Its a well known fact that the human brain appears to be hard-wired for connection. There may be differences of opinion as to why this is, but generally, scientists seem to agree on this fact. Check these articles out:
- Why Are We Wired to Connect?
- Wired to Connect
- Humans are Hardwired to Connect
- Social Connection Makes a Better Brain
These are just a few of many similar articles and research summaries. But what we crave also makes us incredibly vulnerable. Because we crave connection, this need can be used in several exceedingly damaging ways:
- If people want something from us, they can withhold belonging until they have what they want
- We “other” people to make ourselves and members of the ingroup feel acceptable and secure.
- We can define belonging by who DOESN’T belong. We define belonging through a narrow societal lens, leaving many folks outside of the acceptable norm. The pain of disconnection leads to depression, rage, suicide, violence, etc.
- Belonging equals power. Those who do not belong or conform face more challenges than those who do. The nerds, the geeks, the goths, the outcasts, the disabled, the GLBTQIA+ folks, the PoC. All of these groups have to fight for equal treatment and rights in society, in varying degrees.
Belonging, when misused, is the most powerful instrument of control. If we define what it means to belong, we make others toe the line. We control the money they can make, which greatly contributes to each person’s individual happiness and fulfillment. We control the self-worth of that person. We can get people to do all manner of terrible things just to avoid the extreme pain of not belonging. Think nazis. Think white supremacists. Think of the white male rapist (*cough* Brock Turner *cough*). The eugenicists. So many other “ists.”
We are all guilty of inflicting such cruelty on others at various points in our lives. In our deepest lizard brains, we know that is the quickest way to hurt someone. We hope to become more aware an empathic as we age, and to understand and stop intentionally taking such actions. To intentionally continue to hurt people in this way is the emotional. equivalent of murder in the first degree (with intent and malice aforethought).
Look inside yourself. Consider your actions and motivations. If you have hurt someone in this way, make amends if you can. Stick up for others being subjected to such abuse. Be courageous and loving toward humanity. We are all really just trying our best to get through this bewildering thing called life. Lets not overly make that party even shittier than it might be otherwise.