In despair, he thought he heard the sound of glass breaking. Was it his heart? He felt like he was drained and without hope, trapped in deep loneliness. He felt so much pain. This was mixed with a sense of not belonging and longing to be understood somewhere by someone. As this Hispanic man explained, he did not feel safe, although a citizen of the USA.
Longing is a strong, persistent desire for something seeming unattainable or distant. It is related to hunger, yearning for family, partner, group, or self. Psychologically, longing relates to a primal human desire, the need and impetus to overcome the ego alienated from the unconscious, to feel inclusion, not exclusion, acceptance, not rejection, and love, not hate.
Exclusion stirs longing as the dominant social gaps and projections become even more prominent. This man feels on the outside of society, unaccepted and diminished.
Without enough inclusion, the self-registers aching in the soul, a longing to be correctly seen and respected. If we are sensitive and aware, we can all relate to this sense of estrangement, as we are multiplex, complex, and with some lack of belonging.
This Hispanic man’s passion for life sorely desires acceptance on personal and collective levels. He is one of many struggling with the sense of belonging, integrating cultures while simultaneously being considered an enemy. If we are honest, this is true in some way for all of us as we face our moral dilemmas and unconscious exclusion of others, internally and externally.
He lives in an existential state of fear where the world is divided into oppressors and the oppressed. This reflects the political and psychological structure he has endured all his life, and he says it is getting worse. For example, he says that his friends follow YouTube news and support separating Hispanic children from parents at the border. He feels lonely in his views, as even those of his neighborhood and culture do not understand.
He expresses helplessness, nausea, a sense of feeling powerless. This is desperate loneliness from not belonging to the world and is one of the most painful experiences of human existence. He mourns the inaccessibility of acceptance. This type of loneliness can generate a sort of psychic terror, cloaking everything in a mist of fear and uncertainty.
We make sense of ourselves through the webs of meaning supplied by our personal and collective socio-symbolic systems. The capacity for growth, development, creative agency and love is dependent on existing in the mind, eyes, and gaze with others in a dance of attuned, rhythmic, and imperfect resonance. The psychological work addresses the emotional suffering as interpersonal relationships meet the fundamental desire for recognition and belonging.
Society is a mirror in which we see ourselves. When we are excluded from society and are left without its holding and containing qualities, we become vulnerable. Our world can feel meaningless, filled with piercing into the wounding and pain.
The connections with a person and place help overcome alienation and unite us with our natural wholeness. Dreams refer to this with their remembrance of tradition, cultural objects, rituals, and customs. They connect us to what is familiar and bring a sense of belonging.
How much do we know of the other, especially when working with people of different ethnicities, religions, or countries of origin? Do we have empathy? Do we know where they belong?
The psyche’s multicultural nature includes the strange and the stranger; arising from worlds we cannot fathom. If we acknowledge and work with our shadow, we can easier engage with the foreign, the repressed, and the projected material separating self from other. It is in the mirror with the other where we can transform.
The Jungian process of individuation is a coming to oneself and personality transformation through fulfilling the basic longing for inclusion. It evolves from a sense of personal and collective belonging and pride in identity. Engagement with the other brings about recognition of the self, reconciliation, and mutual understanding. We can orient ourselves toward that yearning by receptivity to social, cultural, and psychological differences.
Have you enjoyed this article? If yes, listen to Susan Schwartz’s lecture Longing to Belong and deepen your understanding of belonging, negative projections, dreams, and the expansion of the personality.
Susan E. Schwartz, PhD, Jungian analyst and clinical psychologist, is a member of the International Association of Analytical Psychology. She has taught in numerous Jungian programs and presented at conferences, workshops and lectures in the USA and many other countries.More Posts by Susan Schwartz