We are tribal creatures. For thousands of years, human beings have depended upon living in groups in order to survive. When we exist successfully with other people, we gain a deep sense of belonging that is fundamental to human wellbeing. When we gain true acceptance, we don't have to compulsively seek attention. We can just be.
This kind of belonging is becoming rather scarce. Whether real or virtual, modern groups increasingly tend to reward a part or aspect of us that is useful, rather than our true selves. We anxiously don masks (personas) in order to fit into groups that demand such high levels of conformity that we sense our true selves are actually unwelcome.
Instead of belonging, in our modern world, we are witnessing an epidemic of loneliness, anxiety, depression and attention-seeking. When we seek help however, people are frequently asked to believe that there is a fault with them for the existence of these feelings, and are told to "take a pill" to mask, "correct" or numb themselves before being sent back into an unchanged environment.
There are glaring problems with this model. It determines that we are at fault for feeling ill at ease with the world we live in, and that only by correcting our biology can we hope to feel better. Moreover, the suggestion is that the environments we find ourselves in are benign. This is dangerous, profitable, and ill-considered thinking that ignores the role of environment in our wellbeing. When we're asked to believe that our anxiety, loneliness and depression have no meaning, other than an indication of our own faulty biology, we're in deep societal trouble!
There are a great many people these days, desperate for a sense of belonging, feverishly hunting, in one way or another, what can only truly be given. Precious time is given over to the chase for hits of admiration, where belonging is so elusive.
In this needy constuct, other people can quickly become things that either admire or disappoint us. In other words, they can become reduced to objects in a desperate game to remain afloat.
Psychotherapist, working in private practice in the Annex, Toronto.