Individuality, Loneliness, + Healing Social Trauma
People can't be trusted.
People only care about themselves.
I'm not really a 'people' person.
A lot of people don't like me.
I have a hard time making friends.
I don't have any social skills.
Do these or similar statements feel true to you?
How do we heal mass loneliness + build a communal culture when we've learned that other people are unsafe? When we've learned from experience that protecting our individuality + solely fending for ourselves is necessary? After all, isn't that precisely what the United States was founded on - every man for himself?
For some people, community is a no-brainer. It's a breeze to get to know others, reveal themselves, work on teams, and thrive in group settings. But for many others, group experiences have not been so ideal. In fact, they've often been downright traumatizing + painful: being misunderstood, mistreated, judged, cast out, or simply the 'black sheep' much of the time. These experiences make people jaded. The idea of finding a community of like-minded people who accept + understand them sounds far-fetched. But the thing is, having some sort of community is critical. If you have no source of community in your life, whether it be family, friends, colleagues, or even an online community, you will suffer from that lack of connection + sense of belonging. Look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs: Belonging is ranked as more critical than self-esteem. And if you consider community to be "safety + security," it's the next most important thing after basic survival needs.
So if you are someone with 'community trauma,' how can you start to heal? 1. Protect any strong bonds you already have. Do no let the allure of 'fitting in' somewhere else distract you from the genuine relationships you already have. Prioritize people who really SEE you.
2. Stop settling. Completely. One of the biggest reasons people never find a sense of belonging is that they settle. They desperately avoid the experience of being truly alone and fill the void with anyone they can find. Sadly, this often includes toxic people, completely incompatible people, and even abusive people.
3. Accept the fact that perhaps, you've simply spent a LOT of time in the wrong environment, through no fault of your own. Maybe you're a wild hippy who grew up in a Mormon community. Maybe you're a shy introvert who grew up in a raucous family of crazy people :) Whatever the case, you probably developed some type of COMPLEX - a belief that something specific was wrong with you, something was wrong with other people, or both. From that mindset, you accidentally drew similar experiences to yourself over + over, further strengthening your negative beliefs about people. It's like Groundhog Day, and you don't know how to have a different experience.
4. Keep trying new circles. It's very common for people to not know themselves, and to seek out groups according to unmet desires, needs, + insecurities. For example, if you don't feel powerful, you may feel pulled to join a group of people who act elitist + pompous, just to feel better. This group may initially FEEL right to you, because you're making the decision from confusion + pain. But these relationships don't usually stand the test of time because you GROW out of them + realize their limitations. Keep trying new circles until something feels truly good + natural to you.
5. This is the most important of all - If you ignore this piece, the above points are likely to fall short: Continuously do your shadow work + practice self-awareness through any means possible. The reason is this: The more of conditioned, 'not-self' behaviors you discover, the more YOU you become. By unraveling the layers of your anxiety, depression, beliefs, emotions, etc, etc, CORRECT decisions become possible for the first time. It's like a video game - You cannot access level 6 without moving through level 5. You will not have the skills + insight to make the RIGHT decisions if you try to skip ahead. This means that as you heal yourself, you literally unlock new + deeper layers of self. When you ACT from these new layers, you naturally + automatically receive different results from the external world. It does not take a ton of effort or willpower - It simply works. When people talk about 'law of attraction,' this is really what they're referring to. You don't magically float around attracting good things like a magnet. You empower yourself so that empowered decisions are in your nature. They become your default. You embody them. The gap between what you want to do and what you actually do disappears. There is no more cognitive dissonance because you've dealt with the aspects of yourself that were going against progress. You integrated them, you didn't get rid of them. That's truly how it works.
Feeling unsafe, unheard, or unable to express in groups is real trauma because you are severed from something you need, and the situation has no immediate resolve. Be kind to yourself as you navigate this issue + don't abandon yourself. In addition, learn about enmeshment trauma + how this common problem can affect how you form relationships in adulthood.
The truth is, there is a place where you fit wholly + naturally, without having to twist or contort yourself, without having to lie or hide or compensate; a place where you belong for a reason, for your values, for your skills, for your goals. You fit not because you've earned your place in a pecking order, or you've learned to give up enough of yourself. It's a place where you do not simply 'fit.' You belong.
Subscribe for monthly updates of insight, support, + guidance. Your whole self is welcome here.