Where do you belong?

Are you lonely or have you found your "tribe"?

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As a race, human beings may have advanced technologically and scientifically in leaps and bounds but our primal brain still invokes a need to belong to a social group or tribe. This could be our family, community, friendship group, at school, college or university or at work. We all need to feel we belong and are valued. In psychology from Maslow to the Human Givens, it is seen as one of our basic human needs. 

 As primitive man we were physically safer in groups. If we were rejected by our tribe and had to go it on our own, we were more likely to get picked off by wild animals prowling around.  And that never ended well. 

Of course in our Western society we face very few wild animals but psychologically it still feels threatening  to be rejected or abandoned by the “tribes" we belong to; our families and social groups. Loneliness is the scourge of our times, young and old alike. It is recognised now as an issue that impacts upon our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.  It can result in fearful thoughts leading to anxiety and depression. 


Even though on a global scale we are more connected with technology than ever, the flesh and blood human connection that we all need seems to have become less important. Physically being with someone to see a smile forming at the corner of their mouth or the tears welling up in another's  eyes. To share their happiness with a pat on the back or offer them support with a hug. Positive physical touch and human connection is important to us  and releases the neurotransmitter oxytocin into our brains that soothes and comforts us. 

 My recent, local Pride event showed human connection in all it's beauty and colour. I stood and watched the many thousands of people, young and old,  that turned out to show the world that they were proud of who they were. They celebrated that they belonged  to their community in a powerful, colourful and creative way. To me this showed a perfect example of people who have found their tribe and feel they belong and feel safe to shout, dance, sing, hug, kiss and high five each other and those watching. 

My other heartening realisation was that the people watching were as supportive and welcoming and that even if they didn't belong to the LGBT+ community there was acceptance of their difference.

The big world powers could learn lessons in humility and grace from this.  Understanding that whoever you are or whatever your beliefs or values that others who seem so different to you are not so different really. They are simply human beings who want to belong and be part of the group in which they can be themselves, feel valued and safe in. 

As a psychotherapeutic counsellor in working with clients who define themselves as LGBT+, I have recognised that many come to me initially feeling anxious and unsafe about expressing themselves and if and where they fit in. It seems the regular news feeds of the current social and political maelstrom are not helping. However after voicing their concerns with a therapist and finding support in therapy to find the confidence to approach a supportive group or tribe much of their anxiety subsides. 

Our sense of belonging is important to us. It can feel both physically and psychologically unsafe if we are trying to face the world on our own. Sharing your fearful thoughts and concerns with a therapist, can help you to realise you are not totally on your own. That you can nurture your inner resources to deal with any difficulties you face, to seek support and a sense of belonging from your tribe, whoever they may be. And, to ultimately improve your overall mental and emotional health and wellbeing. 

Deborah Spratling

As an Integrative counsellor, coach and supervisor I work with adolescents and adults. Helping them to voice and reflect on how experiences and relationships, throughout their lives, have impacted them emotionally, mentally and physically. Supporting clients to move towards positive and healthy self-expression and change.