What is the opposite of belonging, is it loneliness or is it separation?
The Revelation Project has had much conversation about this and we have chosen to frame it by using the tension between Separation & Belonging.
When we refer to “tension,” we are speaking to the energetic polarity between the two, which actually guarantees the reality of separation and belonging. In other words, one cannot exist without the other. If there was no contrast, then we would have nothing to push up against for comparison. Without light there is no darkness, and without darkness there is no light. To take you further into the distinction, we are choosing separation as the opposite of belonging because it is the neutral/natural opposite.
Separation is not good or bad, it simply means a separation between one thing and another. Likewise, belonging is not good or bad, it simply means, being a part of something. Whereas, loneliness leans into a human experience, issued by a feeling, and is symptomatic of a separation. To feel lonely, you must first be separated.
As humans, we have a primal need to belong. It is intrinsically natural to desire to belong to one another, to our friends and family, to our culture and country, and to our world.
Belonging is at the heart of our human conditioning. It is imperative to our happiness, fulfillment and well-being. Loneliness is birthed from separation and is most dangerous for the well-being of the human condition. I’ve no doubt that many of us can still remember an incident when we were excluded and how devastating it felt, traumatizing even.
Belonging reassures us that we share similarities and fit in. Belonging to something bigger than ourselves creates connection and creativity. It gives us a sense of purpose and value, confirming that our contribution matters to the wholeness of a relational system.
There are times in our lives when we experience deep feelings of loneliness. This happens when we separate from Self, abandoning ourselves by looking for validation from the outside world. It is the perfect storm for punishing self-loathing.
It can sound like this:
“I am spiraling into never ever land, the land that tells me I’m no good, I’m never going to get there, get it... Who do I think I am...I’m alone, can’t quite make the cut, never measuring up to the request, what is required, tripping uphill towards what, what is actually up there that I can’t even see...that I believe holds the key to my existence and its legitimacy...there is too much mud in my eyes, sludge in my bones, my broken heart with a ball of wax so thick around it nothing can get through, not even you, who the fuck are you...who the fuck am I...seriously do you even know??? I don’t, not today, and maybe never have...never will, and who cares...do you, do you, do you, I don’t...the people I care about are dying...so why not just fly away to never ever land, where it will never happen...”
I had a mountain of anxiety crushing my chest right before the holidays began and I could not for the life of me get out from under it. I was overwhelmed, felt completely out of control. I was not sleeping well, gripped by worry and fear, questioning choices I’d made, and searching for relief OUTSIDE, outside of me. The minute I went to the outside world for validation I separated from my Self. I was feeling alone in my humanness i.e. humanmess. And, instead of going inward, into a soul-dive where the peace of me lives, I swam fast and hard to the surface of my life where all my monsters love to come out and play...play havoc on my sense of Self, my sense of belonging, my right to belong without judgement, without ridicule, without perfection.
Here is the gift, the cogent, the key, the golden rule, the whisper of sacred return to belonging... It is in the returning to Self. It requires a soul-dive into remembering her, the child of innocence and love. The moment I went far enough with my darkest ranting...I found myself. But, not in collusion with the outside world, the outside world was only going to conspire with my made-up monsters of inadequacy.
I wrestled until I became so exhausted all I could do was soul-dive into my human-mess, weeping and wailing until the softest whimper lulled me back to her, accepting all of her. I didn’t have to be pretty, perfect, practiced, capable...I just had to breathe into belonging to myself again. No longer separating from mySelf, I began opening my heart to others, where I was received and loved up, and belonging from the inside out.
When we separate from Self, we automatically separate from others as well. We must reckon with our own monsters, feel the pain, gorge through the made-up stories of suffering, sorting through the leftover bones, to rediscover,
“I am beautiful no matter what they say, I am love and I belong to everyone.”
Image Above Credit Author JonArno Lawson and artist Nahid Kazemi recently collaborated to tell a largely visual story about a young bird contemplating its own existence and trying to find its place in the world after losing its flock. Titled Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon and published by Brooklyn-based Enchanted Lion Books, the children’s book features poetic writing by Lawson which provides the framework for its complex themes. Kazemi’s colorful illustrations—a mix of pencil, colored pencil, chalk pastel, and collage—pull young readers into the colorful and curious world