On a recent Zoom call with one of my communities the conveners suggested an inquiry into “what drives true belonging?” As I engaged the question my mind initially went where it has gone for many years, recalling Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and my belief that one of humanity’s basic needs is to belong. After all, that’s what Maslow said (see his pyramid below) and it made sense.
But on this day, I had a different response. It was an odd response and I was quite surprised.
By way of some background, I have recently been delving into the world of nondual reality – unity consciousness, Advaita, oneness – which holds that the dualistic paradigm most of us live in is a fabrication, a “dream state,” a soap opera or play in which we act out our roles. This fabricated reality is a separatist state where what’s real and true get confused.
We took on this belief, this way of seeing the world, as young children who were parented by true believers in the dualistic worldview. As a result, most if not all believers stopped developing emotionally – what the psychologists call “arrested development” – where most remain until they die. In my book The Great Growing Up I challenged us to transcend this adolescent state, become adults and take responsibility for our future.
Now I saw that this well-credentialed need for belonging comes from a separatist worldview that is arguably artificial! I don’t think we are “hard-wired” yearning to belong as many gurus and self-help authors like to say.
We come out of the womb already belonging. It is only by adopting a dualistic/separatist reality that we see one another as separate. This is the land of “othering” or what I’m coming to think of as “they-land,” where “othering” is the common language so there’s me and you, us and them, good and bad, etc. And, yes, this dualistic way of seeing things is a huge source of our fear which permeates this dream state that we think of as real.
This dream state is only real because we believe it is! Having taken on these beliefs and believing ourselves separate and being fearful, we naturally seek connection with imagined “others” – other people or groups – in order to belong, forgetting that we already belong and always have.
Now the joke: Not only is this seeking of belonging unnecessary since we are already one with one another, it is also a meaningless undertaking, like trying to put together our fingers, toes, arms and legs when our bodies are already together and whole.