Thursday, November 15, 2007

Belonging

I was sitting with one of my clients yesterday afternoon, trying to remember what we had focused on the last time we saw each other.  He had refused to attend the previous session, and I had taken a few days off, so my brain was blanking a bit.  


I started to play the guitar (which, for some reason, always helps me think and hear more clearly and to remember what we’ve been doing), and I recalled that the song I had played recently was “Part of Your World” (yes, I know... it’s a Disney song from “The Little Mermaid”).  The focus was on what (I think) seems to be his longing to take part in what he perceives as the “world” outside of his cottage, his housemates, and his staff.  Only... yesterday, when I thought of the song, the word that came to my mind was “belonging”.


Belonging.  I was aware that that wasn’t the word we had used in his last session, but it seemed an interesting word to explore.  My mind immediately free-associated to the idea of belonging to someone, because that also seems to be an issue for him (okay, and maybe it’s an issue for me too).  


As my mind wandered I thought about the following:


*do we identify ourselves by the people and places we belong to? 

*And, when we don’t have any family (or don’t know whether our family remembers that we exist), do we lose a sense of belonging?  

*What does that do to our sense of identity?  

*If we have a severe disability, and we’ve listened to people’s opinions about who we are and what we are without being able to put in our own views, then what does that do to our sense of belonging (let along our sense of identity)?

*What does it mean to belong somewhere?  And, really, do we ever belong to anyone or anything? (I’m thinking here of our existential aloneness.) 

*When we feel as if we don’t fit in, and our way of being is so different that we never feel a sense of belonging, do we lose our sense of a “home base”?

*Does belonging to someone or to a place give us an experience of having a “home base”?

*From the other side of things, what does it mean to have someone “belong to” us?  Can someone actually belong to us?


I wondered yesterday whether it makes sense to say that, while we have music therapy together, we sort of belong to each other.  I couldn’t get my mind to move swiftly enough to clarify that thought, so I didn’t mention it in the session.  But I’m throwing it out here to look at it some more.  


It seems to me I’ve read about the idea of belonging a lot in the more recent person-centered literature concerned with expanding the social and emotional networks of people with developmental disabilities.  Heck, it’s enough of an issue for all of us, I imagine, but we may not necessarily be conscious of it all the time. 


I have to get along to work now, but I do want to revisit this idea of belonging to each other.  There seems to be a spiritual element to it that I like.  Yes.  I do believe that, one some level, we all belong to each other.  I suppose if we all thought about each other that way, we’d probably have a less frightening world. 

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