• Thrive Inc.

Family and Belonging

All of us desire the feeling of belonging because it creates a sense of inclusion and family. People, governments, and cultures worldwide have tried to develop it by gaining more power, wealth, and security, but these methods haven't been successful in fostering a true sense of belonging.

Conforming does not lead to belonging either. However, when we see each other as equal, we can all belong for who we are, at a family, company, and cultural level. True belonging comes from being in a vulnerable state.

In this episode, we talk about how horses find belonging in a herd and how their desire to belong compares to this desire for humans. We want you to cultivate that inner sense of belonging so that you can bring your voice forward, and today we're showing you how. Remember, even if you get a bad response, at least you will belong to yourself.

If you’d like us to speak at your organization about conflict, stress, team-building, or leadership, work with your team virtually, or coach you or leaders on your team, reach out to us!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Learn More:

  • Why power and safety get equated to belonging.

  • What the definition of belonging is.

  • How to examine past feelings of belonging to find them in the future.

  • Why resilience is tied to a sense of belonging.

  • How our family can superimpose onto authority in the workplace.

  • How to increase your sense of belonging.


Full Transcript:

Susan: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am Susan.

CrisMarie: And I'm CrisMarie.

Susan: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships both in person and virtually.

CrisMarie: On this podcast we’ll be sharing tips, tools about how to make your team, your relationship and even you work more effectively. You can find us at thriveinc.com, that’s www.t.h.r.i.v.e.i.n.c.com or follow us on LinkedIn at Thrive Inc. We hope you enjoy this episode.

CrisMarie: Hello. I’m CrisMarie.

Susan: And I’m Susan.

CrisMarie: And we have completed our Beauty of Conflict for Teams season. But if you want to check out the book you can go to Amazon and buy the Beauty of Conflict for Teams: Harnessing your Team’s Competitive Advantage. But today we’re going to move into the topic of belonging.

Susan: It’s a big topic.

CrisMarie: Say more because I think all of us yearn for that sense of belonging to something, something bigger than ourselves so that we know we matter.

Susan: And we seek it in a lot of different ways, family or our job, our organization, a sports team, can even be a country, a church, a particular religion. There’s all sorts of ways in which I belong here shows up.

CrisMarie: I think we want that because it creates a sense of identity, inclusion, I matter. And I guess we have we’re herd mentality with more people I’m safer.

Susan: So can I venture into the horses?

CrisMarie: Absolutely.

Susan: Okay, because…

CrisMarie: The herd comes in.

Susan: Well, yes, because I have a love of the equasport that I’m doing.

CrisMarie: Equasport means horse just so you know folks.

Susan: Yes. And horses are, well, are herd animals. They rely on being a part of the herd to be safe. And they are probably maybe even more vulnerable than we are. I don’t know. Very vulnerable animals, they don’t have any other way to protect themselves in the wild.

CrisMarie: They don’t have claws.

Susan: Yeah, they don’t have claws. They can chew grass but that’s about it and if you’ve been bitten by one it kind of hurts. But it’s not really kind of, you know, and so they rely completely on this idea of herd and their connection to each other to be able to pick up signs and signals that there’s danger and move accordingly.

CrisMarie: I think connection to themselves and then to the herd, so there’s inner connection to their body and their rhythms. And also noticing the herd and staying connected there.

Susan: Yes. And then if they take off because they have to they also know how to then drop back in and relax. And if you watch a herd of wild horses you’ll see that movement between the hyper arousal state that they need to do to protect themselves, to move, to get away. And then that place where a lot of times all you see horses do and they’re standing there looking pretty damn relaxed, slow in their bodies trying to have a little grass.

CrisMarie: It’s so true. And you bring up this point that I really want listeners for you to recognize is this hyper arousal and relaxed. And there’s fancier words for it, you may have heard us talk about the sympathetic nervous system which is really you’re fight, flight or freeze response. It’s more like oh my gosh, something’s happening. I’ve got to take care of myself. And the parasympathetic which is the rest and digest, that’s the horse eating grass.

And what is different about horses and probably most animals is they have a situation where you see even in a herd a horse will raise its head like, oh, oh, what’s happening. Their tails will go, they’ll start moving and they’ll move into that hyper arousal, that sympathetic fight, flight. The threat goes away, they settle. So they respond and recover.

But for humans we kind of get stuck in a hyper arousal or that we get caught in chronic stress, our system thinks oh my gosh, that report being due tomorrow is a high threat situation. But it’s not a saber toothed tiger that’s going to eat us. But our system doesn’t know that so it’s still responding that same way which is burning out our ability to recover.

Susan: Yes. And these days in particular, CrisMarie, it’s even more difficult because we’ve had this kind of outside the Covid threat. This virus that you can contract but you don’t know how you’re going to contract it, if you’re going to contract it. It’s spread everywhere, now it’s a variant, it’s something else. It spreads even faster. And there’s this high level, whether you’re afraid of Covid or whether you’re afraid of the economic collapse that might be happening, or the business stress you’re under.

There’s all sorts of things that this has created where we are even more so in that hyper arousal state.

CrisMarie: And how does this relate to belonging, Susan? Because you brought up the horses and we went down this track.

Susan: We did and I – well, we kind of diverted from the idea of belonging. But I think underneath it all one of the things that’s come out of the whole Covid thing is this emphasis on equality and where there is injustice; where there is clearly there has been systemic racism. And I think on some level, even there is the issue of belonging that’s at the root of all of this.

And frankly I think in some respects what has gone on, even call it white supremacy, colonization, all of that came as a result of getting power which sometimes can be confused with belonging and they are not the same thing.

