, cultures of belonging in families of origin, in chosen families, and in other communities or groups (schools, workplaces, spiritual communities, counter culture affiliations, gangs, cults etc.).
I am collecting stories and conducting interview style conversations as part of my qualitative research (there is no selling or attempt to hook you into my other work). I seek to deepen my understanding of how belonging and inclusion impacts our lives and how we can create cultures of belonging in our schools, workplaces, and community spaces.
You can participate either by sending me a story in the form below or by scheduling a 1 hour video or phone conversation through this link.
These are the sorts of questions I ask: What have you hidden or sacrificed in order to belong? Have you experienced a thriving a culture of belonging? Where do you belong now? Where do you seek belonging when you are lonely or feel isolated or are finding your way in a new place? Have you been excluded through emotional or physical violence? Do you believe you have physical and/or mental health issues because of a lack of belonging/connection in our life? How do you think we can create cultures of belonging in our schools, workplaces, and community spaces?
Thank you for your consideration.