The happiest memories I have are when I felt as if I belonged to something larger than myself: family, church, cadre of friends, orchestras, choruses.  As a life coach I am privileged to help create this kind of “instant” community for an hour or so whenever I offer a talk or workshop.  In those moments I feel as if I’m truly living out my life purpose. Belonging is a huge core value for me.

Conversely the saddest moment I experience are when I don’t feel as if I belong.  Estrangement among family members or friends, hearing envious remarks when I played first clarinet, being given disapproving looks by chorus conductors, and more lately, experiencing changes in my church community that seem to leave me out. I think this sense of not belonging has been the source of great unhappiness and depression in my life.

I don’t know where this “longing to belong” came from.  It could be my high sensitivity whereby I often feel isolated from others.  It could be my tendency toward introversion.  Or it could be my most recent discovery, childhood emotional neglect.

Recently Dr. Jonice Webb wrote “Running on Empty” concerning this last topic.  In a recent email she shared some responses when she asked people about how emotional neglect has affected them.  Some excerpts:

“I felt I don’t have a voice or a right for feelings, the right to say NO.”

 “I can’t stand up for myself against anyone even on important issues.”

 “My biggest hurdle has been realizing that I do matter.”

 “The biggest challenge for me is believing that my wants and desires are as important as those of others, specifically if I have to ask someone else for help or permission.”

 “I am very good at picking up on others feelings and letting them express themselves. But I go numb when I am asked how I feel when a question posed deals with me personally. I have always felt I am invisible in some way.”

 “I never feel as if I, or anything that I do, is good enough.”

 “Working to know who “I” am, at my core rather than the person I’ve always tried to be by unconsciously trying to meet EVERYONE else’s expectations.”

 “Accepting myself for who I am. Learning boundaries and also that I’m not responsible for everything and everyone’s feelings.”

Recovery from “longing to belong” is a process that takes time.  The life coach and spiritual director in me would probably point to the need to be one’s own best advocate and friend, and to examine what’s missing that somehow this longing is never met.

Write to me and tell me your experiences about “longing to belong” and how it’s affected you as an adult.  I am very curious to know how others are struggling with this deep feeling.  Write to me at and tell me your story!

© Copyright Michael Parise 2018

Portions excerpted from Michael’s book: Life Interrupted, Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed
Since 1979 Michael has worked with individuals and groups to take full advantage interruptions and changes to balance responsibilities, simplify their lives, and find greater productivity and peace.
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