Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology, developed a theory of human motivation which we now know as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. He noted that some human needs were more powerful than others.
This theory is usually demonstrated using a pyramid, with the greatest needs appearing at the base of the pyramid, illustrating the fact that all human beings have to build on a foundation where their basic needs have been met. Quite simply, expecting a person to achieve their full potential when they are having to worry about basic stuff like a roof over their heads and food on the table is unrealistic. We have to tend to our foundations first, only then can we work towards being our best self.
Using Maslow's heirachy as a guide to human needs, what makes a home feel like home? Clearly it has to meet the first two levels on the heirachy - grouped together under the banner of 'basic needs' of ...
- food, water, warmth, rest
- safety and security
But what about the next level on Maslow's hierachy - the one pithily entitled 'Belongingness'? A sense of belonging to place is somewhat trickier to quantify. Maslow identifies it as intimate relationships and friendships - or 'love needs' as in the image above - but how does that work for 'belongingness'?
The majority of people know where they belong - it's where they were born/grew up, where their friends are, where their life is. But what if you've had to leave all those things behind? What if you are suddenly transported away from all that you know? If you have to start a new life and create a new home somewhere else? How do you regain that sense of belonging?
I have long been an outsider. Feeling at home in a country where I looked different to the population, then feeling like an alien in a country where I looked like the white majority. The latter is now my home, but it required a major shift in my thinking for that to happen. I am not sure that I truly 'belong' here, but I have put down roots and made it my home. My rational self realised I needed to distance myself from early negative experiences. Despite feeling alienation deep in my core, it was important that I switch my focus away from feeling different and turn it to seek what I shared with those around me, allowing me to build new relationships and friendships.
I acknowledge the size of the leap between simply feeling alien, to being treated as one. But the solution is similar.
First must come genuine acceptance that you cannot change the behaviour of others - then you have to look for change within yourself. Now I cannot stress enough this is not about changing who you are - for remaining true to yourself is vital. Change does need to happen, but only to your mindset, your attitude, your focus - not to you, as a person. By making this mental switch you will find it easier to stop giving mental energy to those aspects where you are different, and so focus on similarities - in shared values and shared roles. By doing so it will become more natural to seek out those environments where you may find commonalities. As a parent, do you have the same aspirations for your children as other parents at their school? At work, do you share the work ethic or standards of professionalism as your colleagues? It doesn't need to big a big leap - you can start small, but by making a choice to actively seek out those people where you observe common ground, in time you will build those relationships and friendships which you need to foster a feeling of belongingness in a strange land.
Society urgently needs to change, but why should you have to wait for it to do so?
When you've achieved some sense of 'belongingness', then you can start working on the top two levels of that hierachy, and achieve your full potential.
© 2018 Caring Coaching