Why Do We Feel The Need To Belong?

The only thoughts I’ll ever truly know are my own. And yet, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to not be alone.

People spend their lives trying to belong: to a spouse, to a family, to a tribe, to a cause, to a country. Where does this need to be more than an individual come from?

Why do we feel the need to belong?

Related questions: Why do we care what strangers think of us? What does it mean to belong to a country? What are our responsibilities to others?

7 thoughts on “Why Do We Feel The Need To Belong?”

  1. The human urge to belong is strong and often healthy.

    Finding community allows us to:

    – share common beliefs (I find community with those who know and work to end poverty in this country),
    – spend time with people who will identify with our interests (I belong to a huge online community of heirloom gardeners), and
    – help us know that we are not alone in some of the struggles we face (I commune with others who struggle with Anxiety and Depression).

    Still, we need to be cautious. The desire to belong is all too often matched by an urge to divide. Some equate belonging to one community as a reason to dislike or even hate other communities or interests:

    – If I took an interest in baseball, I’d learn a lot about Minnesota Twins’ stats and celebrate wins with other fans. And I’d find a healthy rivalry against other teams. But let’s admit it, some people take this to an extreme and harbor a huge animosity for fans of other teams. Really?
    – Cultural pride can be healthy, an affinity I must admit I don’t have. I find no particular urge to celebrate my Polish, German, or Norwegian heritage. Still, for others, their culture is very important … again, an often healthy form of identity. But this pride far too often leads to a hatred of “others.”
    – And as we are reading or seeing in the news each day, some are taking patriotism too far. Loving America is one thing. But turning that love into zealotry and a hatred of other countries and their people is just plain ignorant and wrong.

    We all want and need to belong. Shared identity can be a beautiful thing. Let’s just not let that healthy urge turn into a reason to divide us from others who have the same right to be proud of who they are.

  2. I guess it kind of depends on where you want to belong to. A community of heirloom gardeners is an innocent and educational community. There are however too many people that want to belong to something which isn’t innocent and they do this without educating themselves what it really is that they want to belong to. Recent events in the US have made this really clear. People show their affiliation with a group of people without really knowing what this group of people stand for.

  3. I find when I belong I have a better sence of well being. It seem to meet my needs as a human being.
    There are not very many social places in my life. Therefore when I am around others in a group, be it family, or work, I desire a need to “fit in” or be accepted.

    Now in this particular area, “The roundtable.” I get that need filled in this way…
    There is no critism, somone may be intersted in what I have to say. I`m intrested in feedback, if it should come. I feel like I belong.

    At work I feel like I serve a purpose, I`m important. Therefore I belong.
    In my mariage, again I am
    important to someone else, meeting another need of belonging.

    So I guess belonging gives my life purpose.

  4. I enjoy being part of a group, a team, a family, a community, a country. It comes naturally to me because I like meeting people and have learned by experience there are strength in numbers, and two heads are better than one. I remember telling someone the company I work for functions like a well-oiled machine. (at least it does on good days).

    Being part of a faith community is something I enjoy. My wife and I were able to make a modest contribution to the Houston Food Bank – http://www.houstonfoodbank.com I think is the link, but we also took up a collection at our church, which will multiply our efforts and have a much larger impact. So, what I’m trying to say, is when we join together and all pull together, we can accomplish great things!

    1. I just read a NY Times article entitled “What does Kim Jong-in want”. (My computer won’t even spell his name correctly) – should be a “u” instead of an “I” . We need to sit down with him and ask him what he wants. During the cold war, the U.S. Catholic Bishops prepared a Pastoral Letter on War and Peace, entitled “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response. In it they condemn the strategy of “Mutually Assured Destruction” as immoral. I recommend their letter to people of all beliefs.

  5. I think of it very biologically. It’s how we’ve evolved to survive and exist. We want and like to be a part of a community because we’re safer and able to accomplish so much more when we have a team. It also reminds me of that book Into the Wild, where he writes, “Happiness only real when shared.”

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