Gillian - thanks so much for reaching out.
What does it mean to belong?
For me, this is really important to understand and I don't know that I have the answer. I do know how I feel. When I was young, late 60's / early to mid 70's I reflect back on never feeling that I belonged. My mother was white and British and all her family lived in England. My dad was Sikh (not practicing) and was from India (all his family was in India). They moved to Canada just before I was born - I did not belong to the white's and I did not ever see any Indians. So, I over longed to belong - if that makes sense. To attach to communities / groups - but never finding any roots. When I did find it, I often was caught off guard by the 'feeling', and would push it away because the good 'feeling' was unfamiliar for me.
With that context - I feel the question has a phenomenal layers and dimensions to it. Ultimately, to belong is to share a sense of mutual connection (energetic, interest, commonality, familiarity, shared pain, etc...) and that mutual connection, works to entwine a thread of one's energy with that of another's or of a group's. Those threads of energy then work to weave a blanket of belonging. Each weave fueled by commonality of purpose within a mutually safe environment, where people are accepted for who they are and where they are made to feel safe to embrace and share their own truth.
When we truly belong, we can meet our 3 intrinsic needs (Daniel Pink) - to bring value, to be valued, and to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
What are some of the different 'things' you can belong to?
A variety of groups (both formal and informal), organizations, cultures, race, teams, sub-cliques within teams, families, people with the same interests, pets, relationships, etc.... In essence we can belong to anything where we feel loved, accepted for all of who we are in totality (the good, the bad, the ugly), encouraged and safe to be one with our truth,
How do you support yourself or others when there is a perception of not belonging?
I support others by including them. Where I have been the exclusionary influence (when I was younger) - I reflect back on it, because it does produce guilt moments - I honor the emotion then practice Ho'oponopono (I am sorry, Please for give me, I love you. Thank you. thank you. Thank You!
For me - I cancel the thoughts that would allow me to take the moment personally and understand that it is the lenses that the other people are living through and in such they own the energy of the moment. I do not own their emotion, or behavior. I gracefully remove myself from the situation.
What inhibits or encourages a sense of belonging?
Social connection, overcoming our own demon's - I find (generally speaking) our ego generates fear of non-acceptance and then acts to prevent the pain. Which actually causes and prolongs the pain of that moment - often for years to come. Leaning into the fear to silence the ego opens doors - life is waiting on the other side of the door of our fears - acceptance is often waiting there to eagerly embrace us, all we have to do is clean the filth of fear away from our lenses and be willing to trust that the universe conspires for us all great ways.
Lastly - I would say self-forgiveness allows us to lean into the fear. Self-forgiveness of our feeling embarrassed, of subscribing to the limits which have been placed upon by the voices and experiences of our past.
thanks for reaching out and including me .....and whenever I correct a spelling mistake - I get turned to red (I am not yelling or angry _ assuming the text posts in the red font that it is now...lol)
Love to all,