CrisMarie: Yeah, I think that’s a good point, Susan because I think a lot of times the sense of belonging, we talked about this not on this episode. But the sense of belonging really I feel that sense of belonging probably more when I’m in a vulnerable sense and I’m willing to open and connect. And how we as a society have dealt with our sense of belonging is I am going to accumulate as much as I can money, status, power, whatever. And that’s going to make sure I belong. And it’s kind of like feeling from the outside in.

Susan: Power and safety are equated to belonging, neither of which has much to do with belonging.

CrisMarie: Well, let’s talk about that and define belonging and what we think belonging really means. Because I think it is a sense of – well, we said in the beginning, this connection to something larger than ourselves. So how come it’s not about this larger pile of money that’s mine, or power, or company, this company that’s mine?

Susan: Well, that was a very transitory, maybe you’ll collect a lot of power and maybe you have it for long periods of time. But the reality is you could lose that at any point in time. But I think people who really have a felt sense of belonging it’s not going to go away.

CrisMarie: We talked about dysfunctional families and how when there’s a lot of chaos going on growing up, whether that’s because of alcoholism, or abuse, or whatever it is, kids learn to go, oh, oh, not safe to be me, I need to make sure I perform the way that these people are going to respond positively so they still take care of me. And I will sacrifice myself in order to create some form of safety and security because it’s so chaotic otherwise.

Susan: Exactly. I think that happens a lot. And what can happen is even if you do belong or people really have a felt sense of connection to you, you won’t experience it because you’re not in that state of vulnerability where you can actually feel the connections. You’re in a state. You realize you have sort of okay, I’ve been guarding and protecting.

CrisMarie: So this is definitely how I grew up. I was afraid of the colonel and learned I’ve got to be a performer, and please, and approval seeker. And really became afraid of authority figures and even had guilt feelings if I said anything about myself. So I made sure I avoided conflict. And what happened is I brought that same fear and self-doubt even to all my interactions. And so because I was so afraid of my family I kind of like, can I get away from my family? I kind of pushed them at arm’s distance when I grew up. How can I get away?

And I kept repeating that pattern with my rowing team. They thought I was there but I wasn’t because I kept pushing them away. Or when we worked at Haven, this professional center, I don’t think of myself as a part of Haven, other people would. Or even the theater people locally, there’s this core theater and I’m kind of – I’ve always been on the fringes of groups, not feeling like I belong.

Susan: And yet I imagine there’s probably been a few times where you’ve felt like you belong.

CrisMarie: Absolutely, for sure, Yeah.

Susan: Because this is – I bring it up because I think it’s important, listeners are sure listening to this, is the way you actually begin to cultivate your own sense of belonging is not so much to anchor it in the situation you’re in. Because if you thought you belonged on your high school football team you’re not going to be able to ever go back to that. There are many older people who try to go back to things they should not.

I have a friend who played hockey all his life. And he was always trying to belong because he was a great hockey player at one point. But he could never get back to that and it’s like okay.

CrisMarie: So he’s trying to actually recreate the environment rather than locate that sense of belonging from within.

Susan: Yes. And the questions to ask yourself is what was it like? What did I feel? And notice how you track that in your body, where is the sensation? How does it feel? Also you could pay attention to what was I doing during that time that maybe I didn’t do other times? And a lot of times it’s not that I was great. It was like I think of myself as a basketball player and a tennis player. I was a really good tennis player. I was not the very best basketball player.

CrisMarie: But you are kind of short.

Susan: I was and I couldn’t shoot.

CrisMarie: So you’re slow.

Susan: Absolutely. But I felt like I belonged on that basketball and it came out of a heck of a lot of hardship. No one wanted me on that basketball team because I was the only white person who was trying out for the basketball team. And they did not want me on that team. But at one point time…

CrisMarie: Is this in high school?

Susan: In high school when they were going to beat me up. I just remember this – I’ll just use first name, Sonia. She’d just like every time I’d come down the court she’d knock me down and nobody was going to call any fouls or anything, over and over. And we were still just trying out. And finally one time, she’s pounded me down to the ground again. And I’m like I get up and I’m like, “Okay, do you want to fight? You want to fight, alright I’ll fight you.”

And she just sort of looked at me and said, “It is about time, really? I just can’t believe that it’s taken you this long to finally stand up for yourself.” And who would have guessed. I had no idea that that was what was going on. And that was the moment where I realized to belong wasn’t about what I thought it was.

CrisMarie: Fitting in or performing.

Susan: Yeah. It was like showing up. And so many times I’ve seen that.

CrisMarie: Well, this, it kind of reminds me, you bring up a good point because even theater we did a play in the midst of Covid. And I would come home and I was like, “I don’t know, Susan, if I should do it. We’re not wearing masks and this will be my bubble.” And you were like, “You need to have those conversations with those people, not me.” And I’m like, “But they’ll get mad at me, maybe they won’t like me. And I’ll be the problem person.” But I did, I went down and I had those conversations and it was hard. I was in tears at one point.

But it was real and raw, I showed up vulnerably and we did connect. And I felt a sense of belonging with that cast and it was a very positive powerful experience. But if I had kept myself away and only tried to, oh gosh, here I am in this scene and we don’t have masks on without talking about what was really going on, I wouldn’t have had that sense of belonging. I would have been trying to conform, trying to pass, please and none of that brings that sense of belonging.

Susan: Conforming is not belonging.

CrisMarie: Get that listeners, conforming is not belonging.

Susan: And even if you’re on the, you know, because I think a lot of cultures have tried to get, you know, you can become part of our culture if you just adapt it, if we…

CrisMarie: If you do follow our rules.

Susan: What is it that the board did? We were assimilating. Now, there had been some bad examples of assimilation efforts to get. And those have nothing to do with helping someone belong. They have to do with taking away one’s sense of self. And sort of imposing it into okay, well, now you’re this, if you just become this. I did work